Don't tell Elon Musk.
Electric vehicles are here, but the part of our futuristic world that sees us being driven around in these cars without any human input remains a tricky thing to perfect. Nevertheless, autonomous vehicles and robotaxis are coming. Germany is getting a robotaxi service soon, and Hyundai has turned the Ioniq 5 into a driverless taxi too, with the finished product expected to arrive as soon as 2023. But like any new technology, nefarious individuals will inevitably look for a way to take advantage. A pertinent fear is that autonomous vehicles and flying cars - whenever those arrive - will be susceptible to cyber attacks. Fortunately, the good guys have already figured out a way to avoid this, and it uses the technology behind cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ripple.
As reported on by Autoevolution, a recent paper published in IEEE Transactions on Robotics with input from researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Polytechnic University of Madrid says that the solution to potential hacks is blockchain technology. See, any robotic system integrated into a public infrastructure system - connected self-driving cars, for example - could spell doom for the entire system if even one component were to be hacked. This would lead to a knock-on effect throughout the system, which could open the door for ransomware attacks or even terrorism. The idea suggested in the paper proposes that a transaction-based communication system could avoid this because of its high level of encryption.
The theory is that robots within a system would be able to detect when one of the robots has been hacked thanks to them being able to identify inconsistencies between the original content of the block and the altered (hacked) update. This could work because blocks in the chain contain basic information and a coded version thereof, as well a coded version of the previous block's information, known as the "hash". If the content of a block is maliciously altered, the hash changes, and that change alters the block's connection with the rest of the chain. When this happens, the unaffected blocks become aware of it, so to speak, and will automatically disconnect from the affected block. Furthermore, this system could record all transactions, making it possible for the robots to evolve and become more aware of potential future attacks.
It's a novel idea for a problem few have considered, but we're glad that there's already a potential solution.