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Can the Modern Car Be TOO Modern?

October 5, 2017 • Steve Cyr • Tags:


Technology is super awesome. It has become completely normal to put your friend in Beijing on FaceTime hold while you check to see what food you have in your fridge from your smartphone all while updating your online social network about how crowded the grocery store is today. Lately, the IoT (Internet of Things) has started to become a major part of our lives, including being integrated into the vehicles we drive.

Man Holding Tablet

The IoT is the network of devices, vehicles, and other items that can connect to one another and collect or exchange data. This has brought to pass standard things like Bluetooth in your car to live traffic GPS data all the way to remote updates that increase the battery life of Tesla vehicles. These capabilities are awesome and useful to a lot of people (especially when you’re trying to dodge pesky traffic after work), but with so much remote access, is there a risk of people other than the intended parties accessing your car? Some studies have said yes, and it’s sort of creepy.

One of the latest stories released that’s meant to show the gaps in new car cyber security comes from TechCrunch. In this article, the author drove a vehicle through a private car park while the hackers sat in back and wirelessly tapped into the car’s control systems and did things like disrupt the speedometer, activate the windshield wipers, and even do more terrifying things like disable the gas pedal and the breaks. What on earth is happening?

As mentioned before, the experiment was conducted in a controlled environment so there was little to no danger to any of the passengers, but the event made for some disturbing implications. What would happen if someone decided to do these same things to a vehicle traveling 70 mph? It’s no longer fun and games and someone saying, “watch how crazy this is,” anymore; it’s serious business. And what’s even crazier is that manufacturers have known about these kind of weak links for at least a few years.

Enter two ethical hackers: Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek. Two years ago, they conducted an experiment using a Jeep Cherokee as the example to show similar results in partnership with Wired. After proving the amount of control they had over the vehicle, they took to a wireless network to further prove that they could do the same things to cars all over the country connected through the same signal. Now that’s some serious stalker stuff…

Woman Relaxing in Self Driving Car

The good news is that it’s not all the Wild West when it comes to connected cars. Steps have already been taken to mitigate the risks involved with adding more and more tech to our vehicles. For instance, legislation has been proposed multiple times regarding the SPY Car Act, which is meant to set standards regarding cyber security in cars as decided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the FTC. Others have proposed a similar approach to that of self-driving vehicles that includes a list of best practices and self-evaluation guides for manufacturers.

The only issue is that nothing has been seriously decided on, all the while more tech is flying out the door and being placed behind the wheel.

At the very least, decision makers know that increasing technology in cars has open the door to new problems and are trying to find a solution. On top of that, the public is growing increasingly aware of the ability that hackers have to get into their cars and are further putting pressure on manufacturers to protect against them! One of the biggest issues is the fact that now the public has tasted increased connectivity, they don’t want to have it taken away. This leaves us scrambling to catch up with the technology rather than running interference in the first place. As Sam Lauzon, a senior engineer at the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute said, “Security was, at one point, an afterthought… you don’t usually know there is a problem until it’s too late.”

What are your thoughts about tech in new cars? Are you worried about hackers getting into your vehicle? Let us know your thoughts on our Facebook page!