The Security of Driverless Cars

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The opportunities that driverless vehicles present are undoubtedly profound. None more so than the emergence of multi-modal transport services (trains, planes, automobiles … and boats) that will intelligently cooperate to take us from A to B without any human intervention. Replacing the old biological controllers — namely us — the autonomous vehicle will excel in everything from energy efficiency to just being safe. The technology of today already affords us a near-term vision of the car where:

  • route planning and optimisation
  • refuelling and recharging
  • transactions with services (tolls , shops , parking lots)
  • authentication and hand-shaking for the purpose of site access control

are all automatically achieved by the vehicle, without the human ‘in-the-loop’. Removing the human from all of these piloting activities in concert, including that of physically manoeuvring the vehicle, will prove to be the real transformation in experience that autonomy will bring to car users.

The main outstanding technical piece needed to achieve this — the driving bit — is a problem that is rapidly being cracked by some of the largest and smartest companies in the world. Furthermore, the use of artificial intelligence and deep-learning technology is poised not merely to deliver our replacement, but a significant upgrade. A ‘driver’ that will be better at learning, anticipation and adaption and one that will work tirelessly, around the clock. Driver 1.0 looks set, almost inevitably, for extinction. But, don’t worry if you’re feeling somehow obsolete, all of this will leave us with far more time to get on with the more important things in life like texting and motorway Tinder and will eliminate that potent source of stress, road rage — although there are no promises about the more general problem of rage on the road. However, let’s leave the debate as to whether or not this transport paradigm-shift represents a psychological step forward for the road user for another day and settle for the fact that it certainly will be a technical leap-forward on how we go about the business of moving about.

Considering the comprehensive nature of the transformation we’re talking about, it is not unreasonable to ask if a re-think on what it means for a car to be secure and safe is motivated. Ironically, when we do pose the question, rather than the longer-term prospects of some kind of dystopian robo-world emerging, understanding how to be secure against humans emerges as the more pressing concern. For whatever motivation — and there are plenty to choose from — humans are the most likely to seek the means and methods for compromising the whole operation; either by delivering costly nuisance cyber-hacks or by engineering complex orchestrated attacks that result in large scale economic hits or even the loss of life. Tragic incidents in urban settings around the world such as the most recent in Barcelona, illustrate how the car, even in its current form, may be used to generate terror and fear with global resonance and impact.

Paradoxically, the driverless car simultaneously represents an opportunity for virtually eliminating such incidents and the means by which their impacts could be greatly amplified. Both of these outcomes will be made possible by the unprecedented interconnectivity the car of the future will possess, where participation in a massive and distributed network of things including other cars, buildings, IoT devices, knowledge repositories and databases will provide access to huge computing power and a physical reach far beyond the individual car. Which outcome becomes reality rests on how well considered the design of this entire car-system will be to security problems and whether security will be ‘designed in’ from the start.

The argument that security is not the primary purpose of the car or that security incidents are generally not that likely to occur is a rationale that risks this aspect of the system’s design being given far less attention than it deserves. We might consider such arguments as rooted in the simplistic view of what we understand the car to be today rather than the reality of what it is about to become. It would be liberating and perhaps more in keeping with the technical revolution to consider the very concept of a car to be a fading reality, being replaced by a completely new mode of transport that bears only a superficial resemblance to the automobile. It may look like a car, move like a car, but in all other aspects it will not be one.

The Gateway project

Within the Gateway project — one of the UK’s autonomous vehicles urban demonstrators — we have been considering what security for driverless cars should look like in the near, medium and longer-terms. In the near-term we have examined the more practical aspects of securing vehicles that are being rapidly developed in the market by viewing our trial vehicles as moving cyber-physical systems: the driverless car is far more than just a moving piece of office IT. In the medium-term, problems such as ensuring that vehicles can trust connections to things around them with a digital pulse, including other cars, remains an open but tractable problem. Detecting security issues during the operation of such systems, countering problems in real-time and the legal ramifications of failure are all things that will keep our community and our wider networks working for some time to come.

Author: Dr Deeph Chana, Deputy Director, Institute for Security Science and Technology, Imperial College London

This is an opinion piece authored by Dr Deeph Chana.

Empowering people through technology

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We believe that the Internet of Things is fundamentally going to change the way we live, work and play and automated vehicles will significantly disrupt and change the way we interact and engage with our transport systems. Cars are becoming computers on wheels and like any mobile computing device we need to make sure we transmit data in the most efficient and secure manner. Although having all vehicles fully automated is still some time away, we are seeing an ever increasing requirement for cameras and sensors within vehicles to be connected and we believe that communications and connectivity is critical to the success of autonomous vehicles.

Within the GATEway project we are looking at the role teleoperation will provide to improve mobility through connected transportation, empowering people to stay independent. Using a customised pre-configured version of the O2 CWAN digital IoT solution, we have tested an enterprise grade managed solution for remotely operating and recovering a Toyota Prius, an autonomous vehicle, safely and securely to demonstrate basic autonomy. As part of the design the system includes end-to-end encryption.

Through the GATEway project we want to understand how, through the right communication, we can improve the safety, passenger experience and engagement with these vehicles.

If we go further and consider an application on a smart phone instructing the car to self-park or to return to a given location, this too will depend on connectivity. This opens the door to a whole range of communications opportunities, but also creates disruptive business models and challenges that we need to better understand.

Ultimately it’s about the implications of the technology on society. We want to understand how automated vehicles will fit into our future urban mobility needs and the barriers that need to be overcome before these vehicles can become a reality on our roads. Also, when we can connect automated vehicles into a wider smart city environment, we can bring benefits of the efficiency, safety and reliability into our wider transport systems

It’s exciting for us as a technology company and we’re delighted to be part of the future and support UK Plc. Read more about our teleoperation work here.

Vinnett Taylor,

Head of IOT Specialists, O2

Project update: December 2016

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As 2016 draws to a close, I wanted to take the opportunity to provide an update on where we are with the GATEway project.

It has been a busy final few months of the year for the project, which aims to understand and overcome the technical, legal and societal challenges of implementing automated vehicles in an urban environment. Whilst the project largely revolves around the public trials of automated vehicles in Greenwich, we must not forget this is a research project focused not on developing vehicles, but the societal implications of this new technology.

Over the past few months we completed the first phase of the public engagement element of this research, looking at people’s hopes, fears and expectations of driverless vehicles. We invited people from a variety of backgrounds to engage in discussions and help us better understand public attitudes towards this next generation of vehicles. In total, we hosted eight workshops with over a hundred participants, producing thousands of hopes and fears about the future and more than 30 new driverless vehicle concepts. Insight in to some of the top level findings can be found here and a full report will be released once all phases have been completed.

Part of this package of work also included gathering feedback on the idea of driverless vehicles in Greenwich from those that live, work and visit the area. We have had over 500 contributions so far, with 78% of people viewing automated vehicles as a very positive opportunity for Greenwich. If you wish to add your comments, then you can do so here.

We also completed our teleoperation demonstrations, as well as simulator trials to investigate how drivers of regular cars respond and adapt their behaviour in the presence of automated vehicles.  The team of experts at TRL are now working their way through the data collected to analyse the results which will be disseminated accordingly in the New Year.

Those in Greenwich may also have noticed the inclusion of some unfamiliar road markings around the Greenwich Peninsula.  The markings, which will remain in place until the end of the project, were added in preparation of the arrival of ‘Harry’ – our prototype automated vehicle. Harry arrived in Greenwich in November 2016 to begin a final period of onsite validation and testing ahead of public trials. You may have already spotted him running around autonomously in Greenwich; this is part of our final regime of safety evaluation and public trials will only commence once this has been completed. We’ll be providing more information in due course.

Our progress in Greenwich didn’t go unnoticed by government and industry. The team at the Royal College of Art picked up an award for the quality and significance of their GATEway paper submitted to the Universal Design Conference 2016 held in Nagoya Japan. And in November, I gave evidence on behalf of the GATEway Project in the House of Lords inquiry into driverless vehicles, which can be viewed online here. Following the evidence session, members of the Committee also visited the project in Greenwich to see the progress we have made and engaged with a number of different elements of the project, including TRL’s portable driving simulator, MiniDigiSim, Oxbotica’s Geni vehicle and ‘Harry’. A positive and successful end to an exciting year.

Thank you to everyone that has taken part in any of our research activities to-date and for those that are eagerly waiting for the start of the public trials, we thank you for your patience.

Professor Nick Reed

 Academy Director, TRL

Nick is Academy Director at TRL, where he is with responsible for ensuring the technical quality of TRL’s research outputs, for supporting the academic development of TRL staff and for managing TRL’s engagement with stakeholders in industry and academia on programmes of collaborative research.

Nick joined the Human Factors and Simulation group at TRL in January 2004 following post-doctoral work in visual perception at the University of Oxford. He has led a wide variety of studies using the full mission, high fidelity car and truck simulators with a number of published articles, conference papers, and appearances in national and international media. Nick also championed work in the area of vehicle automation at TRL, culminating in his technical leadership of the GATEway (Greenwich Automated Transport Environment) project – a flagship UK Government project to investigate the implications of the introduction of automated vehicles in the urban environment.

Preperation begins for GATEway public trials

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Work has begun to prepare for the arrival of the very first GATEway driverless shuttle in Greenwich, ahead of public trials in 2017.

To enable trials to take place safely and efficiently, we have made some changes to Olympian Way, including new markings to show where the shuttles will operate.

From November 2016, the first GATEway shuttle vehicle will begin its final period of testing in Greenwich ahead of public trials. The shuttle will run in a dedicated lane,  alongside a separate shared pedestrian and cycle lane and pedestrians and cyclists will still be able to use Olympian Way throughout the trial period.

The shuttle trial aims to demonstrate the use of automated vehicles for what is termed last-mile mobility, seamlessly connecting residential locations, commercial areas and transport hubs by a zero emission, low noise, on-demand transport system. For more information visit our FAQ page here.

What do you think about this project?

How will driverless vehicles affect you? Add your thoughts to our interactive map of the area. You can read the views of hundreds of people who’ve already done this and then add your own. It’ll only take a few seconds, click here to add your views.

Alternatively, if you would prefer to speak to us in person, why not attend a drop in session at the Digital Greenwich office: 11th Floor, 6 Mitre Passage, Greenwich Peninsula, SE10 0ER to give your views and find out more. These will take place throughout the trial period. To find out more email


Exploring public attitudes towards driverless vehicles

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The idea of a driverless vehicle can seem unsettling, partly because it suggests a lesser amount of control and the suffix -less, also equates to missing – in this instance, of not being complete, or lacking. Autonomous vehicles on the other hand, might engender a different reaction: as something that is made to be self-governing, that doesn’t have to be operated by humans because it can work things out for itself, the autonomous vehicle represents an advanced technology that doesn’t need humans to function.

But the autonomous vehicle is the next step in vehicle evolution. Automated technology has existed in varying capacities for the last century – commercial airplanes, for example, are heavily automated meaning they can take off, fly and land on their own. However, there may be a critical difference in perceptions between automated and autonomous technology. While the former may be perceived to require inputs or supervision from an operator to be made in order to function (still present in case the conditions become unsuitable for automated operation), the latter acquires inputs and makes decisions on its own, enabling it to adjust to differences in external conditions.

So what do we think of when driverless vehicles are presented to us as an inevitability? As a popular subject for Sci-fi, robotics has often been portrayed as something that can go terribly wrong: Skynet, a self-aware form of artificial intelligence, from the Terminator franchise is bent on destroying humankind; Issac Asimov’s short stories from the I, Robot series (1940–1950) contain some of the best known examples of and instances in which humans struggle to control robots precisely because they are designed to be autonomous. Indeed, the idea of autonomous robotics presents broad ethical and philosophical questions – as demonstrated by Asimov’s character Cutie (QT1) when it declares: ‘I myself, exist, because I think.’

To help better understand public’s thoughts and feelings, we are currently exploring the public’s attitude towards the new technology in an effort to understand how the preconceptions of and preoccupations about driverless vehicles might be taken into account in the design process. It’s about engaging the public in conversation about the technology from the beginning to show them how autonomous vehicles work but also that the possibilities of what they can do are potentially boundless.

Within the GATEway project, we are approaching this from two perspectives. The first of which involves gathering information from co-creation workshops to gain a better understanding of the public’s perception.

We invited people from a variety of backgrounds (from experts in robotics to the general public) to engage in the discussions and think about sets of questions and scenarios allows the team to gain an insight into why some might fear the new technology and what people would like autonomous vehicles to do for them.

In total we hosted eight workshops, including over a hundred participants, producing thousands of hopes and fears about the future and more than 30 new driverless vehicle concepts detailing potential new features, services and opportunities to transform our cities.

These workshops, run by a team of designers from the Royal College of Art in London, are helping the GATEway team to better understand the needs, aspirations and concerns of a wide range of people including drivers, non-drivers, enthusiasts, professionals and those with additional needs. So what have we learnt so far?

During the workshops we asked participants to share their understanding of driverless vehicles and helped them to dig deeper into the impact that they might have on our everyday lives.

We started by asking everyone to share their hopes about driverless vehicles – considering issues like safety, ownership, costs as well as their impact on our society and the places that we live and work. Some of their thoughts included:

  • “We’ll never have to park, pay for parking or get fined for speeding again!”
  • “It will allow us to “re-think” the concept of the “road” so that it becomes a less dominant part of our towns and cities”
  • “We’ll get rid of boy racers and dangerous drivers without licenses”
  • “It might even be safer for pets and other animals when they are crossing the road”

And when we asked people to share their concerns we heard real worries about a future that is unknown and potentially highly disruptive:

  • “It will create a two tier system between those who can afford them and those who can’t.”
  • “Even more people might want to use cars instead of trains and buses, creating more congestion and leading to even more roads and urban sprawl.”
  • “It will make us more lazy and lead to an even bigger public health crisis.”
  • “Millions of jobs will be lost and will never be replaced.”
  • “It’s going to lead to the further automation of humanity.”

Many of the ideas were translated in real time by our workshop illustrators, Karen Jiyun Sung and Christiane Matz.

Workshopimage2We then asked everyone to form small teams so that they could co-develop future driverless vehicles that met their needs in new and delightful ways.

Teams started by imagining existing journeys and scenarios and then mapped out all the challenges that they might face during the trip. Journeys included commuting, shopping and trips to see friends or family.

Workshopimage6They then got to work with Playdoh, Lego, paper and pens! Channelling their inner child everyone managed to create imaginative and potentially ground breaking new vehicles that spoke about the positive opportunities of a driverless future.


We are now analysing the almost 500,000 words of recorded conversation to identify the opportunities and challenges that might help build a positive and inclusive driverless future.

Workshopimage3The second part to the project is about delivering the idea of autonomous technology to the public through a series of exhibitions which will present a variety of vehicles in different shapes and sizes that incorporate systems and services, even architectural spaces.

We’ll be showcasing this creative work as well as ideas from Vehicle Designers at the college in an exhibition at the Transport Museum in the New Year and further details will be shared in due course.

We look forward to seeing you then.



Dan Phillips

Visiting Tutor, Royal College of Art

Dan Phillips is a designer and engineer with 30 years’ experience in the development of innovative environments, products and services. He studied at Imperial College and the University of Cambridge and tutors on the Service Design programme at the Royal College of Art and Imperial College. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and has been a member of a number of institutional advisory groups on cities, sustainability and the built environment.

Before coming to the RCA, Dan was Global Director for Sustainability at Buro Happold, ran his own design and innovation practice, the SEA, and worked at Eight Associates, Battle McCarthy, Arup and Ford on large scale projects in the UK, Europe, USA, Asia and Africa.

Project update: September 2016

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As we enter a new month, we’re fast approaching the half way mark for the GATEway project which officially kicked off on the 1st October 2015. With interest in the project continuing to grow and the start of trials drawing closer, below are the key developments in the project over the past six months:

1. We opened trial registration
Back in May we opened the door for members of public to register take part in the GATEway project. Since then over 5,000 people have registered for a chance to take part which really demonstrates the enthusiasm and interest in automated vehicles. Some have already had a chance to get involved in different elements of the project, while others are waiting for a chance to ride on the vehicles in the trials, which are due to start late autumn 2016.

2. We started our public engagement activities
In June we kicked-off our pre-trial engagement activities; working with members of the public to learn more about what the public really think about the idea of driverless vehicles. Over the past few months we have hosted a number of workshops in Greenwich to delve deeper into people’s thoughts and feelings towards these next generation of vehicles. Led by the Royal College of Art, these workshops encompass a number of different sets of questions, scenarios and creative activities to enable us to gain an insight into people’s attitudes towards the use of automated vehicles and their operation in cities.

3. We began collecting research data
As well as qualitative data, we have started to collect quantitative information about the public’s perception of automated vehicles via online channels. The University of Greenwich has launched an online questionnaire to understand how people may interact with autonomous vehicles, whilst Commonplace has launched an online heatmap of Greenwich where people can post their comments on where they think driverless vehicles will or won’t work.

4. We started LIDAR mapping the Greenwich environment
To enable safe navigation, each of our GATEway vehicles will be pre-loaded with a detailed 3D ‘map’ of each test environment. These maps are created by human-driven vehicles that survey the test environment and collect data from the same sets of sensors that used by the automated vehicles. In preparation for the trials, Oxbotica’s survey vehicle has been navigating around Greenwich, mapping the environment in varying lighting and weather conditions. This process will continue up until the trials begin later this year. An example of one of the maps created from this process can be found here.

5. We demonstrated autonomous driving in Greenwich
In August we completed 100km of autonomous driving in Greenwich with Oxbotica’s Selenium autonomy software. The milestone was completed during a visit from Stephen Mullighan MP, South Australian Transport and Infrastructure Minister as part of pre-trial preparation and was the first demonstration of fully autonomous driving in Greenwich.

6. We completed the first phase of development of our 3D model of Greenwich
One of the trials we’ll be conducting as part of the GATEway project will use TRL’s high fidelity DigiCar driving simulator to investigate how drivers of regular cars respond and adapt their behaviour to the presence of automated vehicles on the roads. To ensure the trials are representative of real-world driving, we have been working with Agility3 to develop a realistic 3D model of the Greenwich peninsula road environment, ready for participant trials late autumn this year. The first phase of this development was completed at the end of August and a sneak preview of the 3D model can be found here.

7. We started development and testing of our trial vehicles
Since the start of the project the team has been busy developing a next generation of fully autonomous and electric vehicles capable of navigating around Greenwich. This involves not only the design and build of the vehicles and the autonomous control software, but also an extensive period of safety testing ahead of official trials in Greenwich. The vehicles for the shuttle trial in Greenwich are being developed by Westfield Sportscars, Oxbotica and Heathrow Enterprises and are now entering the final stage of this process. At the same time, Gobotix have been successfully safety testing their adapted M1 vehicle for remote operation of an autonomous vehicle that has gone into ‘safe’ mode and needs to be moved to a safe position.

8. We completed the first ever wind tunnel test on an autonomous vehicle
As part of our safety testing, we successfully carried out the first ever wind tunnel test on an autonomous vehicle in the UK. The test, conducted by Westfield Sportscars and supported by the Niche Vehicle Network, sought to improve the aerodynamic efficiency and confirm safety of automated shuttles, ahead of our driverless shuttle trials.

And it doesn’t stop there; the next few months promise to be even busier. Members of the GATEway team will be at LCV from the 14th – 15th September along with a GATEway prototype vehicle. We’ll also be speaking at the Driverless Technology Conference in Milton Keynes on the 22nd November.

The GATEway team

Welcome to the GATEway project

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It’s been quite a journey since the launch of the GATEway project back in February 2015 – one of three driverless car projects announced under Innovate UK’s £10m competition entitled Introducing driverless cars to UK roads.

Hosted in Greenwich, the home of the GATEway project, the launch event saw the world’s press come together to learn more about the three projects and see first-hand what a future filled with automated vehicles, might look like.

The fanfare accompanying the launch heralded the arrival of the UK as a major player at the vanguard of automated vehicle development. In fact, the Chief Executive of the Royal Borough of Greenwich even suggested that the event garnered more attention for the Borough than the 2012 Olympic Games, demonstrating the sheer volume of interest surrounding automated vehicles.  So where are we now and what has been happening on the GATEway project since the launch?

Over the past 12 months we’ve seen significant steps by the government to position the UK at the forefront of development in this area. The initial launch event was used as a platform for the Department of Transport to publish a comprehensive document reviewing the UK regulatory position on the testing of automated vehicle technologies, providing clear guidance to those looking to develop and test automated vehicles. This was followed by the official publication of the DfT’s code of  practice for the testing of automated vehicle technology in July, and the formation of the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles, a new joint policy unit to coordinate government policy on driverless cars and related technology.

With the green light given for the testing of automated vehicles in the UK, the GATEway project officially kicked off in October 2015.

As part of the project, we will be trialling and validating a series of different use cases for automated vehicles. This will involve live trials of highly and fully automated vehicles; full mission, high fidelity driving simulator tests; and demonstrations of remote vehicle operation – the first of which is due to start in late 2016.

In order to ensure that these trials run effectively and safely, over the past 6 months we’ve been working hard to lay the necessary foundations for the trials to ensure they are optimally developed and delivered and all risks understood and mitigated. One of the first key project milestones was to secure the automated vehicles that would enable us to deliver trials and in January 2016 we announced that a consortium comprising Westfield Sportscars, Heathrow Enterprises and University of Oxford spinout, Oxbotica, would deliver the shuttle vehicles for our first trial.

Following the announcement, the GATEway team has been relentlessly running through the checklist of tasks necessary for the operation of driverless shuttles in a public space. This includes:

  • Negotiations with landowners and stakeholders to secure the trial route;
  • Developing the shuttle vehicles from their current form to fully autonomous electric shuttles;
  • Running 3D mapping exercises around Greenwich to help assess and plan the different routes and create a reference point for the shuttle vehicles to use for navigation and;
  • Undertaking a thorough review to ensure potential risks are satisfactorily mitigated.

We have also held our first official GATEway project advisory group meeting. Hosted at the House of Lords and chaired by Lord Borwick of Hawkshead, the meeting brought together the GATEway consortium and representatives from across the transport sector to discuss the development of the project, as well as genuinely useful and exciting insights into how automated vehicles could revolutionise transport in urban environments.

Despite the huge progress that has been made since contract award, we are under no illusions about the enormity of the tasks that remain to deliver the GATEway project. However, the consortium remains very positive and highly motivated to deliver these fascinating automated vehicle trials over the next 12 months. Further details about the project and trials at the UK Smart Mobility Living Lab @ Greenwich will be revealed over the following months, but one thing’s for certain – it’s going to be a fun and exhilarating ride!

Professor Nick Reed
Academy Directory at TRL and GATEway Technical Lead

Nick joined the Human Factors and Simulation group at TRL in January 2004 following post-doctoral work in visual perception at the University of Oxford. He has led a wide variety of studies using the full mission, high fidelity car and truck simulators with a number of published articles, conference papers, and appearances in national and international media. Nick also championed work in the area of vehicle automation at TRL, culminating in his technical leadership of the GATEway (Greenwich Automated Transport Environment) project – a flagship UK Government project to investigate the implications of the introduction of automated vehicles in the urban environment.

In addition to the GATEway project, Nick’s role now is as the TRL Academy director with responsibility for ensuring the technical quality of TRL’s research outputs, for supporting the academic development of TRL staff and for managing TRL’s engagement with stakeholders in industry and academia on programmes of collaborative research.