self-driving car

Can Self-Driving Cars Get Hacked?

By 2020, we’ll see self-driving cars on the road, thanks to investors like Google and Mercedes-Benz, but experts from government-funded defense firm Mission Secure and self-driving car security company Perrone Robotics, don’t think they’re safe from hacking.

Putting self-driving cars on the road will result in reduced car accidents, which is why Tesla inventor Elon Musk thinks manually driven cars should become illegal in the future, Inquisitr noted. After all, car accidents account for a tremendous amount of tragedy, encompassing about 1.3 million deaths every year across the globe. Putting the wheel under the care of an accurate computer could reduce fatalities and needless human death.

But your self-driving car’s computer can be hacked, unlike you.

AFP reports that wireless self-driving systems, which include sensors like cameras and LiDAR (light detection and ranging), leaves vehicles vulnerable to cyber attack. Hackers are able to manipulate these key self-driving systems through Wi-Fi, much like how a hacker recently used Wi-Fi to temporarily take control of a passenger jet. AFP further notes a scenario pointed out in Mission Secure’s report.

“One attack scenario forces the car to accelerate, rather than brake, even though the obstacle avoidance system (using LiDAR) detects an object in front of the car. Rather than slowing down, the car hits the object… At high speed, causing damage to the car and potential threat to the life and safety of the passengers in the car under attack and in the car being struck.”

Mission Secure, who partnered with Perrone Robotics, receive funds from the Department of Defense to research vulnerabilities in self-driving cars. The military is interested in using self-driving cars in combat operations, which is why they’ve hired the firms to evaluate the security of the technology.

But the same report from Mission Secure also mentions protections against self-driving car vulnerabilities can be “inexpensive,” National Defense Magazine reports. CEO David Drescher of Mission Secure states the following.

“We successfully demonstrated [that], yes, you can easily attack braking and acceleration and other automated features added to cars, but you can also protect against them in real time.”

So it’s just a matter of investing more in self-driving vehicle cybersecurity. Not to mention, self-driving cars are years away from commercial use, leaving plenty of time for manufacturers to design protections against hackers.

This isn’t the first time that hacking concerns have been raised about self-driving cars. Fortune reported in October, 2014, that industry analysts perceive hacking as a serious threat to passengers of self-driving vehicles, which is why the automotive industry is taking the threat seriously. Fortune notes that General Motors created the role of cybersecurity chief to oversee protections against self-driving car hackers.

Google, a major backer of self-driving cars, didn’t comment on AFP‘s report.

[Photo by Dan Kitwood / Getty Images]

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