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Hacked Computers in Cars Cause Accidents – Is There a Product Liability Claim?

The Potential Product Liability Claims Tied to Hacked Motor Vehicle Computers

Traffic at nightIn a number of test experiments, conducted between 2011 and 2014, researchers have been able to hack into the onboard computer on a motor vehicle, causing a number of actions that the driver could not control.

Researchers Charlie Miller and Chris Vasalek admitted that they first hacked into the computer of a vehicle driven by Andy Greenberg, a columnist for Wired magazine, causing the brakes and accelerator pedal to malfunction. The researchers said that they executed the hack through the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee’s UConnect entertainment and navigation system. They claim that they identified the passwords to the UConnect, which has wireless and cellular access, when the UConnect was turned on. They then rewrote the software for the vehicle’s UConnect so that it would interface with the Jeep’s electronic control unit, giving them access to the accelerator and brake functions. They then uploaded the new software to the vehicle through the wireless connection.

In a separate incident, a computer security expert told reporters that he could (and had) successfully hack GM’s OnStar system.

While automakers have publicly stated that hacking a car’s computer requires “unique and extensive technical knowledge, prolonged access to a subject vehicle and extended periods of time to write code,” Fiat Chrysler has issued a recall on the Jeep Cherokee’s with the UConnect System.

Legal experts say that, thus far, there have not been any claims against vehicle manufacturers alleging defective design or manufacturing in the aftermath of a hack on a car’s onboard computer system. They speculate, however, that the time may not be far away when that happens, particularly since automakers have been put on notice of potential liability.

Contact Fritz, Goldenberg & Bianculli

At the law office of Fritz, Goldenberg & Bianculli, we specialize in representing people injured by defective products, including cars.

To set up a free initial consultation, call our office at (215) 458-2222 or send us an e-mail. Evening and weekend meetings can be arranged, if necessary. We will come to your home or the hospital for an appointment.