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May 28, 2014

Google to develop 100 self-driving car prototypes

Assault on the car market rolls out of the laboratory - but what about the hacking danger

By CBR Staff Writer

Google is developing 100 prototypes for its self-driving car project that envisages a car without a steering wheel, accelerator pedal, or brake pedal.

The ambitious project seeks to develop a car that operates without human intervention as Google’s software and sensors takeover the driver’s seat.

The cars have sensors that remove blind spots, and can detect objects out to a distance of more than two football fields in all directions.

The prototype shown has two seats, restricted luggage space, buttons to start and stop, and a screen that shows the route. The speed limit is kept at 25mph.

Wil Rockall, director in KPMG’s cyber security team warned that the potential for ‘spam jams’ and hacker-driven congestion might affect consumers’ driving experiences.

"There is no doubt that self-drive cars are going to become a reality. The technology is already available and, with test drives showing early signs of success, an unstoppable journey has started on what will become a well-travelled road. For all the positives, the industry will need to be very alert to the risk of cyber manipulation and attack. Self-drive cars will probably work through internet connectivity and, just as large volumes of electronic traffic can be routed to overwhelm websites, the opportunity for self-drive traffic being routed to create ‘spam jams’ or disruption is a very real prospect. Yet the industry takes safety and security incredibly seriously. Doubtless, overrides could be built in so that drivers could shut down many of the car’s capabilities if hacked. That way, humans will still be able to ensure their cars don’t route them on the road to nowhere."

Google Self-Driving Car Project director Chris Urmson said, "The vehicles will be very basic — we want to learn from them and adapt them as quickly as possible — but they will take you where you want to go at the push of a button. And that’s an important step toward improving road safety and transforming mobility for millions of people."

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The prototypes will be tested earlier this year. The first versions will need manual controls. A pilot is being planned to be run in California in the next couple of years.

Urmson said, "We’re going to learn a lot from this experience, and if the technology develops as we hope, we’ll work with partners to bring this technology into the world safely."

Photo courtesy of Google

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