future highway

3 weird problems we’ll probably have with future highways

9th May, 2023

Ever since cars were first invented in the latter half of the 19th century, all the basic ingredients of motoring have remained more or less the same. Four wheels, steering wheel, engine. Road, signage, rest areas. We could go on – it’s all broadly recognisable stuff, even to non-drivers. (And of course, it’s made our job relatively straightforward here at Scrap Car Network; these days, we can recycle up to 95% of your vehicle when you think: it’s time to scrap my car!)

But the industry is always evolving – and now, some big advances are on the way that are due to affect the fundamental elements of both the vehicles we drive, and the roads we drive them on. And while all these changes are ultimately intended to make our lives easier, it looks like some of them may end up posing some pretty strange problems along the way. Here are three of the most pressing!

Motorway software failures

The rollout of smart motorways may be paused for now, but that’s largely due to a logistical decision to remove the hard shoulder from certain sections of road (a decision that’s proven controversial for a long time). Ultimately though, there’s a good chance that the future of our roads is digital.

The central principle of smart motorways is that the flow of traffic is controlled with increasingly minimal human input, with artificial intelligence acting mostly independently as it changes speed limits on the fly to manage congestion, and alerts drivers to upcoming hazards, and detects vehicles stranded on the road. And when the core principle involves automation and AI, that means that bugs and software failures will pose an increasingly major risk on the roads, no matter how hard programmers might try and tackle them.

Take your average national speed limit sign, for example. It might be simple and unresponsive, but it’s also hack-proof, and will not ‘fail’ under any conditions short of something physically impacting it. Unfortunately, you can’t automatically say the same about software signs.

So that means that there’s probably going to be at least some degree of confusion, delays, and at least some accidents as our road signs and traffic lights encounter ghosts in the machine. This isn’t entirely hypothetical by the way – we saw it just recently with smart motorways across the UK. It’s obviously going to be a permanent priority for the people who design, build and maintain our roads – but there’s never going to be a single one-size-fits-all solution. And what’s more, we’re just talking about incidental bugs in the system here – that’s not even going into the issue of actual cybersecurity. In fact, speaking of which…

New cybersecurity risks

It’s pretty universally well-known by now that self-driving cars are on the way, but whether that’s a good thing probably depends on who you ask. Sure, they’ll be able to make a lot of people’s lives a lot easier in the long run – especially people with severe forms of certain conditions like epilepsy or Tourette’s, which may prevent them from driving cars otherwise. However, the trade-off is that the cars themselves may become vulnerable to being tampered with in ways that older models simply weren’t.

We’ve already covered a couple of these in a previous post. If you’ve not got time to read it in full, here’s the Cliff’s Notes version very quickly: some of the most pressing risks could involve what the industry calls “bad actors” taking control of the car directly, or messing with its systems so that it fails to properly detect its surroundings, or even “detects” obstacles or people which aren’t actually there.

As you’d expect, car manufacturers are already hard at work at the problem, and have been for quite some time. For the last few years, many of the automotive sector’s biggest names have been employing ethical hackers to pre-emptively identify and resolve any vulnerabilities. There’s also talk of future cars continually receiving “Over the Air” wireless updates, which effectively work as a version of antivirus software, which continually adapts itself to new threats.

Again though, that same age-old rule of the digital landscape applies – it’s never going to be a problem with an ultimate solution. Vehicle manufacturers will never “win” the battle against unethical hackers. Instead, it’s going to be another constant, eternal digital arms race – and with your car as the battlefield.

All that, of course, is up to vehicle manufacturers to handle. But there’s one more specific cybersecurity issue that’s rather more up to drivers to handle. And by now, it’s likely a familiar one: personal data.

New data protection issues

The steady digitisation of cars means that they’re no longer just four wheels and an engine. Instead, modern vehicles are more like rolling computers, filled with data – and as we’ve covered before, it’s easy to underestimate exactly how much yours might know about you. A few off-the-cuff examples: your car may know where you work. It probably knows where you live. It might know where your family lives. It could know your favourite songs, your favourite podcasts, your favourite locations. Some of the newest cars may even employ eye-tracking technology to tell how tired you are – which is undeniably useful from a safety perspective, and undeniably scary from a privacy one.

Your car may not know all of that, of course – but if it knows just some of it, that repository of data can become an absolute gold mine if your car is compromised. That may be because it was hacked, or maybe simply because you forgot to wipe the data before selling it on to someone, which is a thing that can and does happen.

It hopefully won’t be too long before drivers start treating their cars like most people treat their mobile phones, making sure to wipe them before they’re passed on to a new owner. Unfortunately though, that’s probably only going to happen once a few of us have learned the hard way how important it is, as one Australian woman did in 2019. (Don’t forget that the data doesn’t necessarily have to be used in an overtly criminal way to be worrying, either – it may be used by companies to build an ad profile of you for example, or by governments to track the movements of people they’re interested in.)

Of course, while there are some real world examples of these issues, the worst-case scenarios are still hypothetical for now. Fingers crossed they stay that way!

Whatever happens in the future though, you can always be sure of one thing – here at Scrap Car Network, we’ll always stick to doing what we do best – getting you the very best price when you scrap your car.

We like to make things as easy and straightforward for you as possible – all you need to do is enter your car reg and postcode into the fields on our site, and we’ll get you an instant online quote before you can say cash for cars. It only takes a few seconds. Curious to find out how much your car is worth?

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