The Security Ledger Podcast

The Security Ledger Podcast

Encore Podcast: Is Autonomous Driving Heading for a Crash?

July 15, 2021

In this encore edition of the podcast, we revisit a 2018 interview with Beau Woods of The Atlantic Council from episode 89. Beau and I talk about the perils of autonomous driving software and whether automakers and regulators are rushing too quickly introduce autonomous features without adequately understanding the risks they pose.

Elon Musk has been busy on social media in recent week. Among his usual rounds of SpaceX fanboy videos, memes and Dogecoin boosterism, Musk has regaled his massive social media following with the promises of a software update for Tesla vehicles: so-called FSD v9, or “version 9” of the company’s Fully Self Driving software.

The software was released over the weekend and pushed out to Tesla vehicles soon thereafter. According to media reports and posts by Tesla users, its pretty impressive: allowing Teslas to navigate city streets – not just highways – pick their way across busy intersections and follow GPS directions to choose forks without driver intervention. The on-board “Tesla Vision” also got a big update, identifying whether cars on the surrounding roadways are slowing, accelerating or stopped…and more!

Beta Software Behind The Wheel

As to whether the “beta” software is safe and reliable now that it has been pushed out to millions of vehicles navigating U.S. roadways? That’s another question entirely – and one without a clear answer. Musk himself has admitted that automated driving is a much more complex problem than he initially estimated.

Haha, FSD 9 beta is shipping soon, I swear!Generalized self-driving is a hard problem, as it requires solving a large part of real-world AI. Didn’t expect it to be so hard, but the difficulty is obvious in retrospect.Nothing has more degrees of freedom than reality.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 3, 2021

And his company seems eager to cover its butt. The company’s announcement of the FSD v9 release said less about the autonomous driving features in the update than about the abundance of caution Tesla drivers should use.

Autopilot Accidents Pile Up

The release – and the hype surrounding it – come at a curious time. As accidents linked to Tesla and its “Autopilot” technology pile up, the company finds itself in the cross hairs of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In June, for example, NHTSA instructed automakers to begin reporting and tracking crashes involving cars and trucks that use advanced driver-assistance technology such as Tesla’s Autopilot and General Motors’ Super Cruise.

Episode 209: Fortinet’s Renee Tarun on Scaling InfoSec To Meet Tomorrow’s Challenges

Beau Woods of The Atlantic Council and CISA