NHTSA Backs Self-Driving Cars, but How Will It Address Hacking?

The acceptance and legality of self-driving cars are at many different stages, depending on which state you visit. Though autonomous cars are viewed differently, state-to-state, the U.S. government just weighed in on the issue, and they are behind self-driving cars–but with a big condition. Speaking recently at an autonomous vehicle symposium, Mark Rosekind, administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, made a statement backing the development of autonomous car tech. “NHTSA is not interested in erecting roadblocks to safety innovations. We want to encourage that.” explained Rosekind. “We will have to help people who can’t tell LIDAR [a remote sensing technology] from a coffee maker,” Rosekind added. “Whether for profit or for malicious intent we know these systems will become targets for bad actors. We must reassure vehicle owners that their data is secure, their vehicles are secure.” RELATED: Why Car Hacking Has Been Overblown in the Media This statement comes the same week that news has been swirling of a brand new Jeep Cherokee being hacked by Wired, using its own wi-fi and connectivity technology against it. NHTSA has acknowledged this issue as a crucial one, and needs to be addressed in order for autonomous car development to progress. At the same symposium, Rosekind said, “We must reassure vehicle owners that their data is secure, that their vehicle is secure, and that we are looking out for threats from hackers, thieves, and anyone else who might seek to tamper with safety-critical technology.” He added that when a hacking story pops up on TV or the web that, “NHTSA is not only is aware of these threats, but we're working to defeat them.” RELATED: See images of the Jeep Cherokee This whole narrative coincides with the introduction of legislation, by senators Ed Markey and Richard Blumenthal, to establish digital security standards for cars and trucks. It will require new standards, not only for NHTSA, but the FTC as well, as critical software systems will need to be isolated, and will need to be protected against those with malicious designs. We have formed our own opinions regarding your car’s data, emphasizing that what automakers do with your data (i.e. potentially selling it to the highest bidder so you can get pop-up ads in your navigation screen) should be just as big a concern for drivers. But the fact that the historically tech-dull congress is thinking about this issue means that we could see real standards for cyber security in the years to come. RELATED: Senate Report Modern Cars Susceptible to Hacking