I recently read about a study conducted by researchers from DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the folks who brought us the Internet, about in-vehicle technology such as OnStar on my favorite professional networking site, GovLoop.
Using a MacBook to hack into a car’s mobile connectivity system, the duo could control a car’s power steering, trip the GPS and falsify the speedometer and odometer readings. Even more worrisome than that, they could lock the vehicle’s brakes, disabling the driver’s ability to halt the car before crashing into another vehicle, person or structure.
Those results are exactly why I fear the consequences of the Internet of Things for seniors. My husband and I, for example, are considering the features we need in our next – and perhaps last – vehicle. Where we have always before settled for economical without comfort. This time we want luxury and convenience. As we age, we lose upper body strength so power steering, power brakes, and power windows are essential. Even our little Scion has those features. As turning our heads becomes more painful, rear view cameras with dashboard-mounted screens are now on our list of requirements. And as reaction times slow, automatic braking when approaching an obstacle ahead is also essential. Most vehicles with all those features include a number of in-vehicle technology, including OnStar or other communications systems. Studies such as the one referred to in GovLoop add other another factor to consider. Security and safety are central concerns for seniors.
While I don’t envision the risk of a hacker compromising any in-vehicle technology in our next car, perhaps the study will serve as inspiration for fiction. my own or someone else’s.