Self-driving cars hitting the road have auto and tech execs worried about cyber attacks

  • Law firm Foley & Lardner surveyed executives from auto and tech companies and asked what their biggest legal concerns have been while developing self-driving cars.
  • The biggest concern was cybersecurity attacks.

Companies racing to commercialize self-driving cars in the next five years know there are points of concern beyond just worrying if the tech will function properly.

Law firm Foley & Lardner surveyed automakers, suppliers, tech companies, and startups on self-driving cars and asked what their biggest legal concerns have been while developing the technology. Eighty-three tech and auto executives responded, hailing primarily from Michigan and California.

The survey listed six concerns and asked executives to check all that applied, so some may have voted for multiple options. But there was still a clear winner: cybersecurity attacks.

Sixty-three per cent of respondents said that cybersecurity attacks were the biggest looming legal concern.

Company figureheads have stayed relatively hush when asked how they were addressing cybersecurity issues.

But researchers have already proven how easy it can be to manipulate self-driving technology. Cybersecurity expert Jonathan Petit used $US43 worth of easily-attainable equipment, like a laser point, to trick autonomous-driving sensors into thinking obstacles were in their path when they weren’t, and vice versa.

The second-highest choice was intellectual property protection. This seems particularly relevant as Waymo, the self-driving unit spun out of Google, is suing Uber, claiming it stole intellectual property and trade secrets.

Respondents then said personal injury liability (55%), compliance with state and federal regulations (43%), and consumer data privacy (38%) were the following concerns they were keeping in mind while developing the vehicles.

The survey provides a glimpse of the biggest questions that are plaguing automakers and tech companies as they develop self-driving cars for a commercial setting.

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