Between smartphones, Wi-Fi hotspots and integrated infotainment systems, the United States public is connected at all time, even while driving and in our cars. There is no way to avoid it; within the next ten years, many experts believe that all vehicles produced for the U.S. market will come equipped with some sort of connect system. Connect systems are excellent allies for keeping drivers both entertained and safe, with their hands-free and voice-to-text capabilities. However, there are major risks that have been brought to the attention of many drivers and officials, with the possibility that their multifunctional connect systems are susceptible to hackers.
Though a hacked tablet or laptop is a major annoyance, a hacked infotainment system could be much more than just that, given that an infotainment system also has access to a vehicle’s vital internal functions. A report has been overseen by Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts, who has said that there are now a variety of ways that a vehicle’s electronics can be hacked – through smartphones, wireless networks, and infotainment systems. Federal regulators and Congress have become worried that hackers could interfere with a number of the vehicle’s systems, causing potentially disastrous situations.
The potential problems that hackers can cause are extremely dangerous. In January of 2015, BMW AG announced that they had to fix a security flaw within their vehicles electronics, which made 2.2 million of their vehicles in danger of having their vehicles doors remotely opened by hackers. Additional damage that hackers can cause include altering vital functions of a vehicle, including disabling the brakes, activating the acceleration, sounding the horn, modifying the gas and speedometer gauge readings, redirecting navigational systems, and controlling the headlights.
Sen. Markey has spoken to how vitally important it is that automakers, industry and government officials take this risk seriously. Progress needs to be made, according to Markey, “to establish clear rules of the road — not voluntary agreements — to ensure the safety and privacy of 21st-century American drivers.”
Luckily, there have been noticeable responses from some of the most important automotive related associations. Markey has specifically called upon the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the NHTSA, to take action, and the administration’s spokesman Gordon Towbridge has responded, saying that the agency is “engaged in an intensive effort to determine potential security vulnerabilities related to new technologies and will work to ensure that manufacturers cooperate and address issues in order to keep motorists safe.”
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