Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Who is connecting to your car?

Nick Sugimoto, Senior Program Director o Honda's Silicon Valley Lab (HSVL) was the guest speaker at the recent Western Automotive Journalist's February meeting. Honda, like a half dozen or so other auto makers, is interested in the connectivity of vehicles.

I love technology but I also fear the spread of it. I've expressed this before. All of the connectivity might actually be a portal to hack into a car's computer system. Right now any hacking seems to be at the prank level; you know hackers showing that it is possible.

Before dinner I was speaking with a couple of educators. One mentioned something about using the Tire Pressure Monitoring System to hack into a car's computer. What? Intrigued, I Googled the topic. It's true! Up came this site: http://www.networkworld.com/article/2231495/cisco-subnet/defcon---hacking-tire-pressure-monitors-remotely.html. Just one more thing to worry about.

The proponents of all this techology envision a world of autonomous cars zooming down an Interstate at maximum speed, bumper to bumper. They say that autonomous cars will eliminate auto accidents because the computers will see to that. But are computers infallible? No because they are created and programed by humans.

There was talk at our table about situations where the computer might have to decide between to fatal collisions, kind of a Sophie's Choice. While the idea might be appropriate for a philosophy class I'm not sure the public at large is ready for a "who should die, the mother or the baby" discussion.

So what is my fear about all these computer controls on our cars? Not that some geek will hack in and change your music choices. More along what would happened if an enemy decided to disable a few vehicles on our heaviest traveled routes. Have you seen what has happened to this nation during the recent snow storms? Trucking has been devastated. Now imagine an enemy blockading strategic highways by disabling a mess of computer controlled vehicles.

Think about all those autonomous cars speeding along at 100 mph. Now think of they mayhem if one car - ONE CAR - loses its connectivity while in a group of 20, 50, or 100 other connected cars.

What bothers me is that security seems to be an after thought of all the car companies. "Don't worry, we'll tackle that later" seems to be their attitude. I think we have already seen that these things have to be designed in at the onset, not fiddled with later. When reliability was an after thought the Big 3 almost went under. Let's make computer security part of the design, not something tacked on later.


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