Expert admits deaths by autonomous cars are inevitable in the beginning

1 Jun 2018

Person driving Tesla Model 3 in autopilot mode. Image: TierneyMJ/Shutterstock

This week in IoT, the reality of autonomous car development was brought to the fore while researchers found a way to develop an ultrasound firewall for chatty smart devices. talked to one of the biggest internet of things (IoT) influencers this week, Vodafone’s IoT chief Stefano Gastaut, about just how important narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) will become in the years ahead.

“We have pushed our coverage plan really aggressively across Europe and, in the space of the next nine to 12 months, we will have achieved 100pc coverage in major markets,” he said.

“NB-IoT is no longer hypothetical, it is happening and it is going to be a major force in big verticals and it will be all-pervasive in automotives, agriculture, insurance, utilities and a lot more.”

Meanwhile, the Tyndall National Institute in Cork held an energy harvesting workshop to showcase some of the latest energy technology for IoT sensors.

Autonomous cars will kill people in earliest stages

Companies like Tesla have tread very carefully around the issue of fatalities caused by their earliest test autonomous vehicles, emphasising that these tragedies are not a sign of things to come but unfortunate accidents that have occurred.

However, speaking to the BBC, Mark Rosekind, a former administrator of the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, was a little blunter. He said that not only will there be more accidents during the technology’s development, but it is likely more fatalities will occur.

“Unfortunately, there will be crashes. People are going to get hurt and there will be some lives lost,” Rosekind said.

“All of that I think is going to be, I hope, focused on the service of trying to save lives.”

However, he emphasised that the vast majority of deaths on our roads today are a result of human error, and that the risks involved in letting autonomous cars on the road will be worth it should it one day make the number of road deaths negligible.

This firewall stops IoT devices ‘whispering’ to one another

As if it wasn’t worrying enough that a number of IoT devices seem to be listening to and recording us, there are a growing number that are now ‘whispering’ to one another using ultrasonic sound, such as Google Nearby and Silverpush.

They use this inaudible communication channel to allow for devices to be paired and also to track users and their behaviour over a number of devices – similar to how cookies work when we browse the web.

But not everyone is so happy with the silent tracking, which is why a team of researchers recently revealed a project called SoniControl that detects acoustic cookies, brings them to the attention of users and, if desired, blocks the tracking.

“There is currently no technology on the market that can detect and block acoustic cookies,” said Matthias Zeppelzauer of St Pölten University of Applied Sciences in Austria.

“The application developed in this project represents the first approach that gives people control over this type of tracking.”

The cybersecurity impact of IoT

Sticking with the topic of cybersecurity, consulting firm Bain & Company published a survey of hundreds of enterprise executives, 70pc of whom said they would definitely buy more IoT devices if they could be guaranteed they were secure.

Meanwhile, 93pc of executives said they would pay more for devices with better security, at about 22pc more on average.

90pc also said that IoT devices pose a moderate or significant risk to their organisations, and executives in companies with greater cybersecurity sophistication see more risk than those in less sophisticated companies.

In terms of a breakdown among industries, the authors of the report found that fears of a threat posed by IoT varied in severity, ranging from durable goods at 62pc to technology at 50pc.

Google Cloud joins LoRa Alliance

The LoRa Alliance – a non-profit association operating since 2015 to promote the LoRaWAN standard of low-power wide-area networks (LPWAN) – has secured a major name in the form of Google Cloud as a sponsor member.

“Google Cloud joining the LoRa Alliance is a clear signal that LoRaWAN connectivity is gaining strong traction for IoT,” said Donna Moore, CEO and chair of the association.

“All of the data generated by connected devices will enable new insights to be derived. Google Cloud’s participation in the LoRa Alliance will strengthen our efforts to realise value from this IoT data.”

Meanwhile, Google’s head of product management for Google Cloud IoT, Antony Passemard, said: “The vision of the LoRa Alliance around interoperability and openness aligns with our mission to build the world’s most open cloud and enable faster innovation and tighter security.”

Person driving Tesla Model 3 in autopilot mode. Image: TierneyMJ/Shutterstock

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Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic