Government action is required so connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) can be insured against malicious hacks, which could have potentially dangerous consequences, a new study has stressed.
Research carried out by the University of Exeter and Sheffield Hallam University found that the software in driverless vehicles, which makes it possible for them to communicate with each other, is open to hacking. And as traditional vehicle insurance wouldn’t cover the mass hacking of driverless cars, an incident could cost the industry tens of billions of pounds.
James Marson, Sheffield Hallam University, said: “The UK intends to play a leading role in the development and roll-out of connected and autonomous vehicles. It was the first country to establish a statutory liability framework for the introduction of autonomous vehicles onto national roads.
“If it wishes to continue playing a leading role in this sector, it has the opportunity by creating an insurance fund for victims of mass-hacked vehicles. This would not only protect road users and pedestrians in the event of injury following a hacking event, but would also give confidence to insurers to provide cover for a new and largely untested market.”
The team has called for the creation of a national compensatory body in the UK offering a guarantee fund from which victims may seek redress.
The study found that hackers could target vehicles via the regular software updates. Without appropriate insurance systems CAVs could pose too great a danger to road users if the vehicles suffered serious software defects or were subject to malicious hacking, it said.
Matthew Channon, lecturer at University of Exeter, added: “It’s impossible to measure the risk of driverless vehicles being hacked, but it’s important to be prepared. We suggest the introduction of an insurance backed Maliciously Compromised Connected Vehicle Agreement to compensate low-cost hacks and a government backed guarantee fund to compensate high-cost hacks.
“This would remove a potentially onerous burden on manufacturers and would enable the deployment and advancement of driverless vehicles in the UK.
“If manufacturers are required to pick up the burden of compensating victims of mass-hacking, major disruptions to innovation would be likely. Disputes could result in litigation costs for both manufacturer and insurer.
“Public confidence requires a system to be available in the event of hacking or mass hacking which compensates people and also does not stifle or limit continuing development and innovation.”