5 Automotive Stories from 2013 That Should Worry You
If all you’re interested in is horsepower and zero to 60 times, we have an embarrassment of riches. Regular production cars are faster than ever. But there are some insidious, deeply concerning decisions being made behind the scenes. We’re at a crossroads in 2013 where our cars are still controlled by us. We may look back at this year as the moment when all that started to change:
With all the added electronic functionality over the last decade, there are some pretty serious concerns about electronic security. The concerns were on full alert last spring when Rolling Stone journalist Michael Hastings — who singlehandedly ended the career of General Stanley McChrystal with an article in the magazine called “The Runaway General,” and had become the defacto watchdog of the “surveillance state.” His last article, “Why Democrats Love to Spy on Americans,” was published by Buzzfeed on June 7, 2013. Just 11 days later, Hastings was dead in a fiery crash in his Mercedes-Benz C250 Coupe.
A witness to the crash in Los Angeles said the car was traveling at what appeared to be its maximum speed, trailing sparks and flames before it fishtailed out of control and smashed into a tree, leading some to speculate that Hastings’ car had been somehow hacked and forced to travel at maximum speed. Denials by the FBI and the manufacturer ensued, suggesting that there was no way a car could be controlled in such a manner, but by the middle of July, DARPA-funded researchers took control of a Toyota Prius with a laptop, and Forbes magazine provided a video of the experience.
At the risk of sounding like consummate fear-monger Glenn Beck, the widespread, largely unrestricted use of Automatic License Plate Reader (ALPR) technology by local police departments has raised significant concern about how Americans are being watched on the road, and even in our own driveways. There are also concerns about how that data is being collected, stored and used. The Boston Police Department, for example, stored license plate reader data on hundreds of thousands of vehicles for three months, significantly longer than it would take to find a stolen car.