Better Keep Your on the Wheel in That Autonomous Car: Examining Society’s Need to Navigate the Cybersecurity Roadblocks for Intelligent Vehicles

Envision your future self waking up Monday morning. You check the commute time to work on your app, which has been consistently thirty four minutes, and establish that this is just enough time to look over the materials for your meeting. You jump into your autonomous car and say, “Navigation, Work,” while putting on your headphones and beginning to type your notes. After some time, you look up and realize that the car is stuck in heavy traffic and has not even made it a quarter of the way! In a panic, you throw off your headphones and pull up your vehicle’s on-board news telecast. The telecast describes a hacker group taking total control of a fleet of vehicles and forcing them to a complete standstill further down the highway. As the news camera zooms into the section of gridlock, you see agitated commuters stepping out of their vehicles. Realizing that the commute time on your app has jumped to over 150 minutes, you quickly take the exit and look for an alternate route while switching your car over to manual control. Hopelessly speeding, you begin thinking of excuses you can tell your boss who never liked the idea of “computerized cars” in the first place.

Remarkably, computerized technology has been utilized in vehicles for many years. This technology controls and monitors the vehicle using millions of lines of code connected by internal networks. Today, automated technology continues to push this technological innovation even further, to produce a vehicle that can be engaged in auto-pilot. As a result, the car, as we know it, is becoming less like a car and more like a computer. Current laws do not provide a viable means of addressing the cybersecurity concerns associated with the hacking of autonomous vehicles. Car makers need to “reduce vulnerabilities to malware and cyberattacks that exist in their computers on wheels as they continue to roll out new products with even more technology.” Additionally, legislatures and judges need to “examine how today’s laws apply to damage caused when hackers or terrorists exploit these vulnerabilities.”

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