Hacking Threat Poses Biggest Risk in Autonomous Cars

By Alex Webb | July 21, 2016

Cybersecurity is the biggest concern for companies evaluating risk in the nascent self-driving vehicle industry, according to a survey conducted by Munich Re.

The world’s second-biggest reinsurer found that 55 percent of corporate risk managers surveyed named cybersecurity as their top concern about self-driving cars. Cybersecurity included the potential hacking of an automated car’s data systems as well as the failure of smart road infrastructure, Munich Re said in an e-mail.

“Cybersecurity is a new exposure when it comes to automobiles,” Mike Scrudato, head of Munich Re’s mobility operations, said in a telephone interview. “One of the factors that could increase premiums is the cyber exposure because there is no real cyber product being purchased in relation to auto today.”

The question of how to allocate liability when autonomous and non-autonomous vehicles share the roads was the main concern for 27 percent of respondents. The risks of autonomous cars have grown more prominent after several crashes involving Tesla Motors Inc. vehicles’ Autopilot feature, including the first fatal wreck when a Model S slammed into an 18-wheeler crossing a Florida highway. Safety was the top concern of six percent of the risk managers surveyed.

Most companies aren’t yet prepared for the rollout of self-driving vehicles, reflecting skepticism that the cars will arrive on American roads inside the next five years. Some 64 percent have done no preparation for autonomous vehicles hitting the market, according to the survey of more than 100 of corporate risk managers across all industries conducted by Munich Re at a risk and insurance conference in San Diego in April.

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