Back to the future or back to the drawing board?

By Ollie Horsley, Specialist Content Creator

There’s one story that has dominated the tech news this week and that’s the unveiling of Tesla’s much anticipated Cybertruck. Tesla CEO Elon Musk promised something different and that’s exactly what we got. The electric pickup looks like a mashup between something you would expect to see in Back to the Future and Blade Runner, and the design has certainly divided opinion. You can’t help but admire Musk’s insistence on being deliberately different!

Image credit: AOLCDN

A Tesla pickup truck makes plenty of sense on paper – the three top-selling vehicles in the US are pickup trucks and the consumer appetite for electric cars is clearly growing, so Musk knows his product has a market. But the Cybertruck needs to be aesthetically appealing to the majority of potential buyers to really make a dent in the marketplace and despite impressive pre-sale figures, those looks could restrict potential eventual sales.

Speaking of impacts, Musk used the launch event to demonstrate the durability of the truck’s bodywork by having the doors walloped with a sledgehammer. Unfortunately, the impact weakened the supposedly bulletproof ‘Armour glass’ of the windows, which shattered when a metal ball was thrown at them in an experiment that was supposed to demonstrate their strength…

Not many vehicles are currently fitted with bulletproof glass so this isn’t exactly a security measure that potential owners will be especially bothered about. But there is a big security question mark over a long-promised feature for Tesla vehicles, one that is yet to materialise. Musk has been promising fully self-driving capabilities for Tesla vehicles for a while now, meaning passengers won’t have to pay any attention to the road. Tesla’s existing self-driving functionality requires drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road. While it doesn’t look like full self-driving mode will happen anytime soon, the risks are already being explored.

A new report from Europe’s cybersecurity agency ENISA warns that increased connectivity and automation exposes vehicle owners to several crucial cyber threats. Armour glass might help us escape from hijacking events, but automakers need to think about security measures to stop vehicles being hacked and systems being overridden while we’re riding in them.

As the world becomes increasingly connected, we are becoming more exposed to cyber threats and as we see more connectivity and automation – not just in the way we travel but in other sectors too including construction and infrastructure – security will become increasingly important.

To overcome the challenge ahead, automakers may have to work closely with cybersecurity experts and agencies like ENISA to keep potential threats at bay. It’s inevitable that as the reality of self-driving vehicles on public roads draws closer, regulations will be put into place to protect public safety and this could add further delay to Musk’s promise of a fully autonomous Tesla.

If, and when, self-driving cars and haulage trucks take to the roads, automakers need to be considering the safety aspects of the technology that is being put into vehicles. If they don’t, we could really find ourselves in a dystopian thriller like those that inspired the design of the Cybertruck.