There was a time when autonomous vehicles existed only within the imaginative realm of cinematic fantasy. Today, it’s becoming an increasingly more commonplace as companies are implementing the technology on a widespread basis.

Although vehicle automation is still in it’s infantile stages, manufacturers have slowly began moving towards fully self-driving vehicles.

While the technology makes for an exciting time in the automotive industry, it’s not without a number of inherent risks. Driverless technology comes with potential vulnerabilities that may be compromised due to its reliance on computer networks.

Consumer skepticism over self-driving cars is still rampant as 75% of U.S. drivers would consider themselves wary of riding in an autonomous vehicle. Increasing cybersecurity protection may help ease these consumer safety concerns.

Pete Llewellyn, Senior Test Engineer for AER believes that cybersecurity threats must be addressed before creating fully autonomous vehicles. Hackers have the potential of seizing control of automobiles causing accidents and creating full blown chaos.

The good news is that cybersecurity is a valuable tool for mitigating a number of these threats.


The Importance of Cybersecurity for Autonomous Vehicles

Autonomous vehicles may drastically alter the automotive industry landscape. Driverless cars have the ability to respond to their surroundings thereby minimizing human error and increasing the level of safety.

As the technology becomes more prevalent within the automotive industry, the stakes will become increasingly higher. Hackers and terrorists may attempt to target autonomous vehicles for malicious purposes and personal gain. As such, cybersecurity should be of the utmost concern to help protect passengers and bystanders from potential dangers.

For autonomous vehicles to function cohesively within societal infrastructures, due diligence must be taken to ensure cybersecurity is a top priority.


Cybersecurity Threats for Autonomous Vehicles   

As with any new technology, inherent flaws must be addressed prior to achieving full-scale implementation. Inadequate cybersecurity protocols can open the door for hackers to seize control of vehicles causing a multitude of issues. 

The two looming cybersecurity threats are hackers seizing control of vehicles and the theft of personal information.


Hackers Seizing Control of Vehicles     

Imagine hackers taking control of vehicles while riders are left helpless as passengers on a dangerous if not deadly joy ride. Vehicles could be redirected into publicly dense areas causing casualties and catastrophic damage to riders and pedestrians alike.

Hackers may modify communication buses and crash networks in order to achieve their objectives. Terrorists may even attempt to ransom passengers targeting high profile officials and political leaders. Implementing proper cybersecurity measures is crucial to protecting autonomous vehicles from these types of deleterious attacks.


Theft of Personal Information

Aside from the threat of physical harm, hackers can also use autonomous vehicle technology for breaching personal information. As with any other computer-based system, hackers may infiltrate systems to compromise personal data.&

Criminals may attempt to steal information by breaching WiFi or cellular networks. Data breaches may lead to a loss of personal information including banking accounts, credit card numbers, and other valuable data. Keeping personal data safe and intact should be a top consideration for car companies and consumers alike.


How Cybersecurity Can Help Protect Autonomous Vehicles

Vehicular cybersecurity is a critical component to embracing autonomous vehicle technology. Taking the appropriate cybersecurity measures can help to limit the number of potential risks associated with self-driving vehicles.


Encryption of Data

Llewellyn says encryption of data on communication buses can help prevent the compromisation of cybersecurity software. Encrypting data scrambles plain text so that only people with encryption keys are able to access and read it.

Bus encryption involves using encrypted programs in electronic systems that require high level security. This method of data encryption helps to minimize potential security weaknesses that hackers may attempt to exploit.

Implementing these types of safeguards is necessary for keeping hackers out of autonomous vehicle system networks.


Limiting User Access

Data access restrictions can help prevent certain users from accessing protected information. Limiting access to automated driving systems may help to keep unauthorized users from hacking autonomous systems for nefarious purposes.

Hackers will employ endless tactics for breaching self-driving vehicles, but installing the proper cybersecurity measures can help defend against these forms of attacks. Drivers should attempt to safeguard information so that rogue criminals and terrorists are unable to exploit the technology.


The Future of Autonomous Vehicle Technology

Lewellyn says that automotive manufacturers will progressively implement various technologies before vehicles become 100% autonomous.

As of now, many companies have implemented driver assist mechanisms such as blind-spot monitoring and collision warnings but have not yet created fully driverless vehicles on a wide scale. Eventually automobile manufacturers and people alike will embrace driverless vehicles as a standardized transportation norm.

Although there will be several hurdles to conquer along the way, the future of autonomous vehicles will revolutionize the way people travel. Eliminating the potential for human error and decreasing the number of alcohol and drug related accidents are just some ways self-driving vehicles can improve vehicular safety.


How AER is Changing Cybersecurity in Autonomous Vehicles

In the not too distant future cybersecurity will become an integral part of autonomous vehicle functionality.

Companies must understand these systems to properly repair and restore capabilities. However, as familiarity increases so does the likelihood of system compromisation. OEM’s must strive to make sure that access is only granted to a limited number of companies.

As an automotive electronics remanufacturing company, AER is looking to take the next step towards autonomous vehicle cybersecurity. We are constantly striving for innovative measures to improve our roads and increase the safety of riders everywhere.