Do Autonomous Cars Dream of Driverless Roads?

The connected car is coming… and with it a need for consistent innovation of network technologies – throughput, latency, coverage, and cost – to keep us safe.

Laurence Pitt, Strategic Security Director EMEA Juniper Networks

August 31, 2017

4 Min Read

It was Isaac Asimov who introduced 'The Three Laws of Robotics' for a short story in 1942 (although, fictionally they were published in the ‘Handbook of Robotics, 2058 AD’). The Laws were developed to show that robots would work in harmony with humans, and stated:

1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law

3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

These laws are powerful and have moved from science fiction toward science fact, as well as being referred to in many books and films. However, the laws are based on an assumption: Robots are either artificially intelligent, or sentient.

This is why Asimov's 'Three Laws' are not suitable for autonomous technologies, and in this case the 'driverless car' which has intelligence, but is not in itself intelligent. The laws for cars (or rules, as I’ll refer to them moving forward), need to be different – because a car can only make decisions based around configured, albeit dynamic and adaptive, rules, and so the onus falls to manufacturers for ensuring that autonomous cars are as safe on the road as they are exciting to drive.

The connected car is coming. In fact some may argue that it's already here since we have GPS and 3G/4G providing a flow of information, and next-generation voice-activated controls or updates. Recently I even saw that someone has worked out how to install an Amazon Dot into their cup holder! With the advent of 5G this level of integration will only become more prevalent, transforming the driving experience for everyone, whether you are a casual Sunday driver or a mile-munching long-haul trucker.

Much of the security focus so far has been on protecting the car, and its occupants, from would-be hackers or car-thieves who want to control the technology with malicious intent. For autonomous cars to gain global safety and acceptance means a new set of rules must be developed, rules that ensure accountability for development of smart and autonomous vehicles is placed with manufacturers and their supply chain.

The UK government is seeking to take a leadership role in the development of these rules by contributing an Autonomous and Electric Vehicle bill which will create a new insurance framework for self-driving cars. In tandem, the UK Department for Transport and Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure have released a series of documents outlining principles of cyber security for connected and automated vehicles.’These documents form a modern version of Asimov’s Robotic Laws, but with the focus being on the automotive manufacturers to ensure that these vehicles are developed with a defense-in-depth approach so that they remain resilient to threat at all times – even in situations where sensors are unable to respond due to attack or failure.

This legislation will put the United Kingdom at the centre of these new and exciting technological developments, while ensuring that safety and consumer protection remain at the heart of an emerging industry.

Consistent innovation of network technologies – throughput, latency, coverage, and cost – will be necessary to underpin the self-driving and autonomous cars of the future, but key to all this is that they are also protected against potential cyber attacks. Fair access to these technologies with open and transparent licensing is also important to ensure that all manufacturers can apply the same levels of safety and security; driving both innovation and competition for the future. To make this a reality Juniper Networks is working as a member of the Fair Standards Alliance, which also includes leading European and multinationals such as BMW, Daimler, Hyundai, MINI, VW and Tesla.

Personally, I am excited about the advent of the fully automated car and what it will bring. As a committed Gearhead (Petrolhead, UK) these developments will provide choice about when I want to drive, and when I would prefer to let the car take control. At the same time, it will make the roads a safer place since connected cars will react faster than humans ever can. Knowing that Juniper Networks is supporting these initiatives, and contributing to standards and legislation, is both important and exciting to me – we are making a difference, making science fiction into science reality! 

About the Author(s)

Laurence Pitt

Strategic Security Director EMEA Juniper Networks

Laurence Pitt is the Strategic Director for Security with Juniper Networks' marketing organization in EMEA. He has over twenty years' experience of cyber security, having started out in systems design and moved through product management in areas from endpoint security to managed networks.  In his role at Juniper Laurence articulates security clearly to business and across the business, creating and having conversations to provoke careful thought about process, policy and solutions.


Prior to joining Juniper, Laurence was director for Global Solutions Marketing at Symantec. Previously he was product management director for Managed Security at NTT and Endpoint Computing at Novell.

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