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Could Fiat Chrysler be held liable for hacker caused accidents?

Last week, we reported on the fine assessed to Fiat Chrysler for its failed efforts in advising customers of recalls that would address functional and design defects that could put drivers in great danger. The assessment was a record for an automaker, and it was more less a statement of how serious an infraction it was for Fiat Chrysler to ignore warning signs about safety defects.

If you thought the company was having a bad week, an article from wired.com is going to make their week worse. The article highlighted the efforts of two hackers who gained control of a driver’s Jeep Cherokee and were able to control every function of the vehicle from their laptops.

The hackers were able to control windshield wipers, the radio functions, lights, braking system and the transmission.  Fortunately, no one was hurt, even though the hackers were able to take control and plunge the car into a ditch, all the while a helpless driver was trapped inside.

Indeed, the ability to take control of a car remotely seems like a good idea on one level. For example, if your car was stolen, it would helpful to stop the car wherever it was so that authorities could recover it. However, for an unsuspecting driver to learn that they have no control over a vehicle while travelling down the highway, it is neither helpful nor safe.

Fiat Chrysler reportedly issued a software update so that onboard technology could not be compromised. Nevertheless, if the company does nothing else, it could be held liable in the event of an accident caused by hackers. 

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