A Vision for Safety 2.0: Automotive Cybersecurity

Autonomous vehicles are here today, and unbeknownst to many, they are already on public roads, test driving next to unsuspecting traffic – this is done before proper legislation to protect innocent bystanders is put into place.

This reality is one that causes great concern among the few who are aware of it. There is almost no regulation at a local level, and the technology is still very much in the development phase. Even worse, much of the development is conducted on public roads, right alongside human drivers. What will prevent an experiment from turning into an accident, potentially taking lives in the process?

Luckily, you will not have to fear for the safety of public roads much longer. On Tuesday, September 12th, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) administered their updated guidelines on development of Autonomous Drive Systems (ADS). This document helps local governments develop their own regulations, as well as providing businesses developing ADS a clear message of what will and will not be tolerated.

It is no surprise that vehicle cybersecurity is listed as one of the 12 essential safety design elements. Without cybersecurity, a vehicle becomes a hacker’s plaything – allowing them to take complete control of the car, including steering, braking, and acceleration. The possibilities for malicious abuse of autonomous cars are endless, ranging from extortion to remote cyber terrorism. The NHTSA stresses the importance of cybersecurity, stating that entities developing ADS “should insist that their suppliers build into their equipment robust cybersecurity features. Entities should also address cybersecurity, but they should not wait to receive equipment from a supplier before doing so.” The message is clear and urgent; implement cybersecurity at every level, and do it quickly.

Trillium agrees, and we are ready to help suppliers, developers, and OEMs implement these guidelines today. Trillium has partnered with the world’s largest automotive IC vendor, NXP, to provide support for Trillium’s SecureCAR platform on NXP’s next-generation S32K automotive microcontrollers (MCU). Our modular, multilayered approach also allows for developers of ADS technology to add cybersecurity directly onto their existing hardware today – without requiring costly changes to their underlying systems.

It is essential that the industry adopts these guidelines quickly and immediately, especially as autonomous vehicles are deployed on an increasingly larger scale. As connectivity and reliance on machine learning increase, so will the damage hackers can cause. Autonomous cars are set to shift the entire transportation landscape, with companies rolling out entire fleets within the next ten years. One rogue autonomous car is a hazard, an army of hacker-controlled vehicles is an avoidable, unnatural disaster.