Recent revelations concerning deliberate and accidental misuse of vehicle computer software have led consumers to wonder if their vehicles may be vulnerable to manipulation by unscrupulous parties for personal gain or malicious intent. What are the possible issues with vehicle software manipulation?
Vehicles can be programmed to adjust modes of operation when undergoing testing in order to affect results. This allows vehicles to be sold in countries that have more stringent standards for issues such as vehicle emissions. This type of deception misleads socially conscious consumers into believing that their vehicle is more environmentally friendly, and may affect their decision to purchase the vehicle. In addition, purchase of environmentally friendly vehicles is often rewarded with government tax incentives. If the vehicles are not truly low emission vehicles, it constitutes fraud. Software manipulation for such relatively benign objectives as cheating on emissions testing could lead to intentional avoidance of safety standards if unscrupulous individuals decide that the cost of possible fines or lawsuits is outweighed by profits from selling unsafe vehicles.
Computer controlled safety features have contributed greatly to driver and passenger safety. Innovations such as antilock braking systems, parking assistance, and lane correction have enabled your vehicle to recognize and correct safety concerns much faster than human drivers.
Because these features are usually isolated and self-contained, there has been limited opportunity for hackers to infiltrate and manipulate these systems, unless they have physical access to a port in the vehicle's central processor.
However, new systems are being developed and installed that integrate all of these individual systems with a vehicle's entertainment system. This will allow the vehicle's central processor to place a call to emergency services through a Bluetooth-linked cellphone when sensors indicate that a crash has occurred.
Conversely, it also allows wireless access to the vehicle's safety control features, and presents an opportunity for hackers to manipulate or monitor these features.
Stalkers could then have access to a vehicle's GPS system, while terrorists or others with malicious intent could remotely engage features that would cause the vehicle to crash.
An MP3 file could be used to infect multiple vehicles and could cause widespread havoc if it creates a simultaneous malfunction in computerized vehicle safety systems.
If manufacturers' proprietary rights to access to their software were softened, auto repair shops, like AutoMedics, will have opportunities to discover software anomalies, whether they are planned or accidental, and report them to the proper authorities for correction or punishment as circumstances warrant.