Road Safety: Could a New Agreement Boost Cybersecurity and Cut Car Recalls?
Automakers and the NHTSA aim to keep you safer on the roads of the future
If you own a webcam or home security system, you probably realize cybersecurity is an issue, since hackers may be able to access these devices if you’re not careful. Now, with the advent of connected cars, it’s an issue on the road, too — one of many safety issues a new accord between the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and at least 17 automakers aims to address.
The accord is “a historic agreement on a set of broad-ranging actions to help make our roads safer and help avoid the sort of safety crisis that generates the wrong kind of record-setting and headlines,” writes Anthony Foxx of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).
The agreement lists cybersecurity as a goal, part of the larger effort to “enhance safety for the traveling public.”
On the positive side, according to the DOT, connected vehicle technology, which connects cars with other cars and with infrastructure, should make drivers safer. For example, your car might warn you about a school zone, sharp ramp curve, slippery patch of roadway or pedestrian or bicyclist ahead. It might also warn you a crash is imminent.
DOT says this technology also will cut down on traffic jams. The thousands of vehicles using the system can transmit information, and transportation officials can manage roadways accordingly, such as by adjusting the timing of traffic lights or dispatching maintenance crews for road repairs.
On the negative side, connectedness poses cybersecurity threats. Hackers could wreak havoc if they got into these systems. To guard against the danger, auto makers and the government agree to:
- Develop suggested best practices that reflect lessons learned within and outside of the auto industry to foster enhanced cyber resiliency and effective remediation.
- Develop appropriate means for engaging with cybersecurity researchers as an additional tool for cyber threat identification and remedy.
- Support and evolve the auto industry’s information sharing and analysis center (Auto–ISAC).
Auto recalls for exploding airbags and defective ignition switches grabbed headlines throughout 2015. The accord signals a change of direction, one that “leans heavily on being proactive and less heavily on being reactive,” said Foxx at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. “Real safety is finding and fixing defects before someone gets hurt rather than punishing them after damage is done.”
To that end, among other things the group aims to "consider ways to promote more effective dialog between NHTSA, automakers, and suppliers for improved communications between the industry and the agency on potential and emerging cross-industry safety issues and trends to foster proactive solutions, as appropriate."
It also vows to get more consumers to bring their cars in for fixes when a recall is announced and increase public awareness of ongoing recalls.
Related: How to Make Your Next Car Safer
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