Government oversight is one of the major chasms that separate Republicans and Democrats, at least historically. But the issue of government control has been a popular one lately with COVID-19 protocols and mask mandates. However, a new law from Washington may require all new cars to install kill switches that law enforcement can control at their discretion to mitigate drunk driving and police chases.
Can the Government shut down civilians’ cars with a kill switch?
On the one hand, police chases are extremely dangerous, not only to the cops and robbers but to innocent bystanders. Coming up with a way to curtail these dangerous events seems worthwhile. However, many people are concerned that this tactic is a big step toward authoritarianism that our country doesn’t need.
The new infrastructure bill has a law within it that may allow police or other governmental organizations to render new vehicles useless with the push of a button. The proposed bill would require all automakers to install this kill switch in all new cars.
Why should you be worried about a law?
Only a day after the anniversary of January 6th, we know all too well that what counts as “law-abiding” can change drastically depending on who we are talking about. Without getting too into the weeds, the federal response to lawful Black Lives Matter protestors in the summer of 2020 in D.C. was dramatically different from the response to the violent sacking of our Capital building a year ago yesterday. The point is, you may be a “law-abiding” citizen according to the law, and public enemy number one according to law enforcement, or vice versa.
However, according to ABC, as of 2009, GM installed 1.7 million of its vehicles with a similar system that allows pursuing officers to request that engines of stolen cars be remotely switched off through the OnStar mobile communications system. While this new law may have worrisome implications, others like it have come and gone without much fuss.
The car kill switch has other implications as well
One of the joys of American car ownership is the freedom that it implies. President Biden’s infrastructure bill talks about these kill switches as a safety device. The bill says it will “passively monitor the performance of a driver of a motor vehicle to accurately identify whether that driver may be impaired.”
Not only can a police officer decide to immobilize your car, but the device itself also gets to judge the quality of your driving. Theoretically, if you do something the system has been programmed to recognize as driver impairment, your car could just shut off.
If this safety device is remotely accessible by the police or other government agencies, then what stops a hacker from getting this access? We’ve seen increased overseas hacking of everything from our Amazon accounts to the fiddling with our presidential elections. In fact, according to Wired, back in 2020 Lennert Wouters, a security researcher at Belgian university KU Leuven, highlighted a collection of security vulnerabilities he found in both Tesla Model X cars and their keyless entry fobs.
Basically, a thief only needs minutes and a $300 kit, to make off with a brand new Tesla Model X. “Basically a combination of two vulnerabilities allows a hacker to steal a Model X in a few minutes time,” says Wouters, who plans to present his findings at the Real World Crypto conference in January. “When you combine them, you get a much more powerful attack.”
Examples of this technology already in the world, go on longer than many of us may care for. However, we have yet to lose our automotive autonomy.
Only time will tell
To be clear, we here at Motorbiscuit neither support nor reject Bob Barr’s political affiliation; we simply are sharing the source material. That being said, if you would like to read more about this device from Barr’s perspective, you can do so here.
It is important to note that this law within President Biden’s infrastructure bill wouldn’t take effect until five years from now, so there is no guarantee that it will stand nor be as heinous as we think. Only time will tell.