Most drivers place full trust in their GPS navigation systems to guide them to their destination. But what if those navigation systems can’t be trusted.
At the Automated Vehicles Symposium (AVS) 2017, I addressed a plenary talk to the ~1,500 attendees, stating that even though it is unanimously considered as paramount, cybersecurity is still an after-thought. Or at least it still feels like it. Indeed, for the last two AVS editions, the cybersecurity breakout session reported similar open challenges, but no real changes have been seen since. In order to move the security needle, we took a different approach and didn't organize a cybersecurity breakout session. Instead, we identified that the missing components were the lack of inputs coming from the community of experts. To be able to build a more resilient system, cybersecurity experts should know about the limitations of each subsystem, and possible "nightmare scenarios".
In September 2016, Tesla Motors issued an over-the-air software update to make its Autopilot system rely more on radar than cameras. This update was in response to a highly publicized crash in May 2016 in which a 40-year-old man was killed when his Tesla crashed into a turning tractor trailer. Tesla wrote in a blog post that Autopilot didn't detect "the white side of the tractor trailer against a brightly lit sky, so the brake was not applied." Without more information about the accident I can only speculate, but let me try to reflect on the problem and how security plays a role. The cause of the accident was that the camera did not detect the object because of natural/non-malicious blinding. I define blinding as the action of affecting the camera in a way that objects are not detected, either partial or full blinding. So, what does it say about the robustness of the system against blinding attacks? It says that Tesla's Autopilot apparently does not prioritize safety or does not do sensor fusion correctly, if at all.
Autonomous automated vehicles (AV), also known as self-driving cars, have been garnering a lot of press coverage over the past year, as automakers (Audi, Mercedes-Benz, GM, Toyota, etc.), Tier 1 suppliers (Delphi, Bosch, etc.), Universities (Oxford, Stanford, Parma, etc.) and technology companies (Google, Apple, etc.) have all made steps toward releasing autonomous cars in the not-too-distant future.