THE BLOG

Come On R2, Drive My Car

22/03/2016 16:32 GMT | Updated 19/03/2017 09:12 GMT

It used to be that the least reliable part of a car was the engine, then it was the electrics and now, the most unreliable component in the modern car is the dumbbell driving it.

Pretty soon we will be relieved of the trouble of doing that and then we can concentrate on the things that currently take our eye off the road like when Ed Sheeran comes on the car radio and you have to change the channel RIGHT NOW, or you find an itch that you need to tie yourself into a sailor's knot to scratch, or there's someone on the pavement that you would like to have sex with.

That is great news - the sooner human beings are dragged from behind the steering wheel and it is replaced with a screen you can watch Police, Camera, Action! on, the better.

There is, however, a problem.

First they came for our computers, then they came for our phones, and now experts have said hackers will soon be targeting our cars.

Self-driving car technology is improving so quickly that some in the business believe that within the next five years we will be able to fall asleep on the motorway, just as we do now, but that it might not be fatal and that means that we will be paying even less attention to the road. And that means that hacking will be probably become a problem.

There is a thing called ransomware - it sounds like a mask you put on to conceal your identity when kidnapping someone - but ransomware is much more serious than that.

On a computer, it locks your machine down and won't let you back in until you pay a criminal in Russia three hundred pounds, which is quite upsetting if you are half way through watching the Game of Thrones episode that you just stole from the internet.

It would be much worse if the ransom you had to pay was to switch the controls of your car back on when you are doing 70 miles an hour on the middle lane of the M4 and you can't find your credit card.

Elon Musk is the man who invented cheese in a can, or something really big like that, and he told Fortune magazine that his Tesla Motors is two years away from achieving a fully autonomous self-driving car.

Experts estimate that by 2030, 25% of all cars sold will be doing all the things we now have to do ourselves: tailgating anyone that is doing under 50mph on the High Street, leading the police on high speed chases through Essex and parking across two spaces, for instance.

There are two scenarios that I can think of that might occur with ransomware. Either someone could lock you out of your car and ask for fifty quid to open the door...or they could take control of your car and drive it into a tree unless you transfer everything you have in your bank account to an address in Novgorod.

One security insider said: "I'm not too worried about hackers who would try to hurt people by causing car accidents."

He said: "In general, hackers are not interested in killing random people. It's also illegal to kill random people."

That's right, but it is also illegal to kill specific people, but that does not stop it happening every minute of every day.

The good news is that all of the companies developing self-driving cars take this threat very seriously, so when they do become available, self driving cars should be just as reliable as the computer on your desk!