Hack into a car, go to prison. For Life. That’s the penalty called for under new bills introduced in Michigan this week.
The state is taking the first steps to regulate its emerging connected and autonomous vehicle industry. The bills introduced would make hacking into car electronic systems a felony, with life in prison the penalty.
They are the first proposed laws regulating the security of connected cars we can recall seeing, and it’s clear lawmakers are taking the threat seriously.
According to Automotive News, the bills are being sponsored by Michigan state senators Mike Kowall (R) and Ken Horn (R). The bills would make it a felony to “intentionally access or cause access to be made to an electronic system of a motor vehicle to willfully destroy, damage, impair, alter or gain unauthorized control of the motor vehicle.”
“I hope that we never have to use it,” Kowall said. “That’s why the penalties are what they are. The potential for severe injury and death are pretty high.”
Concerns about vehicle hackings are front and center these days. Last summer, “friendly” hackers tapped into a Jeep Cherokee SUV in Missouri and exposed flaws in the wireless vehicle system. They were able to control the Jeep’s steering and braking systems, as well as its transmission. It was considered “friendly” because the stunt was part of a Wired magazine report. As a result, FCA recalled 1.4 million FCA vehicles to fix their Uconnect systems.
FCA is not alone in dealing with security breaches. Earlier this year, Nissan discovered its NissanConnect EV app in the Leaf could be remotely controlled.
“Some of these people are pretty clever,” Kowall said. “As opposed to waiting for something bad to happen, we’re going to be proactive on this and try to keep up with technology.”
Without a doubt, vehicle cybersecurity is something keeping a lot of automotive companies and federal officials up at night, as well.
Earlier this month, a top U.S. Justice Department official issued a warning about vehicle cybersecurity saying cars are prime target for hackers. John Carlin, the U.S. assistant attorney general for national security, told the SAE world congress that hackers of all varieties could try to do harm through connected cars.
“If you were able to do something that could affect a large scale of an industry — like 100,000 cars — you could see that being in the arsenal of a nation-state’s tool kit as a new form of warfare,” Carlin said.
According to Automotive News, 220 million internet-connected cars will be on the road by 2020.