Cybersecurity of Autonomous Systems in the Transportation Sector: An Examination of Regulatory and Private Law Approaches with Recommendations for Needed Reforms

The past twenty-five years gave rise to increasing levels of automation within the transportation sector. From initial subsystems, like vessel satellite tracking and automobile chassis control, automation continues apace. The future promises fully autonomous devices such as unmanned aerial systems (“UAS”) and self-driving cars (“UAV”). These autonomous and automatic systems and devices (“AASD”) provide safety, efficiency, and productivity benefits. Yet AASD operate under continual threat of cyber-attack.

Compromised AASD can produce dire consequences in the transportation sector. The possible consequences extend far beyond financial harms to severe bodily injury or even death. Given both the prevalence of cyber threats and their potentially deadly consequences, the public holds a legitimate interest in ensuring that incentives exist to address the cybersecurity of such systems.

This paper examines both the private and public law mechanisms for influencing AASD cybersecurity behaviors in the transportation sector; and undertakes the first comprehensive comparison of existing agency regulatory schemes. The findings presented herein propose: (1) additional legislation to promote sharing of cyber event data; and (2) transportation sector regulatory best practices that require mandatory submission and review of cybersecurity plans by OEMs and service providers when compromise of their products or services threatens safety of life or critical infrastructure. None of the recommendations advanced herein require regulators to direct the adoption of any specific technical solution or specific cybersecurity standard. Thus, industry participants can remain nimble in the face of evolving cyber threats, while ensuring public safety through what proves to be needed regulatory oversight.

  • Author: Jeanne C. Suchodolski
  • Cite: Jeanne C. Suchodolski, Cybersecurity of Autonomous Systems in the Transportation Sector: An Examination of Regulatory and Private Law Approaches with Recommendations for Needed Reforms, 20 N.C. J.L. & Tech 121 (2018), http://ncjolt.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/SuchodolskiFINAL.pdf.
  • PDF: http://ncjolt.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/SuchodolskiFINAL.pdf
  • Volume: Volume 20, Issue 1

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