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UK government publishes cyber security guidance for driverless cars

The UK government has issued new guidelines aimed at improving cyber protection for smart and driverless vehicles, ahead of planned legislation for the emerging industry.07 Aug 2017

The government has published eight principles for those involved in the manufacturing supply chain for autonomous vehicles, with the intention of cutting down on hacking and data theft. The principles are designed to encourage the industry to work together to enhance cyber security in this sector, and place responsibility for system security at board level.

The guidelines say engineers must have "knowledge and understanding of current and relevant threats and the engineering practices to mitigate them", and that security risk assessment and management procedures must be in place.

Companies must have product aftercare and incident response systems including after-sales support services for customers, the government said, adding that the security of all software had to be managed throughout its lifetime.

Connected and autonomous vehicles expert Ben Gardner of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said the new principles would be helpful to the industry,

"The issue of cyber security and data has long been a challenge that manufacturers, their supply chains, and the government have been grappling with. The latest guidance, while not legally binding, could provide a framework for future regulation and best practice," said Gardner.

"Therefore, those working in this space should be mindful of its requirements to help ensure that the smart and driverless vehicle products and services they are developing are 'legal by design'," said Gardner.

"It is likely that this guidance will evolve over time as the technology is tested and developed. It will be important for the industry to come together to ensure that the eventual regulations and best practice are fit for purpose and help to cement the UK's status as a global centre of excellence for smart and driverless vehicles," said Gardner.

In this year's Queen's Speech the government announced an Autonomous and Electric Vehicles Bill that will create a new framework for self-driving vehicle insurance. The new guidelines fall alongside the plans for legislation.

The previous government had also been looking at the issue of insurance and liability for driverless vehicles, issuing a Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill in February. However the snap general election in June meant that bill did not progress past the committee stage in the House of Commons.

Last year research carried out by Pinsent Masons found that the majority of those involved in the automotive industry thought the UK government needed to change current laws either urgently or very urgently to facilitate driverless cars' testing and use. Respondents said the government was the most important party in the development of self-driving vehicles.