Dem Lawmakers Worry Self-Driving Trucks Could Be Used For Terror Attacks


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Chris White Tech Reporter
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A New Hampshire Democrat said Tuesday that terrorists could use self-driving big rigs to mow down Americans on U.S. streets if Congress doesn’t start regulating driverless vehicles.

Sen. Maggie Hassan suggested at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing that federal regulations on autonomous vehicles are needed to address cybersecurity concerns.

“There is no doubt that automated vehicles have tremendous potential to save lives,” Hassan said. “But what is less clear to me, and I think what you’re hearing some questions about, is how we can guard against potential harms of this technology from in-and out-of-state actors who are looking to harm us.”

She was likely referring to several incidents earlier this year and in 2016 where terrorists used vehicles to kill people on the streets of France and elsewhere.

“Given the lives at stake and the potential of out-of-state actors who want to use vehicles now for a different purpose, I am very concerned that we get the cybersecurity right at the front end and not wait for something bad to happen,” she added.

Hassan is not the only Democratic senator to make this demand. Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, for one, also noted the urgency of affixing stringent regulations on driverless vehicles.

“These vehicles are already obviously computers on wheels and they’re going to continue to accelerate in that direction as the technology deploys,” Markey said. “But obviously there are going to be vast opportunities for cyber threats to be launched against these vehicles.”

Hassan and Markey’s counterparts in the House unanimously approved a bill Sept. 6 known as the Safely Ensuring Lives Future Deployment and Research In Vehicle Evolution Act, or SELF DRIVE Act, which expands the industry’s capacity to delve into the rapidly growing enterprise.

The bill allows businesses to apply for exemptions from federal-or state-imposed regulations that mandate certain safety and design protocols. Hassan and her colleague believe more needs to be done to address cybersecurity.

They are wrestling with whether to include potential driverless big rigs and over the road trucks into a regulators scheme encompassing self-driving cars. One of the loudest voices calling for regulations on new technologies on the automotive industry is Tesla chairman Elon Musk.

He ratcheted up rhetoric calling for more regulations earlier this month during a National Governors Association (NGA) meeting in Rhode Island. He described artificial intelligence, or AI, as the “biggest risk we face as a civilization.”

“Until people see robots going down the street killing people, they don’t know how to react because it seems so ethereal,” he said, according to a report published by a tech outlet that attended the speech.

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