Samantha Donaldson


Autonomous Cars: Driving Us Around — Or Driving Us Crazy?

We’ve all seen the gritty, futuristic depictions of a 2017 filled with flying cars, leather cyber-goth gear, interplanetary interaction, and time travel. It’s rather comical to think that our past generations truly believed these kinds of technological feats would be possible by now. However, perhaps it is not entirely incorrect to say that we haven’t gone above and beyond the technology of last decade alone. Although we do not have time travel, we are now able to recognize how time travel could be theoretically possible and, although we do not have interplanetary interaction either yet, we have found an entirely undiscovered new universe which shows promise.

Similarly, although we might not all dress like JP from Grandma’s Boy just yet, style has definitely transformed and, trust me, we’re making just as many bad decisions as they thought we would. Lastly, although we may not have fully-functional flying cars just yet, who can forget that epic scene in I, Robot with the self-driving Audi RSQ?

Although we may look back at that scene now and think the special effects are a tad bit corny, we may have this film to thank for Elon Musk’s newest involvement in the creation of autonomous Teslas. Although multiple companies have claimed to be bringing self-driving cars to the market this year, it seems as though Musk’s Tesla may be the first to do so effectively. With this in mind, perhaps the future these past generations hoped for isn’t as far away as we had previously planned. However, with the autonomous car becoming a much more popular concept in the last few years alone, the question of security regarding these cars remains and the outcome of a city full of cars connected to an unsafe network could make for nothing but chaos, if not handled correctly from the start.

A Real Life Watch Dogs at Our Doorstep?

What Makes Insecure Autonomous Cars So Dangerous?

Throughout the last few years, the Internet of Things (IoT) has been taking hold of the tech world and making the connection of devices to networks a much more easy and efficient process. However, with this new form of cloud connection, the fear of data insecurity and cyber attacks has begun to rise and it seems as though nothing connected to the IoT is truly safe. For instance, insecure devices connected to the IoT last year alone caused countless DDoS attacks on companies as large as Yahoo, Spotify, Amazon, Krebs on Security, and more. The main concern that comes with these devices is truly not even the car itself but rather the devices with weak security such as phones and wearables proposed to be connected alongside them in the same network. This kind of entry point allows hackers to enter the network and wreak havoc without ever having to tamper with the strong security measures a proposed autonomous car may have.

In turn, these cars are far from safe even if their personal security measures appear to be. In the last few years, there has been quite a bit of skepticism based on the security of the IoT and its use in crucial elements of our everyday life including water pumps, cars, traffic lights, and trains, to name a few. This fear is just as prevalent in the world of self-driving cars as a hacker being able to manipulate cars could very easily create his own terrorist attacks on citizens in various cities without ever having to be there or drive a single one. Therefore, the ability to manipulate the security of these cars could spell disaster not only for the sake of the individuals within the car but the outside world affected by its vulnerabilities.

Although most companies speculate that being connected to the Cloud would not happen immediately and the car’s security measures would ultimately ensure it is safe, the fear of being vulnerable to cyber attacks turned into real terrorist attacks is means enough to want to slow the production of these cars down and ensure their complete and total security before distribution. However, this distribution of the first autonomous cars may actually be coming sooner than we previously thought and, with them, the first signs of the IoT being utilized in everyday life shall begin.

How Close Are These Cars To Market?

Although it was previously stated that these autonomous cars wouldn’t reach the public until 2018, new statements by both the NHTSA and the Texas Department of Transportation said that autonomous vehicles are coming to Texas shortly and allowing officials to scrutinize the performance of these cars over a period of time to see if they are capable of being used as of now.

Despite the fact that the fear of security involving the car’s tech is concerning, many believe that the autonomous car will significantly decrease the amount of car accidents yearly and improve road safety and insurance rates in the process. In fact, over 94% of car accidents are caused by human error. Therefore, by removing these individuals from the mix, many people believe the roads will be far more safe and less affected by said human error as well.

In 2015, Musk stated that he was around three years from creating a fully autonomous car, and it’s no surprise that the first autonomous cars are already being displayed as Musk is certainly a man known for raising the bar time and time again. However, with these cars so close to market, some people state that the security of various other devices such as phones and wearables are more important than the car’s security itself and, with devices that are far from weak connecting to a car with quality security as well, there will not only be a far more simply way to connect your devices to the cloud but also a much more secure way as well. In fact, with more and more modes of transportation choosing to look into autonomous alternatives, the world that these movies have portrayed for years may be closer than ever before and the impact on civilization as we know it would be tremendous.

What Do Self-Driving Cars Mean For The Autonomy of Transportation?

With the first self-driving cars being distributed within this year alone, the use of autonomous technology in transportation may continue to rise. In fact, some speculate that the reduction of human error in more than just cars may actually lead to a far more stable and safe world overall. Although the security implications as well as the removal of humans from particular driving jobs are certainly means for concern, the use of these autonomous means of transportation could lead to less deaths yearly and more efficient procedures including trains carrying important cargo consistently being on time, the car accident death rates reducing, and the transportation of sick individuals to hospitals being a far more expedient situation likewise.

For the healthcare industry, in particular, this expediency and lack of human error on the roads likewise could mean thousands of lives saved yearly. Whether it be for ambulances interacting with self-driving cars to move around them with ease or air ambulances being able to cruise without the typical human error directly to the hospital and land efficiently every time, the use of automation in these devices would be nothing short of absolute efficiency.

Similarly, for trucking companies and cargo trains, the ability to transport products in an efficient manner could mean a far more profitable and richer economy that would not remove the driver from the passenger seat but merely transition their professions from risky driving techniques into the monitoring of the self-driving program throughout the trip. In turn, this would open up far more individuals to this profession in particular and give them the ability to make quality wages without the risk of death at every turn.

In the end, utilizing self-driving cars has quite a few perks but the issues it faces are just as immense. If addressed carefully and tackled in a truly effective manner, however, these autonomous vehicles could mean the dawn of a new era for human life expectancy, car insurance rates, job transitions and opportunities, technology, and the use of technology in everyday life. In the end, these cars are driving us around and should not be driving us crazy in the process. If the research in Texas and the other ten states chosen to participate in the trial proves that these car are just as safe as they claim to be, we may actually begin to see the future in the present and, in turn, say goodbye to a past that is nothing short of a bumpy ride as well.

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