Members of Congress have formally asked the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to convene an industry-wide effort to prevent possible hacks on the computer systems in vehicles, raising the spotlight on the challenges that regulators face as technology advances and cars become even more reliable on automated programming for everyday functionality.
This latest development is one of several attempts to quash concerns that lawmakers first broached in July 2015 after an article in WIRED magazine chronicled the experiments of two hackers-turned-software engineers, who took control of a 2014 Jeep SUV by accessing its computer console from a remote location.
In that case, the hackers were able to gain control of the Jeep’s on-board diagnostics port (OBD) and steer it off its course. Automakers have been required to install OBDs in all vehicles since 1994 to test for emissions compliance. With computer software and hacking becoming increasingly sophisticated, coupled with an already-vulnerable system, congressional leaders are trying to get ahead of the curve.
Leading the charge is U.S. House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton. Upton is asking the NHTSA to report back in October with any progress and to make NHTSA staff members available to speak on the issue. The NHTSA has said that it plans to roll out a series of proposals to ensure that automakers comply with future regulations, though the timeline remains a work-in-progress.
For now, it looks like Congress is taking a more public stand to force the issue. The U.S. Justice Department has already begun the process of constructing a threat analysis team to look over the national security implications of car hacking, and this latest request from Upton comes on the heels of a report in March by the Federal Bureau of Investigation that cited a warning that cars were “increasingly vulnerable” to hacks by outside parties.