WASHINGTON, DC – Despite the year winding down, the Obama Administration continues to be active on issues that affect bikers, particularly within the U.S. Department of Transportation (DoT). As part of their latest effort to keep up with rapidly developing car technology, this week the Agency issued proposed guidance for vehicle cybersecurity for automakers. This issue is closely related to the continued advancement of autonomous or “driverless” vehicles on the nation’s roadways. Motorcyclists have raised concerns that the technology and cybersecurity systems must have strong enough standards to ensure safety and security precautions and therefore eliminate any risks to motorcyclists who are likely to share the road with self-driving cars in the not so distance future.
According to the guidance issued this week, the Agency recommended that automakers and tech companies include multiple layers of protection in their designs and consider digital threats based on their level of risk. This is in an effort to address instances of hacking, an increasing concern not just limited to transportation. In recent weeks there was a massive internet outage experienced by many Americans caused by unknown hackers. The issue of the cybersecurity has also become a reoccurring theme in the U.S. elections; the Democratic National Committee was hacked by assailants likely in an effort to interfere with the upcoming election.
Clearly, the aforementioned instances demonstrate a vulnerability within the U.S. government’s ability to help protect against breaches and other security failures that can put motor vehicle safety at risk. As more and more automakers shift towards developing autonomous vehicles for use on the nation’s roadways, cybersecurity of these vehicles must be a key consideration for not just the drivers, but everyone on the road; including bikers.
Criticism of Voluntary Guidance
Though DoT Secretary Anthony Foxx says ensuring the cybersecurity and protection of autonomous vehicles is a “top priority” for the Agency, lawmakers have said the guidance is not enough and that more needs to be done.
Democratic Senators Richard Blumenthal (Connecticut) and Ed Markey (Massachusetts) released a statement in response to Monday’s DoT announcement stating the following;
"If modern day cars are computers on wheels, we need mandatory standards, not voluntary guidance, to ensure that our vehicles cannot be hacked and lives and information put in danger."
Many motorcyclists would agree. The Motorcycle Riders Foundation is currently in the process of filing official comments with the Agency reiterating this exact point. While emerging technology is generally positive, proper precautions and standards must be achieved in order to ensure the safety of all roadway users.
Activity Across the Pond
Lawmakers across the European Union have also started to discuss the issue of autonomous vehicles and have been working with industry on how to build better standards for cybersecurity. Car safety checks, brakes and seatbelts have been regulated for decades, but cybersecurity on entertainment systems or GPS navigation have not been regulated in either Europe nor in the U.S. Instead, the common practice has been to let automakers come up with their own solutions instead of imposing regulatory requirements.
As autonomous vehicle technology develops, cybersecurity related to the control of these vehicles must be carefully and closely regulated to ensure all roadway users are safe.
For more information on the guidance including a copy of the policy and instructions to file comments; click on the link below: