Will your computer car become a thief?

The unnerving reality is that your new car is a computer on wheels. Do you have anti-virus protection?

A March 7, 2019 article by Jim Motavalli of the New York Times entitled “Locking More Than the Doors as Cars Become Computers on Wheels”, gives us an insight of what is now, and what is likely to come in the near future with automotive information systems and computers. One of the points made in the article is that an average car has over 250 million lines of computer code. It also informs that it is estimated that, in 2018, 330 million vehicles vehicles were connected to the internet and that number is likely to jump to 775 million by the year 2023. In 2015 a hacker was able to build a device for under $100 that could take control of any General Motors car using its OnStar communications system.

Automakers have been working hard at improving their cybersecurity but nothing is foolproof. As we advance forward cars will begin to communicate with each other and also with infrastructure existing along roadways. As these systems become more complicated the opportunity for problems to occur is increased. In the future of autonomous vehicles what has not been emphasized is that removing a human driver opens a pandora’s box with new challenges in determining how the vehicle functioned and whether it functioned as it should. The typical automotive technician will have no idea as those details will be within the propitiatory computers and modules of the manufacturers.

Yet, there are solutions.

For short range travel a simple device called a bicycle might help. Many alternatives to the typical bicycle can be incorporated including hybrid bikes that use small engines to increase travel distances and offer help to less athletic riders who are challenged by active transportation. It is not clear whether bicycles will also be required to be computerized in the future so as to communicate with cars, but nothing is on the horizon, yet.

In the meantime drivers need to consider how they will protect their privacy and personal identification in this wild west of evolving technology.