Will Self-Driving Trucks Be Vulnerable to Hacking?

Though they are, without a doubt, vital to the American economy, semi-trucks often present a significant danger on roads and highways. There is much that truck drivers, drivers of passenger vehicles, trucking companies, and legislators must do to try to minimize the dangers of semi-truck accidents. On this blog, we’ve discussed the importance of safe driving practices as well as regulations designed to prevent semi-truck accidents. We’ve also discussed how the commercial trucking industry is likely to experience significant changes as autonomous vehicles become more widely available. Now, some experts are asking a question that’s relevant to all of these topics: “Will self-driving trucks be vulnerable to hacking?”

Why Do Semi-Trucks Present Such a Danger?

Due to the sheer size of semi-trucks, accidents that involve them are much more likely to result in a fatality. Combine that with the fact that too many truck drivers are working long hours with insufficient rest, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. To make matters worse, many drivers of passenger vehicles underestimate the dangers of getting into an accident with a semi-truck, and do not drive as safely around them as they should.

The Inherent Risks of Autonomous Vehicles

As has been demonstrated, the dangers of getting into an accident with a semi-truck are difficult to understate. As we look to the future, with autonomous vehicles (including autonomous semi-trucks) predicted to take up a significant portion of the market within the next decade, some of these risks only increase. Questions about how autonomous vehicles will handle dangerous driving when they share the road with a traditional driver-operated vehicle are already being asked. Another question that’s being asked is about autonomous vehicle cybersecurity. How vulnerable are these vehicles to being hacked? Will they suffer from viruses or ransomware which expose passengers to greater danger? When it comes to autonomous semi-trucks, which haul valuable cargo, will there be a greater risk of hacking?

These questions and more must be considered and autonomous vehicle cybersecurity must be sophisticated enough to prevent any increased danger on the roads. Fortunately, some leaders, like Tesla’s Elon Musk, are already considering the implications of a hack of autonomous vehicles and are making it a top priority. One way they propose to counter potential hacks is to provide anyone in the car with an override authority on whatever the car is doing. That way, if the car behaves in a way that it’s not supposed to, a passenger could simply shut it down. This option is a good place to start but it still requires someone to be inside the vehicle paying close attention to make sure nothing’s going wrong.

Laws and Regulations

One cause for concern stems from the fact that regulations on semi-truck safety already have a difficult time keeping up with advances in technology. Speed limiters which prevent trucks from driving dangerous speeds have existed for many years, yet laws and regulations which mandate their use have been slow to be implemented. It’s incredibly important that laws which guarantee sufficient levels of cybersecurity on all autonomous vehicles are in place before those vehicles are on our roads and highways.

Contact Us

As trucking technology continues to develop to increase efficiency, we hope that any advancements also increase the safety of everyone on the road. In the meantime, if you have been involved in an accident with a semi-truck, please don’t hesitate to contact us for a free consultation right away. With over 70 collective years of legal and trial experience, our semi-truck accident attorneys can answer any questions you may have and, if necessary, investigate your case and represent you in court. 


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