The notorious B.I.T: The effects of a ransomware and a screen failure on distraction in automated driving

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Connected and automated vehicles are vulnerable to cyber-attacks, which may jeopardise their safe and efficient operation and, as a result, negatively affect drivers’ behaviour. A major concern for such cyber-attacks is visual distraction inside the vehicle, which is one of the main causes of road accidents. In this empirical research using a driving simulator, 38 participants drove in a conditionally automated vehicle and experienced two types of failure: explicit (i.e., ransomware attack appearing on the in-vehicle screen) and silent (i.e., turn signals failed to activate on the in-vehicle screen and instrument cluster), while engaged in a non-driving related task. Drivers’ gaze behaviour, in terms of number and duration of fixation, were collected and analysed. Results showed that the HMI where the ransomware was displayed was the area of interest drivers looked at the most. The majority of drivers failed to notice that the turn signal was faulty. Nearly half of drivers looked at the ransomware for more than 12 s while driving. No effect on the timing of failure on gaze behaviour was observed. This research evidenced that ransomware attacks are distractive and pose significant risks to road safety – with one participant crashing the vehicle after resuming manual control. Data also evidenced that such connected vehicles are unlikely to meet NHTSA's distraction guidelines for safe use of in-vehicle devices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)42-52
Number of pages11
JournalTransportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour
Early online date11 Feb 2023
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023

Bibliographical note

© 2023 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY license


This works was supported by the UKRI Trustworthy Autonomous Systems Hub (grant number: EP/V00784X/1). The authors would like to thank Hesamaldin Jadidbonab whose technical expertise help develop the real-time link between the simulator and the HMI, and also the cyber-security co-investigators on the project: Giedre Sabaliauskaite and Siraj Shaikh


  • Eye-tracking
  • Cybersecurity
  • Automated driving
  • Failure
  • Distraction
  • Ransomware


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