Tesla CEO Elon Musk told a hacker conference in Las Vegas he plans to "open source" the software Tesla uses to secure autonomous-driving features from hacks or takeovers, eventually allowing other carmakers to use it.
It's a bid to make autonomous vehicle software safer by opening the software to more scrutiny, he told a private audience of around 100 people on Friday at DEFCON, an annual cybersecurity defense conference held in Las Vegas.
"I think one of the biggest concerns for autonomous vehicles is somebody achieving a fleet-wide hack," he said according to people who attended. Musk confirmed the decision in a tweet on Saturday, writing it was "extremely important to a safe self-driving future for all."
Musk said the move is partly meant to show that Tesla is putting security concerns above worries over protecting intellectual property, according to the people. It's a departure from self-driving competitors that have fiercely protected their intellectual property, often through litigation (see Uber Technologies' dispute with Alphabet's Waymo").
For many companies, keeping source code secret has itself been considered a security measure. Proprietary source code's value is diminished, the thinking goes, because criminals would rather find and exploit software that many corporations use at once, giving them access to more targets.
But "obscurity" as a security strategy has proven ineffective in several cases.
For instance, software that would previously have been considered obscure — such as that which runs voting machines or operations and control rooms within electrical plants — has proven both vulnerable and desirable to criminals. In addition, while keeping code secret makes it harder for attackers to find and exploit holes, it also makes it harder for security researchers and customers to find holes and demand a fix.