Self-driving lorries to be seen on British roads

The government has announced that by the end of next year major British roads will be used by small convoys of partially self-driving lorries.

According to the BBC, the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) has been awarded a contract to carry out tests of vehicle “platoons”.

Despite the AA expressing safety concerns over the platoons, three lorries will be travelling in formation, controlling the lead vehicles breaks and acceleration.

Ilia Kolochenko, CEO of cyber security company at High-Tech Bridge, commented: “Security and reliability of self-driving vehicles is a very important question to be addressed before they are allowed to drive among people.

“Even if we assume that software developers will manage to prevent intrusions into car management systems remotely (via software vulnerabilities and weaknesses), we will still have a lot of non-cyber risks.

“Recent stories about manipulating self-driving cars with fake road signs or laser pointers are good examples. Teenagers can try to “hack” such vehicles just for fun and even without having any technical skills.

“YouTube video tutorials on driverless cars hacking will become accessible to everyone. Investigating and prosecuting such offences will be difficult and very expensive. Organised crime may also adopt car hacking to kill people or damage property in impunity.”

‘Driverless vehicles relying on remote systems’

The lead vehicle in the platoons will be controlled by a human driver, but will communicate with the rest of the convoy wirelessly, and the following vehicles will be instructed to accelerate and brake by the lead vehicle, allowing the lorries to drive closer together than they could with human drivers.

“Third-parties will also imperil driverless cars relying on remote systems, for example for navigation. Such systems are usually provided and maintained by third-parties, who frequently underestimate cyber risks.

“Once such a system is compromised, all vehicles can be sent to another destination where their goods may be stolen. Therefore, security of third-parties should also be taken into consideration.

“Last, but not least – the economic benefit of full automation of driverless trucks in the UK is not yet clear. How much we will need to spend on development, testing and securing driverless trucks and how much money will we save on driver’s wages? Even if in fifty years this change will become profitable, we should take all potential damages into consideration prior to the final decision,” added Kolochenko.

The TRL will begin trials of the technology on test tracks, and is expected to move to major roads by the end of 2018.

Written by Leah Alger