British technologists have launched a groundbreaking study to explore ways that quantum computers can be used to prevent hackers from taking over self-driving cars.
The study, led by a team of cyber security researchers and quantum technology experts at Coventry University's Institute for Future Transport and Cities (FTC) and security company Crypta Labs, claim that the "randomness of light" could make driverless vehicles more secure.
Although self-driving cars are still in the early stages of development, it is believed that the first mass-market models will arrive some time in the 2020s. But there are fears that the always-connected vehicles could be a target for hackers.
In 2015, for example, a team of ethical hackers were able to hijack a Jeep Cherokee 4X4 as it drove on a busy highway. Security experts fear that such cases could happen in the real-world some day.
To mitigate these risks, Coventry University's cyber security research group has formed a partnership with London-based cyber security firm Crypta Labs.
Set to take place over the next twelve months, the project will use quantum computers in their research.
It is funded by the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) at InnovateUK, and is a part of the Connected and Autonomous Vehicles 2 scheme.
The researchers explained that the random number generators of most encryption systems are not as good as they could be and, because of this, vehicles could be hacked more easily than they should be.
Crypta Labs claims to have created a so-called quantum random number generator (QRNG) that, it says, can create random numbers by tapping into light particles.
In the project, the researchers will explore ways that the number generator can be used to develop more robust self-driving car security systems.
Professor Siraj Ahmed Shaikh, from Coventry University, said: "There could be significant consequences for the safety of drivers and passengers if any of these autonomous or connected cars were to be hacked and on-board control systems compromised to disrupt moving vehicles.
Joe Luong, CEO of Crypta Labs, added: "We believe quantum random number generation technology can have profound applications for transport and vehicle security.
"The project will serve to be a critical link in assessing how QRNG-based security could strengthen connected and autonomous vehicles."
The deployment of quantum computing to connected and self-driving vehicle security comes as Google claims to have developed an experimental 72-qubit quantum computing chip that it calls Bristlecore.
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