Self-driving cars are coming, and they’re going to be more connected than anything on the road today. There may come a day when most or all vehicles in a city are self-driving, and they’ll most likely communicate with each other to make traffic move more efficiently. What happens if you hack a few of those cars, though? Researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology developed a model to predict what would happen as self-driving cars were attacked. They found you’d only have to take out a fraction of vehicles in a city to bring traffic to a complete halt.
The study used Manhattan as the basis of the model, a city that has notoriously snarled traffic without self-driving vehicles. An interconnected autonomous system is naturally more efficient than human drivers, and things are even fine if a few self-driving cars get sidelined by a hack. However, the problem gets exponentially more severe as cars stop obeying the rules.