Editor’s Note: Today’s blog is from our friend Justin Fox where he discusses the advancement of AI in driverless trucks and if it is safe enough for Logistics.
The Internet and wireless technology have without a doubt been one of the most revolutionary inventions within recent memory. Providing a never before seen a level of connectivity and interaction between people and devices, it comes as no surprise that it is poised to penetrate the world of HGV driving and potentially make the need for human drivers obsolete. Enter: AI in Driverless Trucks
Thanks to developments in the field of artificial intelligence, AI in driverless trucks are in development, combining AI with network connectivity to a primary hub that coordinates their movement. The hub continuously updates the truck with details of what’s going on right around the truck, and of any potential problems lurking up ahead. Already, preliminary tests have been carried out by major firms such as Volvo who have trialed their newest model on an underground route, so as to see how well it functions in action.
Technical Issues With AI in Driverless Trucks
AI, however, is a technology that is still very much in its infancy. Already many problems have been identified just with the concept of such a development, let alone if it was to be implemented in a moving vehicle. If it were to suffer from any form of error without a human there to step in, the truck would be converted into an out of control, massive metal wrecking ball barrelling in any direction at a rapid rate. While a human at the wheel is no guarantee of complete safety and they can lose control, at least they can make an immediate attempt to get their vehicle back under control. If the AI, in contrast, has no direct oversight to ‘troubleshoot’ so to speak, then there is a major problem at hand.
Even worse than the system suffering a breakdown, is if it was compromised and repurposed by a hacker. If the truck can connect to an external device, then there is nothing to stop an external device connecting back. In theory, hackers could not only crash a truck’s onboard navigational equipment but could commandeer it manually and take it wherever they wanted.
The hacking of everyday gadgets is one of the growing threats around the world and makes for troublesome reading. Approximately 10% of people in England and Wales were targeted by cybercrime last year, and this figure is only set to rise as attacks become more complex and ingenious. Security experts have already warned against how easy it is to manipulate the systems used within driverless trucks, and it stands to reason that trucks would be no more immune.
The obvious solution to guard against hack attempts would be to utilize anti-virus software and other similar preventative measures as is done to defend computer systems. Effective monitoring and round the clock vigilance combined with the latest programs remains the best defense against hostile threats, although recent high-profile hacks indicate that you can never be too well guarded.
We should also be careful to factor in the risk posed by those seeking to carry out acts of terror utilizing trucks as a weapon. The atrocities in Berlin and Nice highlighted the new methodology of lone-wolf attackers, and while it’s highly unlikely many have the expertise to take control of a high-tech vehicle, all it takes is one individual with malicious intent.
But as with most hacking attempts, the motivation tends to be for profit simply. Taking control of a device and only yielding it back once paid is known as using ‘ransomware’, which extorts individuals, businesses, and even health services. Those that can afford to purchase a fleet of autonomous trucks could quickly draw the eye of a hacker out to make a quick buck, and it doesn’t bear thinking about the threats they could make if they broke into a vehicle already mid-transit.
Therefore it will likely be up to each respective logistics firm whether or not AI in driverless trucks are something they want to invest in. Aside from what would be a substantial cost to acquire them, not to mention provide regular maintenance, the risks involved while unlikely to occur could have far-reaching consequences.
Instead of spending time, money and resources on such an endeavor, perhaps developers would be better off procuring technologies that can act as an accompaniment to the driver, rather than supplanting them? The warning system and threat detection could still be implemented, but the information could be fed to a trained professional. They can still fully process all the information and take all necessary steps to ensure the safety of all road users, while staying well clear of those who seek to compromise the well-being of a firm.