Catastrophe Caused By Cyber Interference

Trucking accidents result in catastrophic consequences for victims while creating complex legal challenges for a personal injury attorney. In-depth investigations with the help of experts are vital to determine the party or parties responsible for the tragic collision.

While many claims find culpability with tractor trailer operators and trucking companies, a recent study revealed a more sinister level of negligence through cutting-edge technology.

The advances in internet-connected equipment in trucks include the capability for electronic logging replacing its hard copy counterpart. Systems are connected to engines via a port to receive data directly from the engine’s electronic control module.

The findings of University of Michigan researchers revealed the relative ease of hacking those modules in trucks and other vehicles. They identified vulnerabilities to the system that third-parties with malicious intent could access with minimal effort.

With that insight, they were able to plug into a 2006 tractor's OBDII port and send digital signals within the internal network to:

  • Access the instrument panel
  • Trigger unintended acceleration
  • Disable a portion of the brakes

A Driver Without Control. A Truck Out Of Control.

For a Portland, Ore.-based owner-operator, hacking went from an experiment to actual experience. While operating his truck, the vehicle began to take on a life of its own, changing him from off-duty to driving to on-duty not-driving. The dashboard began to display various engine and re-gen codes. The truck then began to de-rate, decreasing the truck's nominal capacity.

During a phone conversation with the manufacturer, a representative initiated a reboot of the system. The restart ended up shutting down the engine, power-steering and brakes. The once-flashing engine codes disappeared.

That trucker and unknowing drivers sharing the road emerged from the crisis unscathed. However, others may not be so lucky unless protective measures are taken.

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