Self-driving cars need to be more intelligent and safe from hackers

Self-driving cars need to be more intelligent, regulated, safer and not be able to be hacked before they are able to be common place on our roads.

Professor Timothy Gordon, from the University of Lincoln, told Factor he believes it will be around 20 years before cars will be able to automatically take us places we want to go.

He said: “In the advanced area of the self-driving ‘take me to work’ function, there is no legal framework so far. That is needed to allow the kind of vehicles we are talking about going on to the public highway, doing everything they are going to do in a controlled, and hopefully safe, way.

“My guess is you could have something in 20 years where you might be able to get on a dedicated lane of the M1 and press the auto cruise and be able to let the car drive, eyes-off-the-road style.”

Gordon, who is working with car manufacturer Volvo on their own self-driving vehicles, said the UK’s announcement to provide funding and, importantly, develop a framework for their use was a positive step.


Gordon said, as well as legal issues in their implementation, there will need to be enough public trust that wireless systems in the cars cannot be hacked – as well as the cars’ intelligence and safety.

Wireless technology could play a large role in the future of self-driving cars as it has the potential to allow cars to communicate with their surroundings. For example, Honda has been developing traffic lights which can interact with their cars.

Gordon said: “I think another thing that will concern people is that when these vehicles use wireless and network communications, whether anyone can hack into it, there may be malicious people who would disrupt such systems, so their security becomes a really big thing.

“This is another reason why smart systems using wireless technology – so called connected vehicles – need to prove the security as well as the safety.”


He also said there needs to be further advancement in the technologies used before the public level of trust, as with all emerging technologies, reaches a level where everyone will want to use the cars.

This can be seen from Google, in recent days, agreeing to add a steering wheel to its driverless cars after new rules were passed by California’s Department of Motor Vehicles.

Gordon said that to some extent self-driving cars already exist on our roads as they are able to use technology such as adaptive cruise control, which changes the speed of a car based on the distance between itself and others.

However, he said, for the more speculative cars, which are able to take more control, they need to be more intelligent.

“The cars can definitely drive themselves but the question is that can they drive themselves safely? And therefore do they have the higher level of intelligence that means that they can work under all conditions, snow, rain, dark, strong winds, but more to the point in the real-world traffic environment?

“The need for hazard perception and suitably safe operation is going to be the factor that keeps this on a fairly slow track.”

 Featured image courtesy of Google. Image one and two courtesy of Volvo 

Under the sea: Weaponised submarines and drone boats to help protect countries

Military submarines and boat drones that are able to carry and use weapons are to be developed by the UK.

This is intended to address the issue of maritime security and also boost the defence capabilities that are available for countries.

The areas of technology that are of interest include being able to ensure the navigational accuracy of the drones, as well as ensuring that all communications are secure.

The UK government also wants to be able to launch drones from a larger platform that is already at sea.

Private companies are being invited to submit proposals for the development of the military tech. A graphic (below) included in the guidance for applications identifies the desired  drones, including a version designed special operations.

Other uses include sea mine clearance and persistent wide area surveillance.

Funding has been announced for early proposals for ‘Maritime Autonomous Systems’ by the UK government. In the guidance for applications to create the systems, it says that the technologies will be able to help support people in increasingly complex defence and security environments.

Proposals will also enable infrastructure to be developed, as well creating economic benefits.


“Maritime Mission Systems may be defined as the set of integrated equipment and human resources that provide the capability maritime vessels (Ships and Submarines) require to conduct their operational tasks,” the guidance for proposals says.

“The scope of the definition includes vessels either operating alone or in consort with other maritime vessels, or with units in the land and air domains.

“Essential sub-systems include wide ranging technologies for sensors (e.g. sonar and radar), weapons, command and control systems, command information systems, communications and networks, navigation and geospatial/temporal referencing systems.

“The subsystems may be hosted organically on the platform itself or (as increasingly the case) deployed through off-board systems such as supervised and autonomous unmanned vehicles.”


However, the project is by no means the first to be looking at using autonomous devices at sea.

Earlier this year Rolls-Royce revealed its plans to create drone ships.

The company has been designing autonomous cargo ships since 2013 and believes it won’t be too long before they can be created.

However the company has said one of the hardest things that needs to be overcome is ensuring correct regulation is in place for them to be used.

As with all autonomous devices, there needs to be strict rules and security measures in place to avoid attacks from would-be virtual pirates.

Image two courtesy of Rolls Royce