My Security Thoughts – Autonomous Vehicles by @mhbjr

I am going to take a different tack in this posting versus my previous three postings. I will still look at the security implications of technology or service but am going to examine the other affects both positive and negative that these things will have on society as a whole. This writing will look at the following:

Benefits of autonomous vehicles
Economic loss from autonomous vehicles
Security dangers of autonomous vehicles

First let me say what I feel an autonomous vehicle is from my perspective. An autonomous vehicle is a vehicle that is able to drive/navigate without a human being in the control loop. The vehicle is able to recognize both moving and stationary objects while avoiding both and engaging in digital conversation with other autonomous vehicles and navigational aids.

The time frame for when autonomous vehicles will be on the highways and byways is probably not in my lifetime. It is my opinion that the automakers and governments would not want these types of vehicles. I think that we will see them but when is still a big question. Why you ask well that is part of the posting below. One of the main ones is legislation. The auto companies are going to fight this one and they have very deep pockets and are skilled in working our political leadership. In short I will say now that the benefits are for the individual person not for the corporation or government. We all know that if it does not benefit big business or government then the people can kick sand. I digress now let us delve into my thoughts.

Benefits of Autonomous Vehicles: Senior citizens will welcome autonomous vehicles. They will realize that the limitations of age that force them into nursing homes can be reduced by having mobility when still living in their own abode. Numerous seniors are currently living in nursing or assisted living homes because they can no longer drive themselves to doctor’s appointments, grocery stores, and other destinations that they need to accomplish their daily tasks.

Senior citizens will be able to travel greater distances then having to drive the vehicles themselves. The ability to set a destination, say the grandkids house two states away, and take a nice leisurely ride. The vehicle can be set to update the rider’s relatives on their current status and estimated time of arrival.

Senior citizens would not be the only group that could see the advantages of autonomous vehicles. Another group would be families with dual incomes and children without driver’s licenses. The autonomous vehicles could be set to pick up children from school, daycare, etc. and take them back home. Calling for a vehicle and taking them to their respective destinations could accommodate kids with different activities in different locations.

Restaurants and bars may see a significant uptake in income. Autonomous vehicles would allow patrons to drink more which raises the bar tab. The threat of lawsuits due to drunk drivers leaving their establishments would decrease. I say decrease because those of the legal profession will find some other way to sue.

Rental car companies may also benefit with many people now choosing to not own a car or trunk but renting when needed. This just in time rental may be the new business model for Uber. A customer using the new Uber would fire up the app see what vehicle was available call for it as well as enters the destination. If possible at the same time a pick up time could be entered so that the customer would not have to worry about having a vehicle available.

Depending on the business model, companies that do not deliver items on a regular basis could see a decrease in their cost due to not owning any vehicles but utilizing on-demand vehicle services. If the on-demand service offered a variety of types of vehicles other businesses would be able to draw on this inventory at their leisure ensuring that the costs are directly related to the requests of their customers.

Police would prefer autonomous vehicles as well since they could disable the vehicles or if there is a lock-in feature direct the vehicle to an area where the possible loss of life to bystanders would be decreased. In addition thieves would not car jack autonomous vehicles, which is a benefit to everyone.

Economic Loss from Autonomous Vehicles: If one group benefits then another group will suffer a loss. My thoughts are that nursing, assisted living, and retirement homes will see a drop in revenue due to a decrease in the number of residents that are able to live on their own but unable to drive.

In cities a decrease in car ownership may occur which would mean loss sales to car companies. Car companies would see a decrease in that there would only be enough cars on the road that were really needed. Car companies may attempt to compensate by building autonomous vehicles with a limited life span. Thus seeing economic salvation in replacing vehicles with increased frequency.

State and local governments would see a decrease in revenue from ticketing. The number of speeding, red light running, parking, and other traffic violations would decrease since the programming of autonomous vehicles incorporates obeying traffic laws. I would assume that the politicians would compensate for this loss of revenue by raising taxes in other areas.

Though police would see benefits from the populace using autonomous vehicles, there may be a loss to the police in the seizures of cars if the criminal element does not own the same number of vehicles. Chop shops would see a reduction inventory available for their purposes. The autonomous vehicles would be heavily connected to the net making tracking easier and giving instant warning when a vehicle was moved without prior authorization.

Dangers from Autonomous Vehicles: When you have a vehicle that is basically a node on the Internet. Tracking of the vehicle and its connection to other vehicles presents the possibility of true compromise of the vehicles control. Deliberately disabling the braking system is already a possibility on cars today. The link below is from a report that shows some of the possible dangers for today that can be extrapolated for the future.

Autonomous vehicles may be subject to both local and remote attacks. A remote attack on an autonomous vehicle could mean that the attacker could launch the attack from an Internet café.

Information from the vehicle could be used by a stalker to plan the optimum time to strike their victim. In the near future individuals may use the car systems to not only locate a restaurant but also make reservations and pay for parking in advance.

The FBI has a report that shows their fears from autonomous vehicles:

The number of access points in an autonomous vehicle would be large. Automakers adequately securing all these points are unlikely. We have seen today how slow these companies are in making changes or recalling cars in the name of safety.

I could go on with in greater detail of the security risks but I will save that for another posting.

In closing do you or would you feel safe in an autonomous vehicle?

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