A connected car is a car that is outfitted with Internet access, and typically a wireless local area network (LAN) that goes along with it. The wireless LAN allows the car to share Internet access with devices and applications inside and outside of the car. This gives connected cars additional benefits that unconnected cars do not have such as automatic notifications of safety hazards and traffic, enhanced driving capabilities, and much more. Those involved with the development and production of connected cars are working to enable them to connect to other cars and traffic infrastructure. They believe that the enhancement of this technology will reduce traffic and carbon emissions, increase fuel efficiency, and reduce the number of car accidents. However, with these significant benefits have also come legal repercussions.
On March 10, 2015, the first class action lawsuit involving connected cars was brought against Toyota, Ford, and General Motors. The lawsuit alleges that these automakers failed to address a defect that allows connected cars to be hacked and controlled by the hacker rather than the driver of the vehicle. This lawsuit comes just after CBS 60 Minutes car hacked aired a segment demonstrating a hacker using a laptop to turn on windshield wiper fluids, the horn of the car, and even accelerating the car and disabling the breaks. The potential for injuries due to hacks on connected cars is quite startling. The lead attorney in this suit stated that these automakers deliberately hid the dangers of connected cars, misleading consumers.
Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts recently released a report detailing the vulnerability of connected cars to hackers and how driver information is collected and protected by automakers. The report notes that the collection of drivers’ information without privacy protections for how that information is shared and used could potentially be a serious consumer privacy issue. The report found four alarming trends regarding automakers and connected car technology:
Senator Markey stated, “Drivers have come to rely on these new technologies, but unfortunately the automakers haven’t done their part to protect us from cyber-attacks or privacy invasions. Even as we are more connected than ever in our cars and trucks, our technology systems and data security remain largely unprotected.” The attorneys at Abbott Law Group share Senator Markey’s concern for consumers’ privacy and the vulnerability of connected cars to hackers, and will continue to closely monitor this situation.