Intel joins automotive secure computing research

November 27, 2017 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
In the field of automotive computing, Intel is trying hard to catch up with established chip manufacturers and electronics suppliers. The company's latest step is aimed at secure IoT infrastructures for autonomous vehicles.

By signing a Partnership Framework Agreement chipmaker Intel is joining forces with the University of Luxembourg’s Interdisciplinary Centre for Security, Reliability and Trust (SnT). The move is based on the realization that as autonomous vehicles gain in complexity, it becomes increasingly difficult to secure them against hackers. Through the agreement, SnT and Intel will work together to make vehicles more resilient, allowing them to neutralise attacks automatically, and even ‘self-heal’ before an attacker can compromise too many essential functions. The research will focus in particular on solving security issues impacting safety, caused, for example, by the need for self-driving cars to ‘collaborate' with one another. Intel is participating in the research through the ICRI-CARS research institute which bundles related R&D activities from several universities.

Powerful on-board computers capable of handling driving functions, such as parking and lane keeping, are already a reality. In the move towards fully autonomous cars, however, less attention has been given to the need for such vehicles to collaborate with one another; in order to drive safely these cars will need to share information about their environment, from roadworks and weather conditions to pedestrians stepping out into the road. 

Unfortunately, the complex software and extensive connectivity necessary for such collaborative autonomous driving makes these systems more vulnerable to attack. For example, hackers could interfere with sensor devices or communications between vehicles to take control of several cars and block an emergency route, or to appropriate police and military vehicles. Driving control systems could even be hacked to cause accidents. 

Using current methods, this would be prevented by ensuring that systems are free from the software faults and vulnerabilities that hackers exploit, but this is no longer feasible. "We can realistically aim to verify only 15,000 lines of code in a piece of software – the equivalent of 13 experts working fulltime for a year," says Research Scientist Marcus Völp. "To give that some context, Windows 10 has around