Inquiry scrutinises data privacy, security implications of driverless cars

Parliamentary committee urges scrutiny of driverless cars’ security

The federal government should facilitate and encourage trials of automated vehicles in Australia, the report of a parliamentary inquiry into the technology has recommended.

However, as part of preparing for the more widespread use of automated vehicle technology, Australia’s national cyber security strategy should specifically address the implications of driverless cars and similar systems, the report said.

The report from the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Industry, Innovation, Science and Resources on the social issues relating to land-based automated vehicles in Australia was tabled today in parliament.

The inquiry found that driverless cars will potentially deliver “substantial safety benefits, improved access and mobility options, better use of time and improved environmental and planning outcomes”.

The report (PDF) makes 10 recommendations, including that the federal government consider establishing a national body that can work with state and territory government agencies as well as vehicle and software manufacturers to prepare for the introduction of automated vehicles in Australia.

Such a body would be tasked with helping assess and address a number of issues including the legal liability and insurance implications of automated vehicle technology; employment ramifications; social inclusion; the physical and infrastructure needs of automated vehicles; as well as the ownership, use and security frameworks applicable to the data generated by automated vehicles.

The inquiry heard evidence of concerns both around the security of driverless cars and similar technology and the ownership and security of data generated by automated vehicles.

“A barrier to public acceptance of autonomous vehicles is the level of concern regarding data issues, particularly in terms of the privacy of personal information and the vulnerability of data to cybersecurity threats,” the report notes.

During a May hearing of the inquiry Professor Des Butler from the Queensland University of Technology told the committee that the privacy implications of autonomous vehicles will be “a bit of a sleeper issue”.

Read more: US wants to smooth regulatory path to to self-driving vehicles

Automated vehicles will “generate an enormous amount of data”, which could range from driving performance and condition of the vehicle through to locations visited, Butler said.

“There is a question there about who might access that information, such as whether, if you have a suspicious partner who is wondering where their partner is going to, that person can access the information,” Butler said.

“The Committee considers that an adequate regulatory framework for the ownership of and access to vehicle data is one of the key issues affecting public acceptance of driverless vehicles,” the report states.

The committee recommended that the federal government “further investigates the issue of data rights for consumers, vehicle manufacturers and third parties such as insurers and relevant government agencies.”

Earlier this year the National Transport Commission (NTC) and Austroads jointly released national guidelines for trials of automated vehicles on Australian roads.

The New South Wales government has moved to facilitate trials of automated vehicles on the state’s roads and last month launched the state’s first trial of an automated ‘smart shuttle’ bus.

Trials have also be staged in other states, including South Australia and Western Australia.

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Tags driverless vehiclesautonomous vehiclesdriverless carsself-driving carself-driving cars

More about AustraliaHouse of RepresentativesNational Transport CommissionQueensland University of TechnologyTechnologyTransport

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