As the government notes in the introduction to its guidance paper, cars are "more vulnerable than ever to hacking and data theft" thanks to new capabilities, including internet Wi-Fi hot spots, and autonomous driving features.
The new guidelines stipulate automakers should work together with their suppliers to ensure security is a high priority at every stage of a car's design, with elements of the car's internal software architecture isolated from each other, so a bug or vulnerability in, say, the infotainment system doesn't affect its active safety equipment.
Additionally, the car's systems should be "resilient to attacks and respond appropriately when its defences or sensors fail".
With future vehicles likely to rely more and more on external cloud services to assist with self-driving and other functions, the government wants automakers to ensure communication channels and data storage facilities are secure, and allow users to delete their personal data on demand.
The government also says manufacturers should manage the "security of all [automotive] software" with appropriate "aftercare and incident response to ensure systems are secure over their lifetime".
In announcing the new guidelines, Lord Callanan, the UK's transport minister, said: "Our cars are becoming smarter and self-driving technology will revolutionise the way in which we travel.
"Risks of people hacking into the technology might be low, but we must make sure the public is protected. Whether we’re turning vehicles into wi-fi-connected hotspots or equipping them with millions of lines of code to become fully automated, it's important that they are protected against cyber attacks."
Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, said in statement, "A consistent set of guidelines is an important step towards ensuring the UK can be among the first – and safest – of international markets to grasp the benefits of this exciting new technology.”
Car makers and technology companies are investing heavily in self-driving technology, with the Audi A8 and its level three autonomous driving system due to go on sale globally later this year.
In some markets, the car will be able to steer, brake and accelerate on its own. In normal circumstances the driver will be free to do other things, although they will be required to take over if a situation is beyond the car's ability.
Cover image: Big Ben by marcosramanunez on Flickr.