Carleton University, BlackBerry QNX join forces to put brakes on cyber threats to self-driving cars

Richard Yu
Richard Yu

A group of Carleton University students is working with Transport Canada and BlackBerry QNX to devise ways of thwarting potential cyberattacks against self-driving vehicles.

Richard Yu, a professor at Carleton’s School of Information Technology, is leading the three-year project. Yu, who received a $974,000 grant from the federal government’s Canadian Safety and Security Program for the project last fall, says its goals are to identify where autonomous vehicles are most vulnerable to cyber threats, analyze the risks of attacks and develop advanced security solutions to counteract the threats.

Self-driving cars could be travelling on Canadian roads within the next three years, the professor predicts, and with the new technology comes a range of security issues.

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“I think this kind of research is very important,” said Yu. “What we’ve found in our research is that there are many risks and vulnerabilities related and connected to autonomous driving.”

Yu and his students held a demonstration of connected and autonomous vehicle technologies at Carleton University last week as part of the research project.

The event showed how information can be shared between two autonomous vehicles and also featured a mock cyberattack. One car drove around the campus while the other remained stationary, with a laptop displaying the moving car’s location, speed, surroundings and braking information.

Transport Canada is providing funding for the vehicles and research teams, while BlackBerry QNX is offering technical support and training to the students.

Carleton student Michael Cochrane said BlackBerry QNX also worked with students who will be continuing the research in future years.

“This project is expected to go on for some time,” said Cochrane, “so they’re preparing students for future software and hardware they’re expected to be using for this project.”

Cochrane said the research team reported to Transport Canada, giving the government agency updates on its progress and receiving guidance along the way. Yu said Transport Canada also brought some of its staff in for training sessions with students.

The professor said the project will help pave the way for safer vehicles once self-driving cars hit the road.

“If you think about car accidents, most scenarios are because you don’t know what’s going on in other cars,” said Yu. “So if you know what’s going on in other cars, you can make some smart decisions and prevent many car accidents.”

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