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US takes fight to car hackers

Plug and play: The US road safety watchdog wants to stay a step ahead of hackers who might take advantage of car’s communication systems.

US road safety watchdog seeks $2 million war chest to ward off hack attacks on cars

General News logo17 May 2013

THE US road safety watchdog has asked the US government for a multimillion-dollar handout to help it thwart the as-yet unseen threat of car hackers.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has asked a US Senate commerce committee to pour $US2 million into setting up a separate taskforce that will monitor the risks of a new generation of “networked” cars.

The concern relates to a new generation of “cloud”-connected cars that will one day be able to exchange information with each other, sharing information such as traffic conditions or even giving a warning if their paths are likely to cross.

“These interconnected electronics systems are creating opportunities to improve vehicle safety and reliability, but are also creating new and different safety and cyber-security risks,” NHTSA administrator David Strickland told the committee yesterday. “We don’t want to be behind the eight ball.” According to the watchdog, the $US2 million grant “will enable NHTSA to create the new division, address vehicle cyber-security, conduct testing, acquire data and improve electronic systems reliability”.

It is part of a $US148 million budget proposal that covers vehicle safety research, including crash-test ratings and exploring safety issues relating to new fuels and emerging technologies that help drivers avoid a crash.

Part of the grant relates to the NHTSA’s role in a series of problems identified in the Toyota Prius, where the car would unexpectedly accelerate without any input from the driver. It said part of the funds would go towards investigating the “reliability and security” of similar systems.

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