Most of the systems in your car are actually controlled by a computer: the engine, the suspension, the seats, the mirrors, and even the air conditioning. Some alarming news stories recently have asked, “Can the computers running your car be hacked just like your laptop or smartphone?”
Consumer Reports got to experience a controlled hack by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as it researches car security. The demonstration showed how Consumer Reports Auto Editor Mark Rechtin was left helpless at the wheel. With a laptop hardwired to the car, a NHTSA engineer took control of the horn, seat belts and even the car’s brakes and steering.
Rechtin’s reaction: “My hands aren’t leaving the wheel. Wow. The seatbelt pre-tensioner is going. The fan is going full blast. The horn’s going. The windows are going up and down all at once. It’s quite the haunted car.”
While this may sound unsettling, Consumer Reports said this isn’t a reason to panic. Director of Consumer Reports Auto Testing Jake Fisher said, “The benefits of auto computers far outweigh the risks. This is not a reason to run out and buy a computer-less, 20-year-old car.”