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The warnings come as the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) publishes a report on autonomous vehicles and how they can be integrated onto British roads.
As the January start date for the trial of fully autonomous cars on British roads gets closer, cyber security and transport experts stress the need for driverless cars to be well protected from hackers who could take control of vehicles and cause chaos on the roads.
It is hoped that when autonomous cars eventually take to the roads following years of testing, cars such as Google’s self-driving car could help to reduce road casualties by eliminating the need for human error. However, driverless cars could also increase the risk of accidents among motorists who continue to use manual cars, if both cars are allowed to mix on the same roads.
Research conducted by engineers in driving simulators has revealed than human drivers’ behaviour alters significantly when sharing the same road as a driverless car – they start to copy the driving styles of the autonomous cars and leave less space between themselves and the car in front. And while an autonomous vehicle is equipped with sensors that are able to react almost instantaneously to an obstruction, the human reaction times are slower.
The report from the IET predicts that within 15 years there will be fully autonomous cars on UK roads capable of transporting goods and people across the country in a cheaper and safer manner. The first driverless vehicles are expected to appear on Britain’s roads from January 2015 as part of a series of trials to be conducted in three cities by the Department for Transport.
Neil Addley, managing director for Trusted Dealers said: “New technology is great but society and the law have to keep up with it – we have recently witnessed online and phone hacking on a massive scale but this is trivial in comparison to rogue driving within a city centre.
“The reliability and security of software poses a major issue for manufacturers and insurers and engineers will have to guarantee that the technology is not only reliable but also bug free before we can even consider the full use of autonomous vehicles on Britain’s roads.”
Google’s own driverless car has been tested on more than 1 million miles on the open road within certain states in the USA, and during that time, Google claims it has only been involved in one accident which occurred when a human driver took control.
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