Autonomous cars: potential lifesavers but with new risks - Physics World Stories Podcast


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Studies suggest that human error is responsible for over 90% of the 1.25 million people who die each year globally due to car accidents. Therefore, improving driver safety is one of the biggest incentives for increasing the autonomy of vehicles. But this brave new world of autonomous driving is not without its own risks – as Andrew Glester discovers in the August episode of the Physics World Stories podcast.

To learn about how automated features can reduce human error, Glester catches up with Siddartha Khastgir, the head of Verification & Validation of Connected and Autonomous Vehicles at WMG, University of Warwick, UK. Khastgir describes the form that fully automated vehicles might take, and explains why it is a myth that these vehicles could provide absolute safety without human intervention.

Cars today already have a degree of autonomy, such as parking-assist systems that use ultrasonic sensors. This autonomy is increasing every year, as sensors and other hardware can monitor a car’s state and create dynamic maps of its surroundings. But these systems bring a new threat – opportunities for hackers to access cars remotely. To learn about these emerging risks, Glester speaks with Simon Parkinson, a computer scientist who leads the Centre for Cyber Security at the University of Huddersfield, UK.

Find out more about the cyber threat posed to autonomous vehicles in this feature by Stephen Ornes, originally published in the August edition of Physics World, a special issue on the physics of cars.

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