Do you prefer dealing with mechanics in a garage or tech support over the phone?
Interestingly, this may become the question in the not-so-distant future with regards to what kind of car people prefer to drive. Wired Magazine recently conduced a controlled, yet chilling experiment that challenged two computer savvy individuals to attempt to effectively take the wheel of a Jeep Cherokee driven by Wired Magazine employee Andy Greenberg.
The security experts, Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek, accessed the Jeep’s computer brain through its Uconnect infotainment system and rewrote the firmware to plant their malicious code. Once in, the duo began blasting hip-hop through the stereo system, turned the AC to maximum and, ultimately, killed the transmission and brakes.”
—Marco della Cava of USA Today
In a word: scary.
In more words: Isn’t this a big part of what science-fiction movies warn us about?
Advancements in technology can and will be good and bad, but it’s essential we fully understand both consequences of whatever new developments are made. The above instance unnervingly illustrates this point.
A trend throughout the past decade in the auto world (starting with luxury brands) are cars that are increasingly being designed and built with more software and hardware than mechanical parts. The 21st century may be witnessing its defining mark in the evolution of the automobile, for better or worse.
The excitement comes with the necessary navigational system and an impressive interactive control center at the easy and simple touch of the driver and his or her co-pilot. These are great inventions. The caution comes with the realization that a wrench, screws and some gasoline in a small red plastic container are becoming archaic with the modern car. And the fact that a couple hackers (from above) could penetrate a computer system in a popular car should be the latest yellow light of caution aimed at the benefits of technological convenience. Hopefully, this will be a wake-up call to Jeep and its competitors who utilize similar systems.
And yet, at the same time, this should not deter technological innovations.
It’s practically inevitable that a majority of cars in the next ten to fifteen years will be designed with a centralized computer. Will consumers continue and/or start to buy cars that take such a momentous shift and reliance towards technology? Time will tell. Tesla, with its environmental payoffs, sleek features and powerful engine, is basically a giant computer on the inside. Their car models are incredible. The infrastructure is ever-growing, which is critical to its ultimate success. While costs are high now, it’s certainly a company with a bright future if they can control and lower prices for the competitive consumer market.
Tesla’s success down the road would literally (re)define the auto grid.
Computers, in its myriad formats, are here to stay. However, what the startling experiment described above reveals is that patience is required with machines deliberately built for speed.
We use computers everyday, but maybe it’s time we consider (and plan for) how computers use us.