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Driverless cars spark further security fears

Driverless cars will become a reality in the next couple of years – yes, by 2016 – at least in small amounts, according to the chairman of Audi, but there are obvious risks inherent in the idea, and another expert has warned once again on the hacking front.

The latest report on security issues with autonomous vehicles comes from the Institution of Engineering and Technology, which predicts a timeframe of 15 years for driverless cars to hit the roads in true numbers (Audi’s chairman also said it would be 10 or 15 years before the things become commonplace).

And Hugh Boyles, “cyber engineer” at the IET, has added to previous fears that hackers will have a field day with this new method of transport.

Boyles told the Telegraph: “Sadly we're not that good at writing software today. 98 per cent of applications have series defects. If we have the hacker community start to target vehicles in Central London we could imagine a fair amount of chaos on the roads.”

Terrorists using driverless cars as weapons is a “real risk” he noted, so “cyber-security of autonomous vehicles will be critical”, and black boxes in the vehicles are a must.

The FBI has already warned on the prospect of terrorists using driverless cars as pilotable bombs on wheels, or getaway cars for criminals which allow all the occupants to lean out of the windows shooting at pursuing police while the vehicle takes care of driving.

It’s not all potential doom and gloom though, as the IET notes that a computer-controlled car will only make one error on average for every 10,000 errors currently made by human drivers – with hundreds of accidents prevented and lives saved as a result.

They will also allow for further safety measures to be taken – such as automatically limiting the maximum speed of a young driver who has just passed their test.