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Driverless Cars: Keeping Them From Being Hacked is Difficult

» Posted October 13, 2017Resources | Share This Post

Today, drivers face far too many problems with their new vehicles, as there have been a record number of recalls in recent years due to serious safety defects. While there are consumer protection laws like the Sacramento lemon law, which help to ensure most motorists have some legal remedies when things go wrong, coping with car problems has still become a major hassle for millions.

Unfortunately, things are likely only to get worse and drivers could soon face new and unprecedented problems thanks to changes in vehicle technology. The issue: the coming revolution in transportation caused by driverless vehicles. These driverless cars should, theoretically, prevent accidents, according to their proponents. But, as Wired explains, securing driverless cars from hackers is very challenging and motorists could be very vulnerable if their vehicle is tampered with.

Driverless Cars are Vulnerable to Being Hacked

Several years ago, the auto industry was shook by a demonstration of how hackers could affect vehicles. The vehicles that were included in the demonstration weren't fully automated or self-driving-- but they were connected cars with technology that hackers could take control of to use in ways that could create risks for motorists.

As part of the demonstration, a Jeep Cherokee was hacked into via the vehicle's Internet connection and was disabled on the highway so the car became paralyzed.  Security researchers also showed that hackers with either wired connections to vehicles or over-the-Internet access to vehicles could turn the car's steering wheel, cause the cars to accelerate even when the drivers didn't want them to, could disable the brakes on vehicles, or could cause the car to hit the brakes even when the driver didn't want them to.  The security experts were able to make different kinds of cars, like the Jeep and a Prius, do these things by using the collision avoidance system to hit the brakes and by using the cars self-parking systems to move the steering wheel even when the cars were not parking but were traveling at 80 MPH.

After this troubling demonstration, Uber hired the two security researchers who had showcased the Jeep's vulnerabilities to try to secure Uber's self-driving cars against hacking.  One of the two security experts has now left Uber, and is issuing a warning to the entire automotive industry about how difficult it is to actually keep connected cars safe from being hacked. 

Driverless cars will rely on computers to handle everything from hitting the brakes to controlling the steering wheel. There will be far more automation than on the cars that were hacked in 2013. And, while drivers were able to override the attacks demonstrated in 2013, it could be more difficult for drivers to do that once the cars are totally autonomous.

The self-driving vehicle industry will need to be closely regulated to ensure that cars are not made vulnerable to dangerous hacking and to try to minimize risks to drivers. Unfortunately, more technology does inherently mean more potential for things to go to wrong.  A Sacramento lemon law lawyer can provide help to motorists whose vehicles malfunction, both now and in the future when self-driving cars become more common and the risks of problems rises.


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