Danger ahead. Rough road for driverless cars


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While the auto industry and its high-tech partners continue to tout driverless vehicles as a reality just a few years away, Trends Research Institute tracking shows there are many roadblocks that ensure fully autonomous cars are not imminent.

Now, Micro, a cybersecurity firm, is warning against an “indefensible” vulnerability in computer systems that control smart or connected cars.

Other hacks have targeted specific makes and models. This one attacks the “controller area network” that is standard in most smart cars. The hack can disrupt a range of electrical and control systems, including airbags and anti-lock braking.

The hack overloads an individual circuit with error messages. This causes the larger network to shut off the circuit, disabling the devices that the circuit controls.

The hacker needs physical access to a vehicle to install a hack-enabling device, but that often isn’t difficult.

The discovery comes as national security experts speculate that a recent series of US Navy ships’ collisions might have been caused by hacks.

TRENDPOST: Vulnerability to hacks, in addition to myriad issues of regulation, liability and human acceptance, are why the Trends Research Institute predicts that connected and self-driving cars will be adopted much more slowly than enthusiasts predict.

Autonomous vehicles will spend decades in refinement before the dream of fully automated vehicles is realized. The first generation will be commercial and public transportation vehicles on clearly and tightly structured routes.

But this is an industry constantly beset with frequent and serious recalls, from exploding air bags to life-threatening acceleration and braking malfunctions, and mega-dollar lawsuits stemming from mechanical failures. As much attention should be given to technological failures as the promises automakers and tech companies make to shareholders.

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