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Hacked AVs Could Cause Mayhem

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March 28, 2019—In new research by Skanda Vivek, a postdoctoral researcher at Georgia Tech, he argues that  Internet-connected autonomous vehicles are not only hackable, but that hacking even a small percentage of the self-driving cars currently on the road in the U.S.’s largest city could completely stop the flow of traffic and impede the effectiveness of emergency vehicles, reported Inverse.

“Compromised vehicles are unlike compromised data,” writes Vivek in his study’s press release. “Collisions caused by compromised vehicles present physical danger to the vehicle’s occupants, and these disturbances would potentially have broad implications for overall traffic flow.”

To determine the impact of a possible hack, Vivek and his team ultimately turned to percolation theory, a section of probability theory that focuses on the behavior of connected clusters in a random graph, to determine how hacked autonomous cars would affect the already-complicated traffic ecosystem of New York City in real time.

It would not take many cars at all to make the worst-case scenario possible, Vivek’s team found. In fact, 90 percent of the cars on the road in New York City could be unaffected by the theoretical hack, and the city would still be plunged into chaos and gridlock, the study indicates.

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