Road to driverless vehicles paved with risk

Road to driverless vehicles paved with risk

Connected and autonomous vehicles are being developed and tested across the country and are expected to be on the road within the next few years. However, questions on safety standards and cybersecurity still need to be answered.

Cordell Schachter, the CTO for New York City’s Department of Transportation, spoke at a panel on transportation and technology at the 2016 Washington Auto Show and said he believes that connected and driverless cars should be held to the same standards that drivers are held to today.

“Each of us has to take a driving test before we can get behind the wheel,” Schachter said during the Jan. 20 panel. “That standard doesn’t exist for auto and software makers….. I think that’s important if we want to maintain the public’s confidence in the technology and we want to move forward in an organized way.”

The University of Michigan’s . Opened last summer, MCity is a 32-acre environment with urban and suburban areas, traffic lights, signs and sidewalks designed to test and evaluate connected and driverless cars and systems.

In addition to MCity, the Department of Transportation is funding connected-vehicle pilots in New York City, Tampa, Fla., and Wyoming. Virginia has opened up 70 miles of highway to test driverless and connected cars in congested traffic conditions.  Electronic logging devices are also being used in trucks to monitor drivers' hours and improve safety.

Cybersecurity also remains a concern. Late last year two men demonstrated their ability to take control of a 2014 Jeep Cherokee by hacking into the cellular connection to the car’s entertainment system. While a patch was developed and no malicious hacks were reported, the risk of cyberattacks on passenger vehicles is increasing as cars are connected to more devices and even serving as Wi-Fi hotspots.

Ken Athanasiou, the vice president and chief information security officer at AutoNation, said he believes people aren’t concerned enough about the security of connected and autonomous cars.

“I’d say consumers are definitely not paranoid enough… about data security,” Athanasiou said at the panel. The first time a hacked vehicle causes an accident, he said, people will wake up and appreciate the gravity of the situation.

“Our goal is to get ahead of that and make sure that doesn’t happen,” he said. Manufacturers must build in controls “so that the vehicle detects its being hacked and … knows to slow down and stop because something is wrong.”

“No matter what we do or how much money we spend, it’s all about risk management,” Athanasiou said. “We need to acknowledge that, we need to understand what to do when it does happen.”

About the Author

Derek Major is a former reporter for GCN.

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