Four U.S. lawmakers urge safety agency to address vehicle hacking

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Four Republican members of Congress on Monday urged U.S. auto safety regulators to convene an industry-wide effort to prevent possible attacks on computer systems in vehicles.

The lawmakers addressed their concerns in a letter to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. While there have been no reported cases of vehicle hacking, researchers have shown they could take remote control of vehicle functions such as car horns, brakes and power steering.

The letter cited work published in August by Wired magazine by two researchers who were able to force a Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV 2014 Jeep SUV to perform in an “erratic and unsafe manner” after accessing its on-board diagnostics (OBD) port. Automakers have been required to install the port in all vehicles since 1994 to test for emissions compliance.

The letter from Representative Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and three others said the port “as it currently exists creates a growing risk to the safety and security of passengers.”

Fiat Chrysler said in August the demonstration published by Wired required “a computer to be physically connected into the vehicle’s” port. The company emphasized that owners should “not connect any unknown or untrusted devices to the OBD port.”

NHTSA didn’t immediately comment on the letter. The safety agency has said it plans to release cybersecurity guidelines to the auto industry in the coming weeks.

The U.S. government is taking the issue seriously.

On Friday, the U.S. Justice Department said it has formed a threat analysis team to study potential national security challenges posed by self-driving cars, medical devices and other internet-connected tools.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and NHTSA issued a bulletin in March warning that motor vehicles were “increasingly vulnerable” to hacking.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Richard Chang and James Dalgleish