Fiat Chrsyler Risk of Hack Kept From Regulators for 18 Months

grand cherokee

Remember last month’s Jeep hack? Turns out Fiat Chrysler knew about that possibility for 18 months. They didn’t even consider the breach a safety concern. The NHTSA thought differently, pushing a recall of 1.4 million vehicles. This is the first recall of its kind.

A couple days later, Fiat Chrysler agreed to pay $105 million in a penalty settlement against its terrible recall performance on other problems. At the same time, the NHTSA was dealing with its own issues regarding not getting unsafe vehicles off the road fast enough.

Under the Motor Vehicle Safety Act, automakers must notify NHTSA within five days of discovering a flaw that presents an unreasonable risk. Yet Fiat Chrysler didn’t see the Jeep hack as “a safety defect”.

With wireless technologies in vehicles on the rise – along with good, old fashioned American laziness, older drivers who probably shouldn’t be driving, and the increasing need for instant gratification – cyber security should be just as high on the priority list as any other safety feature. I should also note that these “infotainment” systems should probably never, in any way, be linked into the same control systems that actually run the vehicle, such as acceleration controls. BMW’s systems operate like this, where they’re not connected into vehicle controls, they are their own separate entity.

Harman International Industries, Inc. makes these “infotainment” systems for Fiat Chrysler, BMW, Daimler, Volvo, and many others. They are currently under investigation by the NHTSA and has said this issue doesn’t exist in any other vehicle.

Senators Markey, D-Mass., and Blumenthal, D-Conn., have introduced legislation to help the NHTSA with funding for research and personnel, as well as create a rating system for this type of vehicle safety. Other automakers and suppliers/distributors will also want to look into third-party, independent evaluations for such flaws, as the NHTSA doesn’t really have the knowledge, personnel, or technology to do conduct such evaluations.

More recently, UCSD (University of California-San Diego) researchers have found that OBD II plug-ins for insurance companies, like Progressive, and driving efficiency are also susceptible to hacking by simple text messages. If you’re not familiar with OBD II, it’s primarily used to help diagnose vehicle issues, tune, and monitor/control on-board computer systems. The researchers used a 2013 Corvette, which was equipped with a Mobile Devices dongle and cell phone. Mobile Devices has since issued patches for their hardware but other companies have not yet.

I will say, I’m glad my car only has Bluetooth, which can also be exploited, but has guards in place to prevent such issues.

How do you feel knowing these security flaws exist? Do these so-called “safety features” actually make you feel safer? Sound off in the comments below!

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