Self-driving cars could bring improvements in safety, but they also pose new risks on the road, warns KPMG's cyber security team.
Wil Rockall, a director at KPMG, warns that "the industry will need to be very alert to the risk of cyber manipulation and attack".
"Self-drive cars will probably work through internet connectivity and, just as large volumes of electronic traffic can be routed to overwhelm websites, the opportunity for self-drive traffic being routed to create ‘spam jams’ or disruption is a very real prospect."
'Road to nowhere'
Rockall suggests that manufacturers could build safety features in to lessen the risk of this happening. "The industry takes safety and security incredibly seriously. Doubtless, overrides could be built in so that drivers could shut down many of the car’s capabilities if hacked. That way, humans will still be able to ensure their cars don’t route them on the road to nowhere.”
But Google's prototype self-driving car, revealed on Tuesday, is largely controlled using an app, and has just two physical buttons: stop, and go. The company has taken a very different approach to firms like Audi and Volvo, who market the driverless features as an addition to, rather than replacement for, a traditional driver.
Despite his warnings, Rockall believes that self-driving cars will be a reality, and a largely positive one. "The technology is already available and, with test drives showing early signs of success, an unstoppable journey has started on what will become a well-travelled road."
'Humans are unreliable'
“There is an almost perfect combination of good reasons for self-drive technology. Top of the list is safety because humans are unreliable, easily distracted and have vastly slower reaction times than software. With a computer brain at the wheel, driving will also be more efficient, meaning that environmental and economic benefits will quickly be noticed."
Rockall's comments follow those of Senator John Rockefeller, who worried that self-driving cars would be vulnerable to international hacking at a US senate committee hearing in mid-May.
"In other words, can some 14-year old in Indonesia figure out how to do this and just shut your car down … because everything is now wired up?"
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