We all remember the Toyota acceleration defect nightmare that occurred
between 2009 and 2013, a defect affecting about 11 million vehicles. This
automobile defect was due to accelerators that jammed and caused vehicle
to accelerate without drivers’ intending them to. Fortunately, this
defect is said to have been corrected, but not without numerous injury,
wrongful death, and class action claims were brought against Toyota.
While this unfortunately defect was blamed on manufacturing errors in Toyota
vehicles, a new fear is circling auto manufacturers such as Ford, General
Motors, and Toyota. It has been reported that the vulnerability of hacking
is high in a majority of vehicles on roadways today. Wireless technologies
could pose a threat to driver safety, as well as privacy, as automobiles
become more and more dependent on sophisticated electronic structures.
In February, a report was released stating that smart phones, wireless
networks, and systems such as OnStar could pose a hacking vulnerability
that would allow vehicles to unexpectedly accelerate, deactivate braking,
turn, and more. Hackers could potentially access a vehicle’s navigation
and location/driving history as well. Because of the state-of-the-art
technologies employed in vehicles as a standard, drivers rely on technologies
that may lead to cyber-attacks on our safety and security.
This vulnerability was proven in a “60 Minute” segment that
featured a new vehicle being hacked into with a laptop computer. The vehicle’s
horn was sounded, brakes were deactivated, and windshield wipers turned
on from this remote computer without the driver’s control. While
no reports have surfaced of this hacking taking place in a real world
environment, it is still worrisome to drivers on roadways today. One hacking
capability that has been proven is that doors can be unlocked remotely
with software purchasable on the web. Because this motor vehicle vulnerability
is already an issue, the potential for further hacking vulnerabilities
may be abundant.
The NHTSA is investigating these potential vulnerabilities, so we hope
that they do not cause future accidents. As our technologies advance,
our security systems must advance as well so that drivers are safe behind