The Detroit News - - Front Page -

com­pa­nies move to show they can op­er­ate cars with­out hu­man drivers. Google’s spinoff, Waymo, an­nounced last week that driver­less Chrysler Paci­fica mini­vans will roam the Phoenix area for ride-hail­ing trips with en­gi­neers sit­ting in the back seat.

Au­tomak­ers have taken pains to show they are com­mit­ted to ad­dress­ing po­ten­tial cy­ber vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties. They point to the 2015 for­ma­tion of the in­dus­tryrun Au­to­mo­tive In­for­ma­tion Shar­ing and Anal­y­sis Cen­ter that al­lows car man­u­fac­tur­ers to con- fi­den­tially share in­for­ma­tion about po­ten­tial cy­ber­at­tacks.

“Like many in­dus­tries, auto en­gi­neers use ‘threat mod­el­ing’ and sim­u­lated at­tacks with the lat­est meth­ods to test se­cu­rity and to help de­sign con­trols to en­hance data in­tegrity,” said Glo­ria Bergquist, vice pres­i­dent of com­mu­ni­ca­tions and pub­lic af­fairs for the Al­liance of Au­to­mo­bile Man­u­fac­tur­ers.

Re­searchers at the Uni­ver­sity of Michi­gan, Uni­ver­sity of Wash­ing­ton, Stony Brook Uni­ver­sity and Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley, have shown that li­dar sen­sors — which use bounced laser light to mea­sure dis­tance — could be tricked. In their tests, stop signs were al­tered with black and white stripes and ad­di­tional words that were enough to con­vince self-driv­ing cars that they were en­coun­ter­ing 45 mile-per­hour speed limit signs.

Study au­thors cau­tioned their find­ings do not mean all self-driv­ing cars are vul­ner­a­ble to hack­ers and sabo­teurs.

“Our work does not demon­strate any vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties in any au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles cur­rently be­ing de­vel­oped,” Ivan Ev­ti­mov, a Ph.D. stu­dent at the Uni­ver­sity of Wash­ing­ton, said in an email.

Ev­ti­mov warned that en­gi­neers and oth­ers should be aware of these vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties and take steps to en­sure se­cu­rity.

The is­sue ap­pears to res­onate with drivers. A re­cent Cox Auto- mo­tive study on con­sumer per­cep­tions to­ward self-driv­ing cars showed 40 per­cent of drivers said con­cerns about po­ten­tial soft­ware hacks are the big­gest bar­ri­ers to ac­cep­tance.

The cy­ber­se­cu­rity is­sue has roiled de­bate about leg­is­la­tion in Congress. Un­der leg­is­la­tion ap­proved by the House and pend­ing in the Se­nate, au­tomak­ers and tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies would each be al­lowed to sell thou­sands of self-driv­ing cars per year.

The House self-driv­ing bill re­quires au­tomak­ers to de­velop cy­ber­se­cu­rity plans within 180 days of the mea­sure be­com­ing law. The Se­nate’s bill gives car­mak­ers 18 months to craft those plans.

Sup­port­ers of the self-driv­ing bills in Congress have ar­gued that they con­tain pro­vi­sions to ad­dress cy­ber­se­cu­rity con­cerns.

“The tech­nol­ogy be­hind self­driv­ing ve­hi­cles is de­vel­op­ing rapidly, and these ve­hi­cles’ ca­pa­bil­i­ties will grow ex­po­nen­tially in just a mat­ter of years,” U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloom­field Town­ship, said in a state­ment. “Test­ing these tech­nolo­gies to en­sure they are work­ing safely and are se­cure from pos­si­ble cy­ber­at­tacks is a crit­i­cal step to pre­par­ing self­driv­ing ve­hi­cles for our roads.”

U.S. Rep. Deb­bie Din­gell, DDear­born, added: “Con­cerns about cy­ber­se­cu­rity are real, which is why we worked hard in craft­ing the SELF DRIVE Act to set up a process that re­quires rig- orous de­tec­tion and re­sponse prac­tices to pro­tect against po­ten­tial at­tacks.”

For­mer Na­tional High­way Trans­porta­tion Safety Ad­min­is­tra­tion chief David Strick­land, who is now gen­eral coun­sel for the Self-Driv­ing Coali­tion for Safer Streets lob­by­ing group in Wash­ing­ton, said tremen­dous pre-emp­tive work has been done by man­u­fac­tur­ers and agen­cies.

Strick­land cau­tioned, how­ever, that when it comes to hack­ers, “You’re deal­ing with crim­i­nals.”

“It’s isn’t like some­thing where you can have a static en­vi­ron­ment where you can study it to death,” he said. “The no­tion of creat­ing a cy­ber-proof sys­tem is not re­al­ity.”

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