“A large cyber-terrorist attack targeting the operating systems of many self-driving vehicles simultaneously could cause mass casualties” – that is the alarming scenario presented by MPs after their investigation into autonomous cars on British roads.
After a 15-month enquiry, the transport select committee has issued a hard-hitting report highlighting the hazards self-driving vehicles could create.
The committee concludes: “Self-driving vehicles pose cybersecurity risks, broadly because of their connected rather than automated capabilities.
“Cyberattacks may prove more dangerous if a vehicle is self-driven.”
Ashley Feldman, Transport and Smart Cities programme and policy manager at a trade body, Tech UK, set out several “significant” risks to the committee, saying: “Your steering, your braking, your acceleration and even the operation of the airbags … could be taken over by a malicious actor.”
Jesse Norman, minister for Decarbonisation and Technology, told the MPs: “In some respects it looks like it is inevitable, that there will be [cyberattacks] and that some of them will be successful.”
A year ago the government said: “By 2025, the UK will begin to see deployments of self-driving vehicles, improving ways in which people and goods are moved around the nation and creating an early commercial market for the technologies.
“This market will be enabled by a comprehensive regulatory, legislative and safety framework, served by a strong British supply chain and skills base, and used confidently by businesses and the public alike.”
The Highway Code already addresses the behaviour of drivers of autonomous vehicles, saying: “While a self-driving vehicle is driving itself in a valid situation, you are not responsible for how it drives. You may turn your attention away from the road and you may also view content through the vehicle’s built-in infotainment apparatus.”
At present self-driving vehicles are largely limited to a bus shuttle across the Forth Road Bridge in Scotland and the Heathrow Pod, which connects Terminal 5 with a car park along a dedicated track.
In April 2023 the…