Could autonomous vehicles be used as terrorism accessories?

‘Truck attacks’ have grown in popularity across the globe – as terrorists increasingly use vans and lorries as a weapon in their terror attacks. Furthermore, recent news has suggested that autonomous vehicles could become a reality sooner than we think.

We already have ‘self-driving’ technologies in the cars which are on our roads today, but just how far are we from introducing fully autonomous vehicles onto our roads? As Google tests its own self-drive vehicles, clocking more than 200,000 miles in a fleet of self-driving cars retrofitted with sensors, it seems we are not far from seeing fully autonomous vehicles on our roads at all.

autonomous vehicles

With the continuous threat of terror hanging over us though, lawmakers have warned that autonomous vehicles must have secure and safe technology to prevent their use as an accessory in terror attacks in the future. VW dealership, Vindis, investigates further:

Autonomous advancements

The majority of drivers will already be familiar with some form of autonomous technology, thanks to the instalment of lane departure warning systems, cruise control and active park assist in new vehicles. Because of this, many drivers are progressively trusting their vehicles to carry out tasks which previously would always need to be done manually. We already have systems which keep us in our lanes on dual carriageways and motorways, systems that can parallel park our vehicles for us, and software that automatically maintains a safe, steady speed on the UK’s roads – with some even advanced enough with automated braking systems when tracking the vehicle in front. Self-driving technology is revolutionising the driving experience.

But for fully autonomous vehicles, what needs to be engineered? It is time for manufacturers to converge sensor-based technologies and connected-vehicle communications, so that they can deliver safer self-driving techniques than what each approach could ever deliver on its own.

However, the technology brings disadvantages alongside the many benefits. Lorries and trucks are forecast to be some of the first fully autonomous vehicles to be rolled out onto the roads – putting many driving jobs at risk. Low-end estimates suggest that over 1.7 million truckers could be replaced by self-driving counterparts – which could rise to as high at 3 million, ridding trucks of their manual drivers.

The terror threat

‘Truck attacks’ have become a threat worldwide, with terrorists carrying out attacks all over the globe. Trucks are chosen for their size and anonymity, and have been used to drive into crowded pedestrian areas at high speeds and cause devastating results. It’s predicted that these vehicles will be amongst the first fully autonomous vehicles on our roads, and officials worry they could play a crucial role in mitigating their use as rolling weapons.

Attack prevention

To protect our countries,cybertechnology will need to be fitted to all autonomous vehicles to prevent hacking. Thankfully, legislation has been passed to say that all autonomous vehicles will be armed with cybersecurity technology so that they can’t be used as an accessory in a terror attack. The technology hopes to make it impossible for terrorists to hack the vehicle for a hijack – making it extremely difficult to use the vehicle in a terror attack.

Van hire and rental companies can expect to see stricter regulations and restrictions enforced to prevent the risk of hired vehicle being used in terror attacks as well. In recent attacks, hire vehicles have been the weapon used to cause mass disaster. It has been suggested that companies should have access to a wider database that reveals more sensitive information in the future so that companies are aware of individuals that are suspect. Whilst databases currently check against identity, credit and insurance, the threat of terrorism may lead to a more detailed and sensitive database.

Furthermore, thanks to leadingprovider of training and auditing services for the road transport industry, Fleet Source, the UK now has its first Terrorism Risk and Incident Prevention suite of products and training to support fleet operators. Referred to as ‘TRIP’, it aims to reduce the risks of commercial vehicles being used as a weapon in terror attacks. The products and services serve to educated fleet operators, managers and drivers of the risks of terrorism, the nature of the threats and safety precautions that can be implemented to reduce the possibilities of their vehicle being hijacked, stolen or used in a terrorist incident.

The government are outlining their plans to protect cities from future attacks too, as they hope to develop geo-fencing systems to prevent unauthorised vehicles from entering particular areas of a city. The system will slow down vehicles and control the speed as soon as they enter the sensitive area through satellites. The system would automatically connect with the vehicle and retain control so that the vehicle only travels at a safe sped within the area.

For now, lorries and vans continue to be a threat when it comes to terrorism activity across the globe.However, if we plan for the future before it becomes a reality, we could realise a successful prevention method in time.

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