The previous story offered the reader a macro level view of the technology and what potential it would afford the consumer / terrorist. This part will focus on organizational and governmental responses to the emergence of autonomous and connected vehicle technology by looking at regulatory, legislative, and operational processes that will be impacted in the near future.
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Questions abound regarding regulation for autonomous vehicles. For example, is it even necessary? Car manufacturers will argue against it, yet responsible government requires it at least to some degree. To what level then will regulation be required, and can it be implemented without stifling research and development?
Likewise, the landscape of legislation across the nation will require change as this technology evolves and gains user acceptance. Will a hodgepodge of legislation be crafted at the federal level, and across the fifty states that will serve to limit the utility of the technology by creating barriers to its deployment? Current legal definitions will also require amendment and existing statutes regarding “driver” responsibilities will undergo revision to reflect substantive change. As upper levels of autonomy are introduced the role of a “driver” evolves to that of a “user” and traffic/ criminal enforcement codes must also reflect the expansion of that role. And here is where it gets tricky.
As regulation and legislation change, so too must operational elements like homeland security practitioners, who are charged with the protection of the United States and responsible for day to day enforcement of rules and regulations. Law enforcement agencies all across America will be affected and will need to evaluate their mission requirements and needs in light of this new technology that will alter the entire ground transportation system.
Throughout the nation’s history we have seen how new technologies like the automobile, computers, pharmaceuticals, and the Internet have emerged, provided societal benefit, and have then fallen victim to use by nefarious actors who learn to use the systems to expand criminal activities and subvert legal justice systems worldwide. This technology will no doubt follow the same path. Homeland security professionals must have vision to develop effective response protocols to fulfill their public safety mission requirements.
There are only four states (Nevada, Florida, California, Michigan), and the District of Columbia that have passed legislation authorizing the testing/operation of autonomous vehicles. It is unclear if specific legislative authority is even required to permit testing. All of the enacted measures define an autonomous vehicle in similar fashion, as vehicles with the capability to self-drive without being actively controlled or monitored by a human operator. The statutes generally define the operator as the person who engages the technology.
This definition will require further research as issues of liability involving crashes or injuries will require identification of the driver in criminal and civil actions unless current jurisprudence practices likewise change. It is important to note the associated problems that could arise from regulating legislation from multiple states. Manufacturers would have difficulty marketing vehicles if different sets of standards were adopted by the states. Variances in state laws may hinder owners of autonomous vehicles as well if required to obtain specific operational endorsements that vary between states. The original equipment manufacturers will need a national level framework for standardization.
Kidnapping or Murder by Cell Phone
This technology will be used for nefarious purposes. There are several ways cyber security of autonomous vehicles can be illustrated as a national security concern. Economic kidnapping is one of the fastest growing criminal industries; it is estimated that kidnappers globally take home well over 500 million dollars each year.
Criminals could orchestrate political kidnappings of diplomats, wealthy individuals, or witnesses involved in criminal prosecutions. Current methods of hijacking require the perpetrators to engage the target directly at the scene. By using cyber intrusion to remotely hijack vehicles, the perpetrators could reroute vehicles to predetermined locations where occupants could be captured or murdered in relative privacy. The more control placed into the hands of the kidnappers/assassins as to time and place of the crime the greater the likelihood of success.
This process would benefit drug trafficking organizations by reducing exposure to law enforcement. Autonomous vehicles would support this type of criminal activity as they are programmed to fully comply with existing traffic laws. Officers must rely on a specific traffic/criminal violation or possess reasonable suspicion to justify to the courts a reason for making a traffic stop. An autonomous vehicle obeying all traffic laws would make it problematic for officers to justify to a court the reasonable basis for conducting a traffic stop.
We need look no further than existing technologies to see examples of how bad actors have created unintended consequences and influenced policy and strategy. Because autonomous vehicles are connected to each other, to infrastructure, or the Internet, it is the threat of cyber attacks on the smart systems the vehicles employ that is a national security concern.
Hackers are attracted to new technologies and are gratified and challenged by breaking into systems. While deviant, they often perform a valuable public service by exploiting weaknesses in systems that were previously unknown by vendors. For example, low technology items like electronic toll collection systems with transponders have been hacked by monitoring the transactions of legitimate transponders and cloning similar devices for use in other vehicles. Smart parking meter systems have similarly been hacked when the smart cards with stored value were monitored during transactions and custom smartcards were created to allow unlimited parking.
Currently, the only way to assure that autonomous vehicles cannot be used as “mules” for terrorists, narco-gangsters and other villains is to set audio and video up in the vehicle and have it live uploading all the time the vehicle is being interacted with in any way. If the system is tampered with in any way, the vehicle will have to disable itself. This may not prevent the use of the vehicle for criminal purposes, but is would provide a record of the events leading up to the criminal act as well as a breadcrumb trail back to the point of origin. This would have to be live-streamed so the evidence would not be destroyed in an explosion or fire.
Another major concern of these technologies is they have the potential for the release of privacy information. As systems undergo continuous development, patches or updates must be provided to ensure the highest levels of security are maintained. The supplemental data used to update the systems or attacks carried out on data entry ports will be a logical place for hackers to infiltrate.
Now, this being the case, the decision has to be made, will enough people be willing to be monitored in all their actions in a vehicle for the privilege of not having to drive? Even if the information could only be accessed with a search warrant, that doesn’t make it private.
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