Preventing vehicle ramming attacks in the age of driverless cars

Paul Woodhouse

Marketing manager, Vindis

February 1, 2018

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Every year, in-car automation advances to make driving easier, safer and more exciting.

Recent developments in in-car technology suggest we are much close to rolling out fully autonomous vehicles. Many drivers are trusting their vehicles to carry out tasks that were previously done manually.

We already have systems that can parallel park, keep us in our lanes on dual carriageways and motorways, and maintain a safe, steady speed – with some even advanced enough to track the vehicle in front and brake when necessary.

Self-driving technology is revolutionising the driving experience.

But there is still some way to go before fully autonomous technology is ready to roll out. Manufacturers need to converge sensor-based technologies and connected-vehicle communications, so they can deliver safer self-driving techniques than what each approach could ever deliver on its own.

Unfortunately, some driving jobs could be at risk, with lorries and trucks forecast to be among the first fully autonomous vehicles put into service. The lowest estimates suggest that more than 1.7 million truckers could be replaced by software, with other estimates as high as three million.

But there are more than jobs at stake. Easy to obtain, hard to combat and inflicting high numbers of casualties in a few seconds, trucks and lorries have become the weapon of choice for terrorists.

Commandeered remotely

If autonomous controls aren’t easily overridden, then the advent of driverless vehicles might make it more difficult for terrorists to employ this tactic.

However, US lawmakers have raised concerns that automated vehicles could be hacked into and commandeered remotely, keeping the terrorist entirely out of harm’s way.

They have already passed legislation mandating that autonomous vehicle must be armed with cybersecurity technology to make it as hard as possible, if not impossible, to hijack vehicles.

Vehicle hire and rental companies will also be expected to be more discerning in who they lease cars to. Many recent attacks have involved hire vehicles.

Car hire databases, which currently check against identity, credit and insurance, will need access to a wider range of information

Car hire databases, which currently check against identity, credit and insurance, will need access to a wider range of information about anyone seeking to hire vehicles.

A suite of tools has been launched to help fleet operators reduce the risks of their vehicles being used as a weapon in terror attacks. Developed by Fleet Source, TRIP – or Terrorism Risk and Incident Prevention – is a suite of tools and services aimed at educating fleet operators, managers and drivers on the nature of terror threats and the precautions they can take to reduce the risk of their vehicle being hijacked and stolen by terrorists.

The government, meanwhile, is developing geo-fencing systems to prevent unauthorised vehicles from entering particular areas of a city. Using satellites, the system will slow down vehicles and control their speed as soon as they enter a sensitive area. The system would automatically connect with the vehicle and retain control so that the vehicle only travels at a safe sped within the area.

As lorries and vans continue to be used as terror weapons, perhaps it is time to implement some of the prevention strategies sooner rather than later.

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2 Comments on "Preventing vehicle ramming attacks in the age of driverless cars"

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Malcolm Warr

I am not at all sure that self driving cars will enhance the driving experience in the long run. Human beings build up experience and then use it to make intuitive decisions. Some good some bad but mostly good. I would like to see some considered human factors analysis alongside the rush to inject new technology. And some more proactive security rather than the more common restrospective approach

Steve J Somers

Not many plane or drone autopilots have been hacked – so far.
However ALL options must be covered