Concerns over cybersecurity have been a long-standing issue in the United States as we become more advanced in the technology we use day to day. In the past, the concerns have been more rooted in the theft of data, but as more aspects of daily life become automated, hackers have more targets that could physically harm people. One of the main targets, as the technology continues to develop, is automated or driverless cars.
Cybersecurity is considered crucial to self-driving and connected cars, which are growing more similar to computers on wheels with each passing day. These cars are hosting more communications systems that hackers can target.
Security experts have cited the terrifying hypothetical example of a remote attack on a fully autonomous vehicle with no steering wheel or brakes, in which the passenger would have no recourse to regain manual control of the car.
In September 2016, Chinese cybersecurity researchers hacked a Tesla Model S sedan, remotely tapping the brakes and popping the trunk. Tesla subsequently patched the bugs using an over-the-air fix. Although this is incredibly improbable, technically it is possible.
Tesla has been the first to champion “over-the-air” technology in which wireless software updates are sent remotely to cars. But at the same time, some have argued such updates are another way in for hackers, Tesla and others see the updates as a key protection to upgrade security and repair vulnerabilities quickly.
In January, U.S. lawmakers introduced a bill calling for cybersecurity standards for new cars, but so far U.S. regulators have issued recommendations, not rules, on how carmakers should shield their computer systems from hackers.
Not to mention, if a car was seen as vulnerable, it could be a huge problem with the brand. But keep in mind that the industry is a ways away from solving the cybersecurity issue. The first generation of cars that include some kind of detection capabilities will not be seen until early 2018.