Today's vehicles can self-park, brake, and turn, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration worries that the advanced technology leaves cars and their internal computers susceptible to hacking.
Researchers have proved that it is sometimes easier to hack into a car's computer system than a mobile phone's. Case in point: Teams from the University of California San Diego and Washington University were both able to successfully disable a car's engine remotely in 2010, according to the BBC.
Now, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Electronics Systems Safety Research Division is investigating how to better protect a car's computer from hackers.
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"What has been revealed as a result of some research at universities is that it's relatively easy to hack your way into the control system of a car, and to do such things as cause acceleration when the driver doesn't want acceleration, to throw on the brakes when the driver doesn't want the brakes on, to launch an air bag," former U.S. National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Counter-terrorism Richard Clarke told The Huffington Post.
"You can do some really highly destructive things now, through hacking a car, and it's not that hard."
Some experts are even hinting that journalist Michael Hastings may have been a victim of car computer hacking after he crashed his Mercedes in Los Angeles and died June 18.
Hastings, whose explosive 2010 Rolling Stone profile of Stanley McChrystal led to the general's downfall, reportedly told friends and colleagues before he died that he was being investigated by the FBI. And what's more, the mangled, burned wreckage of his vehicle did not seem consistent with the report that he ran into a tree.
These revelations led to a slew of conspiracy theories
, with the latest one being that Hastings was a victim of a cyber attack via his car's computer system.
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"I'm not a conspiracy guy. In fact, I've spent most of my life knocking down conspiracy theories," Clarke told HuffPo. "But my rule has always been you don't knock down a conspiracy theory until you can prove it [wrong]. And in the case of Michael Hastings, what evidence is available publicly is consistent with a car cyber attack."
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