As autonomous vehicles (AVs) become more prevalent, many have raised concerns over how safe the concept is, Automoblog reports.
Much of this concern has been voiced by the U.S. government. FBI Director Christopher Wray spoke on the topic at the World Economic Forum Discussion on Technology and National Security in Davos, Switzerland in January 2023. He expressed caution toward AVs, citing the potential for them to be used to harm others or to steal valuable data from drivers.
He cited a 2020 experiment performed by researchers at McAfee, in which a piece of black tape was placed over a 35 mph speed limit sign so that it appeared to say 85. This in turn fooled a Tesla’s cruise control, causing the vehicle to accelerate by 50 mph.
Cyber attacks from hackers have also been listed as a potential pitfall of AVs. Zac Morris, a security engineer and software developer, said that while non-autonomous vehicles are also at risk of being hacked, the driver is more likely to realize what’s happening sooner than an AV driver.
For the Vehicle Data Access caucus, formed in September 2021 by the House of Representatives, driver data protections have been a huge focus. Rep. Earl “Buddy” Carter (R-GA) has referenced an increase in vehicle technology to be a point of concern for data protection, such as microphones and cameras.
Morris’s concern is valid following a 2023 report from Reuters that found Tesla employees had been sharing footage captured by vehicles. The cars are equipped with cameras that run even when it is not being operated.
In spite of the many dangers AVs could pose, it’s a topic still being researched and discussed by many. Google’s Waymo and other AV companies are currently seeking out approval from the city of San Francisco to offer a fleet of self-driving taxis, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety predicts 3.5 million self-driving cars to be on U.S. roads by 2025.