AUTOMATED VEHICLES: Google takes self-driving cars offline to prevent hacking

The vehicles will only be connected to other traffic and infrastructure when necessary

January 12, 2017
The vehicles will only be connected to other traffic and infrastructure when necessary
autonomous vehicles

Google has confirmed that it is to disconnect its fleet of self-driving cars from the internet unless absolutely necessary to prevent their technology falling prey to hackers, according to the chief executive of its driverless car program.

The dramatic move has been made possible by the fact that onboard computers can remain autonomous even when connections to cloud servers are down, enhancing both safety and cyber security at a stroke.

It is not possible to disconnect from the outside world entirely, however, as autonomous vehicles require the means to communicate with other traffic and infrastructure to furnish them with advance warning of potential dangers. Google’s cars will only be able to communicate with outside traffic when necessary, in order to not have a continuous line that is vulnerable to hacking.

Driverless cars are particularly vulnerable to criminals as their components are all connected on a central system, giving hackers multiple routes to break into the system and assume control of key functions.

The decision highlights just how seriously Google is treating cyber security after rival car manufacturers Nissan and Fiat Chrysler fell victim to criminal hacks.

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