The development of autonomous vehicles promises a future of safe and efficient roads, unimpeded by distracted, impaired, aggressive, or deliberately speeding drivers. But to achieve this, the companies involved in developing driverless cars will have to navigate significant obstacles.
The transition from personally controlled to automated vehicles can be likened to the shift that occurred over the past 20 years from brick-and-mortar retail to e-commerce. For traditional storeowners, security depended on door locks, alarm systems, cameras, and access to cash registers. For online retailers, security has to do with networks and software.
Similarly, the safety focus in driverless vehicles will be largely about securing the networks and software that drive the cars. Today’s cars have approximately 100 million lines of code in them. Autonomous cars will have many times more. The companies that manufacture driverless cars will have to actively manage all of the security aspects of the vehicles’ software.
Today’s carmakers have, over time, developed efficient procedures for recalling and fixing vehicles with parts identified as faulty or unsafe. Similarly, with autonomous vehicles, manufacturers will need to devise methods of identifying and fixing problems discovered in software. In many cases, repairs can be done remotely, in the same way that mobile phone and computer makers can send patches over networks. But however fixes are made, management of software supply chains will need to be as efficient as the management of the supply chains for physical parts.
Beyond being efficient, software providers for driverless cars will surely face requirements to certify that the code they deliver is free of security vulnerabilities that, if exploited, could enable a hacker to seize control of the vehicle. A faulty spark plug is one thing. Suddenly having your steering, acceleration and braking hijacked is quite another.
Read the full post at Xconomy.
Lou Shipley is a Lecturer at theMartin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship at the MIT Sloan School of Management.