Will Automotive AI Risk Driver Safety?

Artificial intelligence used to be limited to science fiction stories, but in spite of the fact that some of the biggest tech minds in the world are terrified of it, it’s becoming a reality. While it’s being marketed as a tool that could potentially make our lives easier, is it possible that it’s too good to be true? Will AI in the automotive industry create a risk to driver safety?

AI for Driver Safety

Some car manufacturers are trying to use artificial intelligence to make driving safer — especially if you’re tired behind the wheel. BMW is planning on rolling out an AI system that responds to the driver’s voice similarly to Google Assistant or Siri. Drivers will be able to tell the car when they’re tired, which will enable the car’s AI to work to help the driver stay awake.

While this tool might work to help keep sleepy drivers safer on the road, it could also lead to distracted driving.

Distracted Driving

AI might seem like the perfect solution to keeping drivers from being distracted behind the wheel, but it might end up contributing to the problem.

There are three forms of distracted driving according to the CDC — visual, manual and cognitive. Visual distraction means taking your eyes off the road, manual distraction means taking your hands off the wheel, and cognitive distraction means taking your mind off the drive.

While artificial intelligence might help drivers manage visual and manual distractions, it could cause additional cognitive distractions. Trying to ask your car how to find the best restaurant or what the meaning of life is might seem like a great way to pass the time, but it takes your mind off the task of driving your car, which makes the AI dangerous instead of safer.

Hacked AI

While most cars aren’t currently equipped with AI subsystems, many are rolling off the assembly line with smart options such as on-board Wi-Fi, cloud-based update systems and other devices. While these features help the cars function a little bit better and make driving that much more comfortable and convenient, they also make the vehicles vulnerable to hackers.

One dramatic example of this vulnerability was showcased in 2015 in Jeep’s cars released that year. The on-board Wi-Fi was hacked by two white-hat hackers who were able to take control of the car while it was being driven in a controlled demonstration. While they made Jeep aware of the vulnerability, which allowed the car manufacturer to release a firmware update to correct it, it served to showcase the enormous problems that could arise from AI and other smart additions to cars.

Vulnerabilities like these are a bigger problem than most car manufacturers want to think about, but ignoring the issue now will only make it bigger in the future. A hacker could use the control of a vehicle to stage a carjacking, a robbery or even a murder, all from the comfort of their own laptop or home computer.

AI might be a good addition to cars in the future, but for the moment, it might just do more harm than good.

Scott Huntington is an automotive writer from central Pennsylvania. Check out his work at Off the Throttle or follow him on Twitter@SMHuntington

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One Response to “Will Automotive AI Risk Driver Safety?”

  1. James C. Walker says:

    Anyone who believes computer systems cannot be hacked for criminal or commercial purposes is pretty naive.