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What happens when software makes decisions in traffic

More and more of the vehicles on our roads, as well as large parts of our traffic infrastructure, are well on the way to becoming connected. This technology creates both new opportunities and new threats. A solution is demanding data security in harmony with ethical, social and technical development.

“The development of artificial intelligens in vehicles is proceeding at such a pace that society is struggling to keep up.”

So says Anders Johnson, senior specialist and consultant in efficient transport, mobility and logistics at RISE. Anders is one of the RISE experts working on C-UFO, a project within which RISE has conducted an implementation study prior to a major initiative to provide social stakeholders with an understanding of the digital landscape, allowing them to act securely in their context.

Current development in the field of connected vehicles is primarily taking place from a technology perspective, meaning that needs at an individual and societal level are not prioritised – partly due to the difficulty and complexity of understanding the issues involved.

“The risk inherent in this approach is that society will be vulnerable to making the wrong investments and prioritisations, perhaps at a high price further down the road,” says Peter Ljungstrand, a specialist in user-centred design at RISE. “Data is not only collected from drivers and passengers in the vehicle, but also from people and infrastructure in the vicinity of the vehicle.”

More difficult to protect High-security facilities

Individuals living under a protected identity, or who may be under the control of other family members, will find it more difficult to move around in society if various data can be combined to make it possible to trace their movements. In the same way, high-security facilities may prove more difficult to protect when connected vehicles can detect their surroundings. Peter Ljungstrand elaborates:

“We know from previous technological shifts that the effects cannot be fully understood until much later, for example environmental damage as a side-effect of industrialisation, or the increasing stress and burnout in working life. Can we be better at identifying potential problems here and avoid the worst pitfalls? And how do we reconcile that with the enormous amounts of data required to make connected vehicles safe for those around them?”

The project has also studied this relationship and the possible future risks involved in the clash between privacy and society’s physical safety. There is increasing concern regarding how personal data may be used, while ar the same time we need use this data to maintain safety. This demands a conscious and explicit balancing of different, sometimes opposing values.

“Our preliminary study focused on this relationship and examined the demands on cybersecurity in connected vehicles from a societal and individual perspective, in order to find out not only the technical limitations of any given technology but also how norms affect the demands made,” explains Jacob Dexe, a researcher in public policy at RISE, who specialises in privacy and integrity.


Published: 2018-09-25
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