The story recently told by one Wired.com reporter sounds like a Hollywood script.
As the author drove his Jeep Cherokee down the highway, the radio suddenly kicked on, blasting rap music. Then without warning, the air conditioning turned up full blast. The windshield wipers began scraping against the dry windows. And then – the scariest moment of all – the sport utility vehicle, which had been in “drive,” suddenly went into “neutral” gear. Then the brakes were disabled, and the driver was forced to steer into a ditch.
The Jeep had been “hacked” by two individuals. The writer was a knowing participant, though it had been with the understanding the hackers wouldn’t do anything that would endanger him or other motorists. They did not exactly keep their word, though thankfully, no one was injured.
The incident is being called a “wake-up call” to the auto manufacturing industry. The manufacturer of the Jeep, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, had failed to protect the internet-connected systems – now being widely used to modernize the American automobile – from outside forces.
Chrysler is not the only auto company to do this, and thus, it raises serious questions about how safe we all are when an anonymous, outside source can suddenly access and control our vehicles when we are traveling at 70 mph.
While Crysler insists it has already “plugged the hole” that allowed these hackers to access control of the vehicle through the entertainment system, it does not appear there has been any sweeping effort to build protective software to prevent the same kind of thing from happening again. Instead, most of those within the industry are relying on protocols that were established long before vehicles were able to electronically connect to the outside world.
These types of risks are going to continue to mount as car companies continue to add features to vehicles that allow a wider degree of digital communication with the outside world.
The entire incident also raises questions for our Greenville traffic accident lawyers about liability. Fortune Magazine reported the company had allegedly known about the hackers for some time, and in fact had even been communicating with them. It seems they were trying to understand how those individuals were able to gain such complete access. But what the company did not do was warn authorities, national regulators or the public of the possible danger.
If similar cases begin to crop up, there could well be a flood of product liability lawsuits against auto manufacturers if it appears they did not take reasonable measures to guard against this type of action, and it results in injury or death.
In the wake of the article, two senators introduced a bill that would mandate the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration develop privacy and security standards for vehicle electronics, and also offer public consumer ratings that indicate how well each manufacturer shields against hacker attacks like this.
This is a good start.
But the concern is that lawmakers can’t keep pace with every change in our rapidly-evolving technology. This is why auto manufacturers need to step up and ensure they are doing all they can to protect motorists and those who share the road.
Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
Hackers Remotely Kill a Jeep on the Highway–With Me in It, July 21, 2015, By Andy Greenburg, WIRED.com
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Lopez v. U.S. – Fault in a Rear-End Collision, July 7, 2015, Greenville Car Accident Lawyer Blog