Self driving cars and their regulation is a hot topic today. Autonomous vehicles, not just cars but drones as well are being heavily invested in by companies like Facebook and Amazon and Google and Uber. The latter just let loose a fleet of self driving cars in Pittsburgh. And the US government just announced regulations for self driving cars. Everything seemed to be going great and then some Chinese researchers released a video showing how a Tesla Model S could be remotely hacked.
Cars like the Tesla Model S come with an internet connection. Modern cars are connected to the web and need the connection to work with apps and phones as well. Sometimes the connection can’t even be turned off because car companies want instant contact with emergency services in case of an accident. This in turn, makes the cars vulnerable to hacking. Like any machine with an internet connection, you just need patience and experience to hack it. The internet also helps the Advanced Driving Assistance System. This means anyone can remote control your car from basically any distance.
These researchers from Keen Security Labs managed to hack the Tesla car from 12 miles away. Since it was over the internet, it could essentially be done from thousands of miles away. The Tesla Model S hacked was using the latest firmware. The team demonstrated that they could open the sunroof, move the seats, open car doors and switch on turning signals without the use of a key. They could also open the trunk of the car, move the windshield vipers and fold the side mirror while the car was moving. They could also use the hack to push the brakes of the car.
All this may be very unnerving for some and it should be. Essentially this means that entire governments could cause traffic jams, car accidents and mass panic if they wanted to. Remember Chris Christie’s traffic scandal?
The team has so far disclosed all these issues to Tesla:
“As far as we know, this is the first case of remote attack which compromises CAN Bus to achieve remote controls on Tesla cars. We have verified the attack vector on multiple varieties of Tesla Model S. It is reasonable to assume that other Tesla models are affected.”
Tesla responded when asked for comment:
“Within just 10 days of receiving this report, Tesla has already deployed an over-the-air software update (v7.1, 2.36.31) that addresses the potential security issues,” said a Tesla spokesperson.”
Self driving cars are the future of mobility. They are an incredibly important part of the Internet of Things and will probably be some of the most efficient and life saving inventions of all time. Constantly receiving and transmitting data from and to traffic lights, other cars, bridges, highways and satellites, self driving cars will be able to regulate their own speed and motion depending on the obstacles and terrain ahead. If done right they would be able to save billions on fuel, energy, money and most importantly, time.