Regulating cybersecurity attacks has forced automakers to make friends with former foes and to start sharing information with competitors.
Though the industry is still in the early days of tackling the cybersecurity issue, the traditionally protective industry has indicated it is willing to relax competitive privacy standards in the name of safety.
Last year, the auto industry created the Automotive Information Sharing and Analysis Center, or Auto-ISAC. The group is designed to offer a secure platform so suppliers and automakers can share information on cyber threats and to track and analyze intelligence.
"Automakers are committed to being proactive and will not wait for cyber threats to materialize into safety risks," said Tom Stricker, Auto-ISAC chairman, after the group released industry best practices guidelines in July. "I'm proud of the way we have united to endeavor to minimize the risks our consumers might face from cybersecurity and privacy threats."
Cybersecurity "cannot be solved by one party alone," said Di Ma, a professor at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute. The automakers will have to push back against their conservative nature, she said, and open up to new partnerships, the government and to their competitors. "This will have to be a group effort."
Cybersecurity is a top priority for government regulators planning for automated and connected vehicles.
"Cybersecurity threats are the most significant threats to consumer security," said Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., who is on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. "With autos, it certainly has to be front and center from day one."
So far, companies have been receptive to working with regulators and have understood the gravity of cybersecurity threats, he said.
Automakers "fully understand that if autonomous vehicles are going to move forward and gain wide public acceptance, they have to make sure they are protecting people from cyber attacks," Peters told Automotive News.
In September, the Department of Transportation and NHTSA released guidelines on autonomous vehicle regulation, including developing cybersecurity practices for vehicles with automation. The guidelines suggest automakers conduct risk assessments at every stage of production and document all actions regarding cybersecurity.
"Each industry member should not have to experience the same cyber vulnerabilities in order to learn from them," the report read.
Peters encouraged automakers to take cross-industry communication even further, establishing one place where companies develop and test vehicles side by side.
"A cyber attack will be focused on the weakest link, and we have to identify what those links are," he said. "The best way to do that is to have everyone in the same spot testing and validating their systems."