The idea of self-driving cars still sounds like an awesome concept out of a sci-fi movie for many people – just like smartphones or IoT once did. But at the current pace of developments, smart cars could become commonplace on the roads of every major city within the next decade. Yet, public opinion still seems on the fence about whether or not they like this new generation of cars.
The State of Play in Autonomous Cars
When it comes to autonomous cars, most people’s first thought is Elon Musk’s Tesla, a pioneer in innovation and self-driving cars. In fact, a lot of automobile companies have jumped on board and are developing their own models, from Nissan (in partnership with a startup) to BMW to companies that are not automotive-oriented like Apple. Waymo, a brand that is owned by Google’s parent company, Alphabet, has already put a Chrysler minivan on the streets of Phoenix, Arizona in the US, and General Motors is developing robot taxis. Audi is also converting its flagship A8 sedan into a car with smart capabilities so that it will be able to take over the wheel in non-critical conditions such as a traffic jam.
According to Bloomberg, General Motors has invested a figure of around $1 billion in Cruise Automation, a startup that focuses on smart cars, while it also plans to introduce the iconic Chevy in a self-driving and electric Chevy Bolt version. Meanwhile, Ford is looking to produce 100,000 delivery vehicles with no one behind the wheel by 2021. Google already has over 2 million miles under its belt when it comes to testing its autonomous cars in California. Governments are getting on board, too. In 2016, the US government agreed to invest $4 billion in funds for a period of 10 years in order to promote self-driving car technology. Smart cars are heralded as the next big thing since, as Bloomberg reports, 94% of car accidents are due to driver error.
Public on the Fence about Self-Driving Cars
However, not everybody is on board yet. Many people have concerns about AI making decisions that could potentially involve life or death situations, while insurers and lawmakers are racking their brains to come up with a new liability model. Then there is the question of hacking. A driverless car could become a powerful tool in the hands of cybercriminals, who could extort owners or use it to commit attacks. Traditional cybersecurity tools like WAF will protect online applications in new technologies from most OWASP Top 10 threats, including SQL injections and XSS scripts. Just like much of IT infrastructure nowadays, there are physical, datacenter-based WAFs, cloud-based WAFs and hybrid solutions that technically fall between these two types. Considering that at least part of self-driving car software already is in the cloud but also has a physical aspect to it, it is already evident that self-driving cars are hybrid devices whose cybersecurity standards need to address both these elements. In other words, when it comes to driverless cars, their defense mechanisms need to be on a whole another level compared to what we’re used to, especially considering how much harm a compromised car could potentially do.
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Fear is perhaps one of the main reasons why the public is hesitant to embrace smart cars. A survey found that 24% of respondents in Canada, UK and the US were against smart cars and stated that they would never use them, with the number rising to 25% in France and 31% in Germany. India seems to be the most open-minded country, with almost 50% of respondents claiming that they are eager to use self-driving cars, with China coming in second at 46%, while in the US only 22% of people feel the same way.
Whatever our attitudes towards them, self-driving cars seem to be a reality that we will have to adapt to soon enough – and it seems that, as with any other groundbreaking technology, we will have to figure out the rest as we go along.