You know how self-driving cars are going to solve all our driving woes? Fewer accidents, less congestion, more time for self-improvement behind the wheel? A golden age of high-tech transportation? Uh, yeah. Well, about that… along with those cool things, this wireless technology might allow felons to hijack your ride and steal your private information.
Other than that, everything's fine. Just great!
A recent report entitled Tracking & Hacking: Security & Privacy Gaps Put American Drivers at Risk shows wireless vehicles are vulnerable to security breaches and privacy intrusions. Staff working for United States senator Ed Markey, a member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, collected information about wireless security from 16 auto makers, among them BMW, Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors.
They found that almost 100 per cent of vehicles were vulnerable to being hacked. Though it hasn't happened yet, studies have shown show that hackers can control vehicles remotely. A crook with the right tools and the wrong attitude could steal personal data and would be able to – among other things – cause a car to accelerate, turn, brake, sound its horn, and turn headlights on and off.
Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, says "Drivers have come to rely on these new technologies, but unfortunately, the auto makers haven't done their part to protect us from cyber-attacks or privacy invasions. Even as we are more connected than ever in our cars and trucks, our technology systems and data security remain largely unprotected."
In other words: crooks don't need a crowbar – just an iPad. Cue the hysteria. Yet if we're being honest, the only thing surprising about high-tech cars being open to cyber-hacking is that anyone is surprised.
That's how technology works. It was bound to happen, as sure as the sun rising in the morning. Think of it as a "cost circle." Here's how it works:
Self-Driving Car Cost Circle
- Companies introduce technological innovations that promise to free us from such burdensome tasks as paying attention while driving our cars. These new technologies aren’t free. In fact, they’ll cost a lot but think of all the effort we’ll save. No more having to pay attention while driving!
- Not long after we’ve all adopted them, it turns out that these technologies are vulnerable to terrible criminal misuse. Not to worry though, there is an easy solution – more technology. It costs more money but it’s worth it for the peace of mind that comes from knowing the technology we bought before is safe.
- A week after we’ve bought everything we need it’s discovered that all the technology we bought is out of date and we need to buy more technology.
- The cycle repeats.
That's the pitch auto manufacturers will make to consumers but we shouldn't be too quick to buy it. After all, the industry's first response to any kind of safety or security offering is to claim that drivers should pay the cost. When seat belts and air bags were first introduced, many believed that the alleged price increase would kill their implementation. Today, they're standard issue.
And is it really too much to ask that the people who design our four-wheeled miracle cars make sure they are secure? "If an automotive manufacturer is able to build in Bluetooth and keyless entry and remote start and navigation and WiFi," Markey told National Public Radio, "then they should also be able to build in software packages which protect privacy and safety of drivers."
They'll more than make up the expense. The idea of self-driving cars is to allow us to be "connected" (read: spend money) while driving. If you make the cars secure the cash will flow.
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