What is the Biggest Safety Risk with “Smart” Cars?

smart cars

With the prevalence of smartphones and the long reach of the internet, it is no wonder that smart technology has integrated into the automobile. “Smart” cars (those with self-driven forms or systems equipped with artificial intelligence) and self-driving cars are already being used on the road. However, as it is with new technology, there are several vulnerabilities in a smart car that should concern present and future consumers, with security issues possibly the biggest safety risk of all.

Unfortunately, now that many aspects of our lives are reliant on technology, any type of security breach is possible. While hackers become more innovative in stride with innovations in technology, here are some vulnerabilities that a smart car owner should look out for:

  • Key fobs: Hackers can gain access of a driver’s key fob to gain physical access to their vehicle. Hackers are able to capture a key fob’s specific signal with an RFID receiver by using a relay attack, which then can unlock the vehicle. This is basically a computerized version of a duplicate key. To prevent a relay attack, cover your key fob with aluminum foil to prevent the signal from being stolen. This will weaken the signal of your key fob, which can decrease its vulnerability to attack, though it is not foolproof.
  • Car alarms: Car alarms are the main targets of security breaches, especially aftermarket car alarms. A recent study found that there are at least three million vehicles in the country at risk of theft due to insecure car alarms. Hackers can access the alarm’s software by exploiting the insecure direct object reference (IDORS), disable the alarm, unlock doors, track the vehicle’s GPS location, even kill the engine while it is running.
  • On-board diagnostic: Since 1996, all vehicles manufactured in the country were legally required to be equipped with an on-board diagnostics-II (OBD-II) port. Technicians who work on your vehicle use the OBD-II port to access and communicate with the vehicle’s computer. It can be used by hackers to access all the vehicle’s security measures.

How to Protect Your Smart Car from a Security Breach

All your smart devices are susceptible to a hack, including your car. Just like with any smart device, you want to take as many precautions as you can to protect your identity, yourself, and your family.

  • Update software: Update the firmware for your vehicle whenever you have the chance to do so. Even if you think it is not needed, or that it will take too much time, keeping your software up to date is the one of the best ways to keep hackers away. Car manufacturers are always trying to stay ahead of hackers by updating vehicle software systems, so whenever the manufacturer offers a software update, accept it.
  • Disable unused services: Your smart car has several access points that you should be aware of, because hackers are. If you are not using these connectivity ports, such as a Bluetooth connection, make sure you disable it.
  • Beta tester: When purchasing a smart car, make sure it is equipped with technology that has been tested for several years so that the “bugs” have been eliminated. It may not be the newest and shiniest technology, but at least you could feel a bit more secure knowing it is technology that has been passed the test.
  • Ask the right questions: Ask the dealer or manufacturer when first purchasing the car about possible software issues and what systems can be operated remotely, what features work together and how those gateways are secured.
  • Only used a trusted mechanic: Always be aware of who you give access to your car, including using a valet service. Mechanics need to use the OBD-II port when necessary, so make sure it is a mechanic you have worked with before and that you trust.

Other Problems with Smart Cars

Car manufacturers are working tirelessly to deliver a safe and affordable smart car that rids of the hassle of driving. And although there are many positives to the “autonomous” or self-driving vehicle, there comes just as many negatives. Here are just a few of the negatives of smart and driverless cars:

  • Boredom: When you are a passenger in a driverless car, you will likely fall into a state of boredom, or even fatigue. It can be mentally exhausting not having anything to do during long stretches of travel. Should an issue arise, a fatigued driver may not react fast enough, leading to a dangerous situation. Fatigue and drowsy driving is the cause of over 20 percent of highway accidents, which is one of the main reasons manufacturers are looking to the driverless car.
  • Hackers: As stated above, one of the biggest safety issues with smart cars are security problems and hacker activity. And there have been recent reports of successful hacks of today’s modern car. The problem is that driverless cars are controlled by computers and software, something that hackers can access. If a car’s system is compromised, its computers are exposed and can be controlled without the owner’s knowledge. Furthermore, because driverless cars are likely going to be networked together to give them the ability to communicate with each other, a hacker can infiltrate the network and cause chaos. Fortunately, manufacturers are hiring people to be in front of security issues.
  • Unemployment: One foreseeable problem with autonomous cars is the possibility that it could put bus drivers, delivery drivers and others out of a job. In 2019, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics found that there are more than two million tractor-trailer drivers. There were over 370,000 taxi and delivery drivers, as well as more than 680,000 bus drivers. With the rise of autonomous cars and trucks, that would mean that almost three million Americans will be out of work. Then, accounting for delivery and light truck drivers, that could mean four and half million workers. It could mean even more when accounting for supervisors, management, and support staff. The cost of retraining workers who lost their jobs because of autonomous vehicles could be very high.
  • Private ownership: As autonomous cars become more prevalent, there may someday be a driverless car system similar to a ride-sharing app, doing away with the private ownership of cars. It private ownership declines, it will likely mean an end to the automobile industry, which means millions of lost jobs and billions of dollars lost as well.
  • Auto insurance industry: The auto insurance industry is already a competitive market. With pricing based on a driver’s risk of an accident, driverless cars reduce that risk for both drivers and pedestrians, possibly doing away with the need of auto insurance. This likely means that the auto insurance industry’s business model will be out of date.
  • Car sickness: A recent study by the University of Michigan found that almost 12 percent of passengers of driverless cars will experience car sickness, nausea, and maybe even vomiting.

The rise of autonomous cars is already upon us and will change the way we live and travel. Of course, driverless vehicles will bring many benefits to the country, with reduced traffic accidents and less reliance on fossil fuels. However, there are many negatives to consider before completely switching over to the autonomous system. Negative aspects are already present with the new cars today; vehicles’ computer systems are getting hacked, and people are falling asleep or cannot react fast enough when the car malfunctions. Even with the new technology, you likely will need the help of an experienced car accident lawyer should you get into an accident with your smart vehicle.

Baltimore Car Accident Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Help Injured Drivers of Smart Car Accidents

Even with all the safety features, autonomous cars still have their dangers that every consumer must be aware of. Whether you have been injured by a smart car or a negligent driver, contact the Baltimore car accident lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. Our skilled and knowledgeable team has years of experience and can help you get the compensation you deserve. Call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or fill out our online contact form for a free consultation. With our offices located in Baltimore, Glen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, we proudly serve clients throughout Maryland.