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Conviction #6

Conviction #6

Urban congestion and cybersecurity: questions raised by the forecasted arrival of autonomous cars

Autonomous cars are often presented as new living spaces, bona fida personal bubbles for spending a pleasant moment, including in traffic jams. But they could also drive around empty, on a return trip or when travelling to park further away, for instance. Indicators such as these are giving rise to concerns that autosolism will rebound, or that ‘autonihilism’ (a car driving on its own) may even emerge!

One thing is for sure: autonomous cars will only prove a means of easing congestion in cities if trips are shared. As such, it is questionable whether it would not be better to favour fleets rather than private cars. But if the two do co-exist, will we then see social separation between people with access to private autonomous cars, i.e. to their own bubble, and those without? What about regulation by local authorities that imposes sharing?

Another concern is the risk of piracy. Because in fact the autonomous car doesn’t quite live up to its name: it is hyper-connected and depends on data from its immediate surroundings (other vehicles, infrastructure). This is likewise the case for other types of so-called autonomous vehicles (drones, planes, ships).

Consequently, should we instead be talking about ‘driverless vehicles’? By the time they come to market, the infrastructure itself will be even more communicative: road signage, roads themselves, stations, ports, lighthouses, etc. will certainly play a major part in regulating the flow of autonomous vehicles. In this context, a hacking incident could have serious repercussions. Moreover, beyond the issue of autonomous cars, cybersecurity will itself represent a critical, 21st century issue in the field of mobility.



is the average time cars in Europe are parked


of French people still want to own their car

3 minutes

is the time it takes to hack into a new connected object


Christophe Lienard and François Stephan


CC by steve lyon
CC by steve lyon

Connectivity and cybersecurity

Since it is connected, an autonomous vehicle is vulnerable to cyber attacks. Furthermore, the goals and consequences of these malicious acts could be serious: data theft, takeover of vehicle control, etc. Hence they represent a significant challenge for equipment manufacturers and start-ups who are working on every possible scenario.


Autonomous shuttles for the first/last mile(s)

In addition to existing public transport, several trials of autonomous shuttles, run by Keolis and Navya, are underway in areas less well-served by other modes of transport, or for the first and last miles of certain journey paths: airports, hospital grounds, or large tourist sites.

© MIT Media Lab
©MIT Media Lab

The PEV: an autonomous tricycle instead of the car?

The ‘Persuasive Electric Vehicle’, developed through collaboration between National Taipei University of Technology and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), is a hybrid tricycle designed for transporting both people in cities— who can pedal themselves or be driven – and goods, whereby it would operate without a driver.


©Olivier Fontvieille

Killer questions


What if tomorrow users were responsible for accidents caused by autonomous cars?