UT working to secure self-driving vehicles

Connected cars are vulnerable to hacking. In this Tech Tuesday, we see how UT is working to bring cyber security to autos.

AUSTIN -- Two hackers stunned drivers recently by taking control of a connected Jeep; commandeering the steering, transmission, brakes and radio.

Researchers at the University of Texas have also done a little hacking. In 2013, they were able to guide a yacht off course during an experiment in the Mediterranean.

On land as we move towards autonomous or self-driving cars cybersecurity has to be a top priority.

"There is no question that your vehicle is going to be the keeper of a lot of your information," said Dr. Chandra Bhat, director of the Center for Transportation Research at UT. He and his team are studying how cars will communicate.

"How do we avoid hacking into this system, cybersecurity threats," Bhat asked.

As vehicles communicate with one another and require less human input think of the chaos a hacker could create.

"Doesn't seem very difficult to masquerade as a tractor-trailer that has overturned and you just back up an entire freeway, and this is just the tip of the iceberg. If you are talking about terrorism type issues it could really escalate quickly," Bhat said.

Dr. Bhat also said we've been putting the cart before the horse. We already have self-driving cars, but we don't have the secure system to guide them. With grants from the U.S. Department of Transportation and TxDOT, that's what UT is working to create.

"If you want talk between vehicles or between a vehicle and some infrastructure, it has to be reliable," Dr. Bhat concluded. "It's that balance between trust, privacy and control."

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