Will self-driv­ing cars get up­dates?

Computer Shopper - - LETTERS -

It has been ar­gued that the re­cent Wan­naCry worm hit the NHS be­cause they are us­ing MRI scan­ners and sim­i­lar equip­ment built to run on (or with) Win­dows XP. Try­ing to up­date soft­ware for a lin­ear ac­cel­er­a­tor built for can­cer treat­ment and en­sure it is 100% safe might be very dif­fi­cult, very ex­pen­sive or both. Do you stop us­ing per­fectly func­tional kit that meets all your needs be­cause its soft­ware does not re­ceive se­cu­rity up­dates?

Mo­torola up­dated my G4 to An­droid 7.0 just as it launched the G5. Will I get An­droid 7.1 or 7.2? Who knows. Google pro­duces monthly se­cu­rity patches for An­droid, but my phone’s lat­est patch is for De­cem­ber 2016 so later se­cu­rity up­dates marked ‘crit­i­cal’ have not been ap­plied. My Moto G3 shows the Jan­uary 2017 up­date. There are sup­pos­edly hun­dreds of mil­lions of old An­droid phones and tablets that pose a se­cu­rity risk that will never be up­dated by Google or their man­u­fac­tur­ers. There are many thou­sands of IoT de­vices that are to­tally in­se­cure and which will never re­ceive any sort of up­date. Many man­u­fac­tur­ers cre­ate con­sumer prod­ucts with no at­ten­tion to the soft­ware, give short-term up­dates, then aban­don them.

So what is go­ing to hap­pen with the soft­ware for au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles? All the ma­jor man­u­fac­tur­ers are look­ing to pro­duce cars that will drive them­selves. The life­time of a car has al­ways been as long as the owner can keep it run­ning in a me­chan­i­cally safe way. Are car man­u­fac­tur­ers pre­pared to give proper soft­ware sup­port for decades? Will the soft­ware up­dates be se­cure, on time and im­ple­mented prop­erly, or will man­u­fac­tur­ers make de­ci­sions about safety based on fi­nan­cial con­sid­er­a­tions? Fi­nally, if the man­u­fac­turer de­cides not to sup­port a par­tic­u­lar range of ve­hi­cle any more, will the owner have to scrap the car or can they con­tinue to use their ve­hi­cle? They may take the view that it’s still work­ing per­fectly well at the mo­ment, just as you can (if you still want to) run Win­dows XP to­day. Stephen Hill

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