Regulations, cybersecurity main hurdles left for autonomous vehicles

February 5, 2016

Robert Bartley

Connected cars and autonomous vehicles are coming; it's just a matter of when and how. The technology is essentially viable, and now it's up to U.S. lawmakers, government agency officials and industry executives to come to an agreement on making these rolling mobile devices street legal.

That's easier said than done, though, and the issue is not without its many facets and considerations.

Connected cars are a welcome addition to the roads as long as they meet the safety standards Americans have demanded in their vehicles, said Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), who spoke during the keynote session of the Connected Cars USA 2016 forum. Markey has a history of automotive legislation and sits on several relevant subcommittees in the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

The senator commissioned about a year ago a report called Tracking & Hacking: Security & Privacy Gaps Put American Drivers At Risk (.pdf), which outlines some of the weaknesses automakers still have in cybersecurity. He said a car that can be taken over remotely or otherwise is simply unfit for the road.

"Thieves no longer need a crowbar to break into your car, they just need an iPhone," Markey said. "And they can do much more than open the doors; it's possible for wireless hackers to control the steering, acceleration, and even cut the brakes."