Google introduced a prototype of its self-driving car last year. Regulators are still working on rules for the vehicles. Photo: Tony Avelar, Associated Press.
Self-driving cars could be lifesavers, preventing many, if not most, of the traffic accidents that claim more than 30,000 American lives each year.
They could also make devastating weapons.
David R. Baker of the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper reports that hackers could be employed by a hostile nation finding a way to command large numbers of cars on U.S. roads. Picture those hackers ordering the vehicles to suddenly accelerate and turn hard to the right, flipping them over, killing many passengers and clogging freeways with junked cars.
Or envision a lone-wolf terrorist loading explosives into a car and programming it to drive to a targeted building or public space.
“A nation-state will think very carefully before they commit something that can be interpreted as an act of war, so that helps keep us safe,” said Isaac Porche, associate director of the Forces and Logistics Program at the Rand Corp. think tank. “But is it possible? Yes.”