While the future of autonomous vehicles is promising and exciting, mainstream production in the U.S. is still a few years away from anything higher than Level 2. Not because of technological capability, but because of security—or the lack thereof.
Earlier this year, the Ponemon Institute published a report (commissioned by Synopsys) titled “Securing the Connected Car: A Study of Automotive Industry Cybersecurity Practices.” The report found that “connected” vehicles (like autonomous cars) are rich in physical safety features—seatbelts, airbags, antilock brakes—but not so rich in digital security features. When it comes to what’s needed for safe operation in an online world, connected cars are not yet ready for prime time.
The report is based on a survey of 593 security practitioners, product development professionals, and engineers. More than two-thirds of the respondents acknowledged that the need for better cybersecurity is “urgent” for obvious reasons: 62% said they think a malicious or proof-of-concept attack against automotive software/components is very likely in the next 12 months.
It’s fair to say that consumers won’t accept autonomous cars unless they are confident that they will be at least as safe as they would be on a commercial jet, train, or bus. That day is coming. But the automotive industry must get over a few speedbumps first.