The latest occurrence of hackers being able to remotely control cars is proof that we, as a people, love gadgets and electronics as much as we love cars, if not more. As soon as the automobile was born, inventive minds were creating gizmos and gadgets for them. It didn’t take long before the first radio was installed in an automobile and things have snowballed ever since.
It started with things like radios and air conditioning but has now grown to smartphone connectivity, in-car WiFi and autonomous driving aids. In today’s world, smartphones are more like small computers that can make phone calls then phones that have computer-like functions. Cars are becoming similar, as more and more people are far more concerned with the gadgets equipped to the car than the way it actually drives.
This is no secret and technology companies are cashing in. Graphics giant nVidia reported a 76% increase in automotive business and is currently developing the graphical displays for infotainment systems as well as chips which read and react to the different sensors and cameras on new automobiles. Qualcomm is also providing multiple systems for automobiles, like OnStar and in-car WiFi.
The issue with all of these systems in an automobile is that, because they must all be linked together, if someone were to find a “break-in” point in the system, the entire system is compromised. And because the development process for automobiles is around five years, compared to the six months of the average electronic device, automakers are slow to fix such issues.
At the moment, there is much debate about the idea of more control being given to the car and having some taken away from the driver. There’s understandable fear to having such functions as the autonomous driving aids and automatic braking being remote controlled by hackers. It’s already possible, so the idea of having more control given to these susceptible systems can be frightening.
The practicality of having cars with smart functions, similar to smartphones, is admittedly great. It allows cars to have increased connectivity with our phones, blind-spot monitoring and other functions that add additional safety. There’s no denying the infinite amount of good that automotive connectivity can do. However, it can also go the other way. Matches in the right hands can create both warmth and light, but in the wrong hands can scorch the Earth. The same goes for anything of great power, much like the global connectivity of the automobile.
Due to intense legal regulations for such things, it’s unlikely we will not see fully autonomous vehicles or fully smart vehicles available to the masses for a very long time, maybe not even in my lifetime. It’s just not clear if we, as a society, can handle it. Until then, though, only someone with a heartbeat is allowed to drive my car.[Source: USAToday]