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Autonomous Vehicles: What Are The Risks, Opportunities?

ASIS Foundation’s new report “Autonomous Vehicles: Threats, Risks & Opportunities,” explores the multifaceted landscape of aVs within security contexts.

Across land, sea, and air, autonomous vehicles (AVs) are becoming more common, revolutionizing various sectors and impacting markets, user behavior, and service attitudes. While uncrewed aerial system (UAS) technologies have matured significantly, there is a surge in investment towards autonomous ground vehicles (AGVs) capable of carrying passengers and cargo. Simultaneously, countries with advanced expertise and infrastructure are actively developing autonomous weapons systems, presenting new challenges and ethical considerations. 

With this in mind, a new report from the ASIS Foundation, “Autonomous Vehicles: Threats, Risks & Opportunities,” offering security practitioners insights into the challenges and opportunities presented by the rapid advancement of AV technologies.

Autonomous Vehicles
(Image: Adobe Stock / kilimanjaro)

Led by researchers Ishmael Bhila, Peter Lee, and Alison Wakefield, the core of the report is an examination of the threats, risks, challenges, and opportunities posed by AVs within security operations. From logistical and operational benefits to the technical prowess they offer, AV technologies promise unprecedented advancements. However, they also introduce a plethora of vulnerabilities and implications that demand careful consideration from security practitioners. 

“We’ve witnessed the evolution of autonomous vehicle technology since the 1990s,” said Wakefield, Co-Director of the Cybersecurity and Criminology Centre at the University of West London. “While these advancements hold immense potential across various sectors, including commercial, military, and security, they also bring a myriad of risks and challenges. Our report aims to provide security practitioners with valuable insights and recommendations to navigate this complex landscape effectively.” 

Autonomous Vehicles, Artificial Intelligence & Security

The continued advancement of AV technology hinges upon artificial intelligence (AI), which faces intense political, legal, and ethical scrutiny. Governments and international bodies are grappling with regulatory frameworks to balance social, economic, and military benefits against potential risks. However, regulations remain fragmented and evolving, alongside emerging ethical and legal dilemmas. Technical hurdles, coupled with substantial liability costs for system errors, underscore the complex landscape of AV deployment. The report highlights the intricate regulatory landscape surrounding AVs, emphasizing the need for practitioners to navigate national and international regulations, industry frameworks, and emerging standards effectively. 

“Ishmael Bhila, Peter Lee, and Alison Wakefield’s research is a testament to their dedication to understanding the complexities of AV technologies within security applications,” said Martin Gill, Ph.D., Chair, ASIS Foundation. “Their findings provide invaluable guidance for security practitioners seeking to harness the transformative potential of AVs while safeguarding against potential risks.” 

Security practitioners must navigate this intricate environment to effectively harness AV technologies while ensuring responsible and secure utilization. They must comprehend varying regulatory landscapes, public sentiments, and security requirements across jurisdictions, while addressing risks to critical infrastructure from both malicious and unintentional actors.

Anticipated trends include heightened security concerns as criminal and terrorist groups adapt commercial AVs, challenges posed by affordable surveillance capabilities, and the interconnectedness of AVs across domains. The report offers practical recommendations for security practitioners to leverage AV technologies effectively while mitigating risks and challenges. From training and regulation compliance to cybersecurity measures, the guidance outlined in the report empowers practitioners to embrace AV technologies responsibly. 

It also emphasizes the pivotal role of organizations like ASIS International in facilitating collaboration among stakeholders, sharing expertise, and driving best practices to harmonize service provision in alignment with multisectoral needs, national and international guidelines, and public perceptions. Embracing emerging technologies while remaining vigilant to security implications is paramount for security practitioners to adapt and thrive in this dynamic landscape. 

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