Cyber defense

DOD-funded pilot to test cyber defenses for driverless vehicles

Cyber defense technologies are going mobile in an attempt to protect autonomous ground vehicles from cyber attacks.

Mission Secure Inc. said it is launching a pilot project along with Perrone Robotics Inc. and the University of Virginia's Department of Systems and Information Engineering to demonstrate cyber defenses for autonomous ground vehicles.

The military has extensive plans for autonomous ground vehicles, and has tested autonomous convoys in a variety of setting. But the demonstrations could also have application in the commercial sector as autonomous vehicle projects—i.e. self-driving cars—sponsored by Google and others gain momentum.

The partners said the pilot project would focus on vulnerable automation systems and software used to provide basic functionality in driverless ground vehicles.

With Defense Department backing, Mission Secure, of Charlottesville, Va., and the University of Virginia started by developing a proprietary methodology for identifying the most effective and easiest ways to launch cyberattacks on autonomous systems. Then in response, they developed proprietary software and hardware tools to evaluate possible defenses against the most likely attacks.

The demonstration will simulate cyberattack scenarios against onboard control systems carried in an autonomous ground vehicle dubbed "Tommy Jr." that was originally fielded in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's 2007 Urban Challenge, a competition for driverless vehicles in city settings intended to push autonomous vehicle technology forward.

The goal of the pilot program is to demonstrate how to identify cyber threats that could easily hack a vehicle's critical control systems. That information would be used to improve detection schemes and cyber defenses.

The cyber assessment for ground vehicles follows an earlier cyber evaluation of autonomous air vehicles. The partners said the result of the ground vehicle demonstration also could be used to develop cyber defenses for commercial vehicles and critical infrastructure.   

Perrone Robotics, developer of an autonomous robotics software platform used in autonomous ground vehicles, also has worked with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the Vehicle Research Center. It's "Tommy" autonomous vehicles were fielded in the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge and the 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge.

During the upcoming demonstrations, Mission Secure's cyber security technology will be used to monitor, detect and counter various cyber attack scenarios.

About the Author

George Leopold is a contributing editor for Defense Systems and author of Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom."Connect with him on Twitter at @gleopold1.

Defense Systems Update

Sign up for our newsletter.

Terms and Privacy Policy consent

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.