UK Government creates new laws to help prevent the hacking of autonomous cars.​

With the automotive world heading deeper and deeper into the realms of part and full autonomy, new cyber security threats call for the development of new laws.

It’s no secret that new technologies allowing cars to use ‘autonomous thought’ is a great way to improve the safety and efficiency of modern roads; after all, a computer will always be able to react quicker to hazards than the human brain. The problem that comes with these new technologies, however, is that they are susceptible to cyber threats that could ultimately allow hackers complete control over a vehicle’s throttle, brakes and steering.  

Supporting an aim to become the world leader in the segment, the British Government have created new legislation that requires all software developers of driverless or intelligent cars to build into their vehicles security measures that feature at least seven stages. This legislation follows a recent £109 million investment by the Government into 38 automotive research and development projects. Speaking of the cyber threat to autonomous cars, Transport Minister Lord Callanan said:

“Our cars are becoming smarter and self-driving technology will revolutionise the way in which we travel. Risks of people hacking into the technology might be low, but we must make sure the public is protected. Whether we’re turning vehicles into wi-fi-connected hotspots or equipping them with millions of lines of code to become fully automated, it's important that they are protected against cyber attacks.”

The new rules come after American software experts Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek were able to hack into a vehicle last year. Taking three and a half months to complete, the pair were eventually able to access the car through the mobile phone network and, according to the FBI, subsequently ‘shut down the engine, disable the brakes and control the steering below 10mph … they also had access to less crucial features - such as door locks, turn signals and GPS - at any speed.’

Aligning the new legislation with the recently announced Autonomous and Electric Vehicles Bill (that supports these new technologies in the UK through creating the relevant infrastructure for innovation to flourish), the Government is hoping to avoid any similar situations occurring in the UK outside of a controlled environment.

With autonomous and intelligent cars looking to become ever more popular over the coming years, what do you think of the technology and this new legislation? We’d like to hear your thoughts on Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin.

Audi Piloted Drive image from Audi Pressroom. Volvo 'Drive Me' Autonomous XC90 image from Volvo Car UK Newsroom.

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