Google will soon produce its own fleet of driverless cars. While the move could herald improvements in road safety, the potential for ‘spam jams’ and hacker-driven congestion might affect consumers’ driving experiences.
There is no doubt that self-drive cars are going to become a reality. The technology is already available and, with test drives showing early signs of success, an unstoppable journey has started on what will become a well-travelled road.
There is an almost perfect combination of good reasons for self-drive technology. Top of the list is safety because humans are unreliable, easily distracted and have vastly slower reaction times than software. With a computer brain at the wheel, driving will also be more efficient meaning that environmental and economic benefits will quickly be noticed.
For all the positives, the industry will need to be very alert to the risk of cyber manipulation and attack. Self-drive cars will probably work through Internet connectivity and, just as large volumes of electronic traffic can be routed to overwhelm websites, the opportunity for self-drive traffic being routed to create ‘spam jams’ or disruption is a very real prospect.
Yet the industry takes safety and security incredibly seriously. Doubtless, overrides could be built in so that drivers could shut down many of the car’s capabilities if hacked. That way, humans will still be able to ensure their cars don’t route them on the road to nowhere.