(New Scientist) IN THE early hours of 18 June, a Mercedes coupé travelling at extremely high speed along a Los Angeles street smashed into a palm tree. It exploded into flames, killing the driver; the impact ejected the engine 50 metres clear of the car. Was it an accident? Or was the car hacked, allowing it to be driven off the road by remote control?
The very idea might sound crazy – but it’s one that Richard Clarke, a former counterterrorism adviser to the US National Security Council, has raised after the driver was identified as Rolling Stone journalist Michael Hastings. Known for his revealing articles on the US military and its intelligence agencies, Hastings had emailed colleagues the day before he died to say that he was going “off the radar for a bit” to chase down a “big story”.
“What evidence is available publicly is consistent with a car cyberattack,” says Clarke in a Huffington Post interview. Intelligence agencies, he says, can remotely seize control of a car to make it accelerate wildly or brake suddenly, for instance.