For those of you who thought the doctor was needlessly calling #badwolf last Sunday in response to the automotive industry’s push for autonomous automobiles, SI would like to point out this recent BBC News article stating that Toyota is to recall 1.9 Million Prius hybrids.
Why is Toyota recalling 1.9 Million Prius hybrids? A software fault that may cause the vehicle to slow down suddenly. To date it has identified more than 400 reports of the problem, with the bulk of them occurring in (the heavily congested streets and highways of) Japan and North America. According to Toyota in limited cases, the hybrid system might shut down and the vehicle will stop, perhaps while being driven.
In other words, all a hacker has to do to cause multiple fatal multi-car pileups is hack the OnStar network and send a signal to all Prius’ vehicles to execute that specific part of the code. They don’t even have to break the OS and figure out how to craft a small virus that will hijack the control system or execute a dangerous set of commands — the hacker just has to send a signal telling the OS to execute the set of commands already there.
Now, presumably, this would (hopefully) result in the brake lights being triggered and the outcome may not be as deadly as it would be otherwise, but what about the other 99 Million Plus lines of code. How many similarly dangerous, untested, and, as-yet, unexecuted code sequences are also in the Prius? And every other electronically controlled car on the road?
They’ve yet to release a personal OS that isn’t riddled with more holes than there are potholes in Canada’s winter roads*1! I’m all for technological advance, but until we figure out how to write more bullet-proof, and secure, operating systems, let’s keep the OS out of the car and on the desktop where it belongs.
*1 A slice of swiss cheese is quite solid in comparison!