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How Long Was Chrysler-Fiat Aware of Hacking Risk?

As San Diego product liability lawyers, we are concerned by reports that Chrysler –Fiat may have known that its vehicles were susceptible to hackers more than 18 months before it notified regulators. The news comes weeks after the automaker agreed to pay a record $105 million penalty to resolve allegations about its prior recall failures. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) imposed the fine after concluding that Chrysler-Fiat failed to adequately remedy defective vehicles within a reasonable time and timely notify vehicle owners and the NHTSA regarding the existence of a defect.

Under the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act, manufacturers are required to recall vehicles that have safety-related defects or do not meet federal safety standards. The federal law specifically requires automakers to notify the NHTSA within five days of discovering a defect that presents an unreasonable risk to public safety.

Last month, Chrysler-Fiat recently recalled 1.4 million vehicles that are equipped with in-vehicle technology that is susceptible to hacking. As previously detailed on this San Diego Injury Blog, hackers were able to identify and exploit security vulnerabilities in a Jeep Cherokee’s UConnect entertainment system. Once they remotely accessed the system, the hackers were able to change the vehicle’s speed and control the brakes, radio, windshield wipers, transmission and other features that are accessible through the system.

According to Chrysler-Fiat, it first learned about the cybersecurity risk in January 2014, but did not consider it a safety defect and was working on a fix. As Bloomberg reports, the auto manufacturer did not notify the NHTSA about the security flaw until the hackers informed the company that they planned to detail how they took control of the Jeep Grand Cherokee at a security conference and in an article in Wired Magazine.

Given Chrysler-Fiat’s past recall issues, the NHTSA is closely monitoring the latest recall. The federal regulator is also investigating Harman International Industries Inc., the company that supplied the Uconnect system used in the recalled vehicles.

If you or someone you love has been seriously injured by a dangerous or defective vehicle, don’t hesitate to contacta San Diego product liability attorney at the Law Offices of Robert Vaage for a free consultation.