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Jeep hackers to work on Uber's autonomous car program

Uber Technologies has hired the two cyber-security researchers who hit the headlines of the automotive world last month by remotely hacking into and taking control of a Jeep Cherokee travelling along I-64, by sending data to its internet-connected entertainment and navigation system via a cell phone network. Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek will now join the company’s Advanced Technologies Center, a research laboratory opened by Uber in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in February. Miller has been working with the micro-blogging site Twitter, while Valasek was director of vehicle security research at IOActive. Both of them have now resigned from their current positions, and will join Uber later this week.

During the pair’s much-publicized hacking demonstrated to Wired magazine, Miller and Valasek also managed to remotely take control of the Jeep’s air-conditioning system, radio and windshield wipers, while a journalist was driving the vehicle. The latter took full control of the vehicle while it was in a vacant parking lot, altering the engine speed, braking sharply and disabling the brakes completely.

As a result, Fiat Chrysler was forced to release a patch to address the problem in the infotainment system of 1.4 million vehicles, in order to protect drivers from hackers with malicious intentions. However, the stunt gained the attention of senior Uber executives, with the head of the company’s Advanced Technologies Center, Raffi Krikorian, greeting the two new employees with a Twitter posting.

San Francisco-based Uber has been working on autonomous cars for some time, and in February formed a strategic partnership with Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in Pennsylvania. As the world’s leading smartphone-based carsharing and taxi services company, Uber is focusing on the development of key long-term technologies that advance its mission of ‘bringing safe, reliable transportation to everyone, everywhere’. In a statement, Uber said Miller and Valasek will work with the company’s top software engineers, including Joe Sullivan, an ex-Facebook executive, who is Uber’s chief security officer, “to continue building out a world-class safety and security program at Uber.” 

For a video showing what happened when Miller and Valasek took control of the Jeep driven by a Wired journalist, click here

 

September 1, 2015

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