Sometime next month, if all goes well, California battery carmaker Tesla Motors plans to ask a select group of owners to begin testing its latest vehicle operating system. Dubbed version 7.0, it will include a beta version of Tesla’s new Pilot system which will offer the ability to drive on the highway hands-free.
As with previous updates for the Model S sedan, Tesla will upload the software wirelessly, rather than requiring owners to visit its showrooms. It’s an approach many other automakers are expected to adopt in the coming years. But it also raises some serious concerns among industry observers who question whether such an approach might make it easy for hackers to shift their focus from computers to cars.
The risk was highlighted this past week when a pair of professional hackers gained access to a 2014 Jeep Cherokee driven by a reporter working for Wired magazine. They turned on the Jeep’s windshield wipers, shut the engine down while it was being driven down the highway, took control of the steering wheel and then disabled its brakes, sending it into a ditch.