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Cyber concerns dampen enthusiasm for self-driving systems

Global survey finds data security is major worry regarding autonomous vehicles.

Truckers leery of self-driving technology, particularly in relation to cyber security, are not alone as a recent global survey found that the “fear of cybercrime” in relation to autonomous vehicles is widespread among motorists.

The survey – conducted among 1,000 licensed drivers aged 18 years and above each in China, Germany, and the U.S., by TUV Rheinland – found that on 34% of those motorists polled in the U.S. believe driverless cars will increase road safety. On top of that, people's doubts tend to increase and trust in the technology decreases as vehicles' level of automation goes up, TUV said. Only 15% of those polled in the U.S. said they fear "a deterioration of road safety" due to partial automation, while nearly half of those same respondents believe that road safety will deteriorate with the advent of completely driverless cars.

Fear of cybercrime in relation to autonomous vehicles is widespread among motorists, standing at 67% in the U.S., with most citing worries about “increased vehicle crime” due to people accessing the vehicles via technical means and data theft. This opinion regarding “data theft” was somewhat more prevalent in the U.S., TUV found; a particular fear cited by 52% of respondents.

Thus cyber-protection is important to 61% of those polled in the U.S., TUV said, but only 41% are “confident” that vehicle manufacturers can develop autonomous vehicles that are protected against unauthorized access.

The firm also found that most motorists are aware that data in modern vehicles is recorded and transmitted to automobile manufacturers, including data on the state of the vehicle (e.g., mileage, error messages) as well as vehicle movement data (e.g., speed, position) or person-specific data, such as style of driving or seat adjustment settings. Yet 55% of respondents in the U.S. said that they are rather poorly informed about which data is used for which purpose, who has access to the data, and how well-protected the data is. On top of that, only 42% of drivers polled in the U.S. said they are “willing” to pass on their data for updating and using new services such as for telematics services for parking space location, etc., TUV found.

For respondents in the U.S., having a permanent option for the driver to take full control of the vehicle is also the top priority (47%), with proof of functional safety through tests coming in a close second (45%). Following in third place is the protection of the car against unauthorized access (43%), according to the company’s survey.

“The survey brings to light motorist perceptions that may impair the acceptance of autonomous vehicles and pose significant barriers to widespread adoption. It tells us we must give people much more information and communicate the benefits of autonomous technology more clearly,” noted Dr. Matthias Schubert, executive vice president of mobility at TUV, in the firm’s report. “To eliminate these kinds of obstacles, politicians and industry executives, in particular, need to do their homework.”

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