When I read the title of The Wall Street Journal’s newest article on self-driving cars, I said “Oh wow, here we go” out loud. And, yes, here we go. Guidelines on the future of autonomous car operation are largely unwritten; it seems people aren’t even quite sure where to start. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration took its first swing at creating some rules for the self-driving car, while simultaneously raising concerns regarding cyber-security and other untested safety scenarios. The bottom line, these cars open doors that could become security nightmares.
A Preliminary Outline of Rules:
Point number one of NHTSA’s rough sketch urged states not to allow self-driving cars on public roads unless it was for testing — but NHTSA displayed a vote of confidence by including some rules for if/when states decided to allow the self-driving cars on their roads. Points number two and three focused on future regulations for actual autonomous owners/drivers. They suggested that states should require “drivers” (are they still considered drivers?) to carry special licenses and receive extra training on how to safely operate the vehicle. I think these points are fair and necessary.
Ok, so why so serious, Becky? It sounds like this was a good start! Well, technology still sucks.
Unlike a lot of the population who think technology is the savior of our race, I disagree. People love to point out, the before-mentioned WSJ article included, that human error is the cause of most driving accidents — and I agree with that. In order to mitigate these errors, proponents of autonomous driving cars hope to replace human drivers with computers. Have we forgotten that computer systems are designed and manufactured by humans? So… doesn’t human error still exist? Yes. It does. So before we let the self-driving car designers and manufacturers off their leashes, we need to know if the computers are fail-safe. If humans are involved, they’re not.
Humans cannot build computers to operate perfectly — we also cannot build them to be 100% impervious to outside threats or malfunctions. What if the satellites, cellphone networks, or the “cloud” that is connected to the car crashes or has a glitch? What actually happens to the car’s “driving system” or, more importantly, the people inside of it? An even scarier scenario, has anyone heard of EMP? Look it up.
Newspapers can hack into celebrities’ phones — how about someone hacking into your car? Would the military use this technology — or is setting the Humvee to drive the Point X like offering your enemy your plans on a platter? Computers are not good at keeping secrets.
We hate the premise of “Big Brother,” or the government watching us and knowing where we go all the time. Hello?! Welcome to 24/7 babysitting and monitoring.
More research and thought is required before anyone can get excited about these cars. Autonomous cars are a big jump from human-operated cars and they will completely change the rules of the road… and insurance, traffic laws, privacy, and security. We need to explore if they would actually improve our lives or if they would open a Pandora’s Box of cyber security risk. As of now, I’m leaning towards the latter.