Tesla is the only major automaker that offers over the air (OTA) updates of both software and firmware. This allows Tesla to add new features like new voice commands, driver profiles or blind spot warnings that weren’t available when the car was purchased. It also allows them to fix bugs that were either causing the car to not function as intended or to discourage potential hackers by patching vulnerabilities soon after they are discovered.
In September 2016, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) awarded three Connected Vehicle (CV) Pilot Deployment Programs: New York City (NYC), Tampa and Wyoming. The CV Pilot Program will test and operationalize cutting-edge vehicle to vehicle (V2V) and vehicle to infrastructure (V2I) technologies, including in-vehicle wireless, mobile devices, and roadside equipment that have the potential to reduce accidents, save lives, improve productivity, enhance mobility, and lessen the environmental impact of city traffic. The NYC CV pilot will feature an estimated 8,000 vehicles outfitted with V2X equipment, including 5,850 taxis, 1,250 MTA vehicles, 400 UPS trucks, and 500 city vehicles. There will be approximately 350 roadside units installed at Manhattan and Brooklyn intersections and on FDR drive. Additionally, 100 vulnerable road user (pedestrians and bicyclists) devices will be deployed to study the effectiveness of V2X technology in reducing NYC's high rate (5 times the national average) of crash fatalities involving pedestrians.
In July 2016, the Automotive Information Sharing and Analysis Center (Auto-ISAC) released "Automotive Cybersecurity Best Practices" for carmakers and their suppliers. This document expands on their "Framework for Automotive Cybersecurity Best Practices" published in January 2016. This is the first time the automakers have addressed cybersecurity in a formal manner and a strong sign they are treating hacker threats seriously.
OnBoard Security, the embedded security division of Security Innovation, recently commented on the US Department of Transportation’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on V2V communications. OnBoard Security strongly supports the establishment of the proposed regulation since the number of lives saved increases dramatically as the number of cars with V2V increases. Widespread penetration of the technology, and the corresponding prevention of deaths, can only be reached in a reasonable time with a mandate.
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.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), part of the US Department of Transportation recently issued their much anticipated Federal Automated Vehicles Policy. This 116-page document is guidance, not mandatory rule-making to "guide manufacturers and other entities in the safe design, development, testing, and deployment of HAVs [Highly Automated Vehicles]."