Photo courtesy of Tesla Motors

19 Self Driving Car Terms You Really Need To Know

Don't get behind the wheel of a self driving car without knowing your stuff.

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The miracle of sitting back and having someone or something do the driving for you comes with caveats. Here's a glossary of things to watch out for as you—and your cloud-connected car—motor forward into the 21st century.


Using information around a vehicle to adjust its behavior. Often used with "adaptive cruise control," where a car can increase or lower its speed depending on the traffic, and also the speed, of the car directly in front of it.

Aftermarket devices

These are products made to work with a vehicle, that don't come with the car when you drive it off the lot. Experts believe they should be used with caution, specifically radar detectors and diving assist devices not specifically manufactured by the same people who built your car. Why? They may not be held to the same standard as those from the original automaker, says Tyler Moffitt, a senior threat research analyst at Webroot, an Internet security firm.


Anti-virus software can locate, identify and then kill a computer virus. Because cloud-connected cars talk to other Internet-connected objects they are vulnerable to hacking just like any other device. Experts say that antivirus products, designed specifically for cloud-connected cars, are in the works.


A fully autonomous car, or vehicle, is one that can run—and drive—without any human intervention at all. This would mean a vehicle without controls or steering wheels. But some groups, like SAE, define different levels of autonomy, from 0 to 5, where Level 1, for example, would include adaptive cruise control, and a Level 5 would give all controls to the driving system.


When a system takes over, and the driver no longer needs their hands on the wheel. This allows a vehicle to stay on its course without human intervention. But people can still take control of the car. This is an autonomous car with training-wheels that really can't come off.


Bluetooth uses wireless, radio waves to connect devices together that are within close proximity to each other. Bluetooth features are already a standard in many newly issued cars, allowing drivers, for example, to answer and make phone calls through their car as long as their smartphone is nearby. Hackers can initiate Bluetooth attacks, by accessing unprotected Bluetooth ports.

Cloud Connected

Devices linked through the cloud, i.e. the Internet. Most wireless devices that speak to each other are cloud connected—sending information wireless to the Internet, which then another device reads by connecting wirelessly to the Internet to read.

Diagnostics port

Also called an OBD port (for on-board diagnostics port), this is usually located under the dash, and is in basically every car made after 1996. Mechanics often link into this port to read diagnostic details from your car, and detect problems. Many wireless products for your car are plugged into the ODB or diagnostics port.

Driver Assistance

A far cry from self-driving capability, driver assistance tools are those that kick in for a few seconds or minutes—but do not take operations away from the person steering the wheel. Some common examples are lane warnings, if a car steers out of a lane and obstacle warnings, such as a car getting too close to another vehicle when parallel parking.


How a hacker gets into your car's system. The car's infotainment system and wireless systems are the easiest to operate remotely, says Webroot's Moffitt.


The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a federal regulatory, which enforces traffic safety standards, and has created classifications for automated vehicles. The group investigates incidents around self-driving cars.


A remedy to a security risk that your manufacturer will issue as soon as they are aware of a vulnerability. Update your car's software as soon as the patch becomes available.


Radar is a system that uses radio waves to detect other objects. Self-driving cars can be equipped with radar to help the vehicle read the area around it.

Security Protocols

The security of a cloud-connected car is only as strong as its weakest link, says Chris Wysopal, chief technical officer and co-founder of Vericode, an application security company based in Burlington, Massachusetts. Different parts of your car or may come from different manufacturers and those manufacturers may have different security protocols, he says.


The Big Kahuna, self-driving is the ultimate goal of many car makers today, a vehicle that can tell what's around it and operate completely without any human involvement.


In self-driving cars, sensors are devices that a vehicle uses to detect what's around it—from obstacles in the road such as pedestrians to other cars. Think of these as part of a self-driving car's eyes. These details can also link to GPS technology to tell a vehicle where it is on the road.


The brain of your self-driving car, software is a program, a series of commands that runs a computer or a similar device. Here, the computer is an autonomous car.

The Dirty Dozen

Webroot threat analyst Tyler Moffitt says these 12 makes and models are potentially most in danger of being hacked.

2015 Chrysler 200
2015 Chrysler 300
2015 Dodge Challenger
2015 Dodge Charger
2014-15 Dodge Durango
2013-15 Dodge SRT Viper
2014 Jeep Cherokee
2014-15 Jeep Grand Cherokee
2013-15 Ram 1500 pickup
2013-15 Ram 2500 pickup
2013-15 Ram 3500 pickup
2013-15 Ram pickup (Mexico)
Talk to your dealer if your car is listed above.


This is something that takes a person from one place to another. Yes, self-driving cars are what we hear about the most, when we talk about autonomous vehicles. But how about drones? EHang is developing a drone that's more like a helicopter—a vehicle that will shuttle people, and expected to be autonomous.

WiFi Hotspots

A WiFi hotspot lets someone connect to Internet, even from a remote location. You can install a mobile hotspot in your car. Just make sure you locked down the security.

-Additional reporting by Lauren Barack

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