Autonomous Cars

Autonomous Cars: Driving with Obstacles
“Driverless vehicle” is a catchphrase, a trend that every automotive corporation believes they have to get involved in. In the laboratory and in secure, marked out test tracks with individual vehicles, the idea seems to be working – but in every day traffic on the road, cars are not alone!
In this situation a driverless vehicle needs to not only recognise other vehicles and road signs but also communicate with them – as far as technology makes this possible.
Here we see the first obstacle: a fast internet connection is still not universally available. This will happen eventually though; the first mobile networks were very patchy to start with, too, but now they cover traffic routes very well.
The internet is also the second obstacle! Viruses, Trojans, worms and whatever else malware might be called, threaten to make the car unreliable or even defective. Our (computer-) technology is not sufficiently developed to safely and securely utilise the internet:
• In July last year, the news reported internationally that an SUV class car in the USA was “taken over” by hackers while driving. The driver was not able to master the situation with the controls still left to him, and the journey ended in a ditch.
• Quite some time ago there was a report about how hackers had succeeded in remotely controlling the central locking system of a car (manufactured in Germany) over the internet.
In both cases it was the so-called infotainment system that the hackers have utilized as a gateway into the electronic systems of the respective cars.
These cases, and others not mentioned here, show that an autonomous car is not safe to build with the currently available hardware components since anti-virus software cannot be activated very quickly in a car.
When autonomous vehicles become more numerous on the road, then they will also become interesting targets for hackers, if only for them to demonstrate how well they can control cars from afar.
A non-technical aspect of this connection is that of product liability, which, with today’s technology, represents an incalculable risk for vehicle manufacturers and their insurances. Will we have to wait a long time for wide-spread use of autonomous cars? As long as the aforementioned problems persist, the answer is a resounding yes.
The weakness in these systems exists in the hardware of the systems. The software can compensate for some, but not all, of the deficiencies that adhere to these. Even multiple systems, which monitor each other or offer mutual redundancies can be torpedoed and rendered useless by malware attacks. This results in the high success rate of hacking attacks that are reported more and more often. These attacks usually run along these lines: instructions disguised as data are channelled into the computer over an interface (internet or external memories) to be executed by the processors.
A new hardware architecture, which demands and supports a clean and thorough separation between the data categories that exist in the system, could remedy these issues. This is achieved by the technology described here. It does not just prevent software from being installed without the operator’s intent but also prevents illegally installed software from being run.
This hardware architecture is patented and succeeded in the hardware category of competition „INNOVATION PRIZE – IT 2015“.
August 2015