New House caucus will help keep hackers out of cars

Four House members on Thursday established a new caucus focused on connected and self-driving cars.

The House Smart Transportation Caucus comes as autonomous driving is quickly becoming a reality, with internet-enabled devices within vehicles sparking fears of remote hacking. The bipartisan group said it will focus on identifying policies that make sure these new technologies are safe for drivers and secure from digital intruders.

{mosads}“Connected and autonomous vehicle technology is one of the most competitive areas globally for manufacturing, and we need to show the world that we are leading the way in developing technology that will improve car safety and fuel efficiency, reduce congestion, and save lives,” said Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), who represents the suburbs of auto-heavy Detroit.

Other caucus members also come from areas that play a big role in auto manufacturing. Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) has a large General Motors plant in his district and Rep. Joe Wilson (R) hails from South Carolina, a leading American exporter of cars and tires.

The final member, Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), has been a vocal cybersecurity advocate in his first term and recently co-sponsored with Wilson the Security and Privacy (SPY) Car Study Act, a bill that would launch a cross-sector investigation into vehicle cybersecurity.

Together, the group will look at a wide range of new-age transportation tools, such as upcoming transit and parking technologies, alternative traffic and freight management systems, and “smart infrastructure,” or structures such as buildings and roads that are embedded with sensors to collect and analyze data.

The members said they want to educate members on these cost-reducing and life-saving technologies and bring together those involved from the private sector and federal government.

“Technological advances in the auto industry have the potential to transform transportation in America — making our highways safer and reducing traffic,” said Lieu.

But consumer advocates and security researchers have long warned against moving too quickly with some of these tools.

Car makers have rapidly adopted many now-common digital features — Wi-Fi, keyless locks and Bluetooth, for instance — without heed for securing these tools from hackers, according to experts.

A report from Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) last year described vehicle security measures as “inconsistent and haphazard.” Additionally, few auto manufacturers are able to detect and respond to hacks, Markey said.

Two security researchers dramatically exploited these weaknesses last summer when they remotely hijacked a Jeep on the highway, cutting its transmission and forcing it off the road.

More recently, a government watchdog report admonished the Department of Transportation for lacking a detailed plan to help these automakers respond to the growing cyber threats facing vehicles.

“We must implement smart policies that encourage safety and security so we can ensure that a cyberattack does not turn connected cars into weapons or paralyze an entire city,” Lieu said. “Our technological advances are only as good as the cybersecurity that ensures products work efficiently and safely.”

Wilson said the Smart Transportation Caucus will help build up these digital defenses.

“We need to promote collaboration across both the public and private sectors,” he said.

Tags Ed Markey Joe Wilson

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