Tuesday, July 28, 2015

So this time it's big, bad Chrysler. So what?

The media in the USA is all over Chrysler because of the recent fine (more than a billion dollars) and "buy-back" of affected vehicles. I'm not going to defend FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) but let's put this in perspective.

I'm old enough to remember a time when there were no recalls. A time when people died due to defective and unsafe cars and just about no one cared. I've seen the Covair debacle (it was a debacle not for its "unsafe at any speed" tag from Ralph Nader but for the way General Motors handled it. I vividly remember the Ford "Exploder" mess with Ford and Firestone trading insults and accusations. Recently we've seen GM in the cross hairs over a faulty ignition switch. Every single automaker has been involved in a safety recall at one time or another.

And every time a recall occurs it seems like it is bigger, or more expensive, than the previous recall.

The most recent problem, the "hacking of a Jeep", bothers me the most though. Not for the safety threat but more for the national security threat it hints at. If certain Jeeps are hackable then in reality almost every vehicle with a form of computer control is hackable.

I've said this before but it bears repeating - I have been told by knowledgeable people that on some vehicles it is possible to hack into a vehicle's onboard computer through the Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS).

Let's face it if a hacker can get into our nation's sensitive computer systems they can hack into your car. Right now hackers seem to be able to target only one car at a time. But what if they could hack into thousands at once? How many disabled vehicles would it take to shut down a major city?

I know I sound like Chicken Little (The sky is falling! The sky is falling!) but I am genuinely concerned. There is a rush to put more and more computer controlled technology in every car culminating in autonomous vehicles. Imagine if you will a driverless semi with a dual trailer that is hacked. Think of the havoc, the carnage that is possible.

There are more than enough problems facing every automaker. Most of the recalls do not involve any computer controls - premature rust, faulty parts, poor designs, etc, etc, are more likely. So why add in the possibility of hacking?

Other industries might have a higher percentage of faulty products but few have the potential to harm as many people. I don't know what the solution is but I do wish the auto industry would slow down the technology march. We used to talk about planned obsolescence; now it is rampant because that's the world of computers. Let's perfect the systems before they are installed into our vehicles. We deserve that much.

1 comment:

Bill Haskins said...

They'll never hack into my Mercedes Benz!