13 Aug
Hackers reveal security flaws with connected cars.

Hackers remotely gain control of Jeep Cherokee

In years gone by, driving safety measures centred largely around keeping vehicles properly maintained and encouraging drivers to wear a seatbelt and stay within the speed limit. While these elements are still important in today's world, the overall scope of driving safety requirements is wider and more technologically advanced than ever before. 

What are the advantages of connected cars?

Over the last half decade or so, we've seen the auto world fully embrace the digital side of things, with almost every car manufacturer beginning to integrate internet connections into their line ups. Connected vehicles are capable of greater fuel economy, according to business analysts SAS and, when used in conjunction with a business fuel card, can significantly reduce costs at the pump. 

Alongside the greater efficiency, they also come with a range of benefits for fleet managers and everyday drivers alike, such as navigation systems, voice command, automated diagnostics and much more. However, the flip side to this connectivity is that it makes the cars susceptible to malicious attacks from hackers.

Journalist volunteers for hacking experiment

Late last month, a terrifying report from Wired journalist Andy Greenberg detailed how he volunteered himself as the test subject of a vehicle hacking experiment. Cruising around St. Louis in a Jeep Cherokee, Mr Greenberg watched helplessly as his air con went haywire, radio began flicking through stations and windscreen wipers came to life of their own accord. 

What started off as mere inconveniences quickly developed into real safety concerns. Later in the experiment, the hackers also cut the transmission and brakes, leaving Mr Greenberg utterly helpless inside the rogue vehicle. 

Future security concerns

How will auto manufacturers ensure driver safety in the years to come?How will auto manufacturers ensure driver safety in years to come?

The implications are clear. Any car connected to the internet is potentially at risk of being compromised by those with ill-intentions and the technical know how. What's more, security problems are going to become increasingly pronounced as more connected cars hit the market. PricewaterhouseCoopers estimated that by 2020 there will be 220 million connected cars on roads around the world, with sales of these vehicles topping an incredible $2.3 trillion. With so many at-risk vehicles on the roads, car manufacturers will need to stay one step ahead of the hackers to ensure driver safety. 

Fiat Chrysler has responded proactively to the hacks, recalling around 1.4 million U.S. vehicles equipped with 8.4-inch touchscreens, including certain models within the following vehicle ranges: Dodge Viper, Dodge Ram, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Dodge Durango, Chrysler and Dodge Challenger.

The marque has already applied additional security measures to keep their vehicles safe from remote manipulation, though how effective this will be still remains to be seen. 

Road safety used to be centred around mechanical factors, but technology is changing the logistics industry in ways that we have never experienced before. As connected cars steadily gain traction in New Zealand, fleet managers need to be aware of the potential risks their drivers will face in the future.