Cruise Automation, General Motors' (GM) driverless car arm, has hired two hackers who were once seen by many as a safety threat to help find vulnerabilities in its self-drive car network.
Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt confirmed the hires of security consultants Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek in a tersely worded Tweet. They will be tasked with discovering potential vulnerabilities that could, in theory, be used to remotely seize control of Cruise's entire fleet.
Miller and Valasek's most famous exploits were disclosed in Wired after they showed how they could "kill" 2014 Jeep Cherokee models with over-the-air attacks that resulted in Fiat Chrysler's recall of over 1.4 million cars.
Vogt, an auto industry outsider known more for his engineering and software skills than for his business prowess before selling Cruise to GM for an estimated $1 billion, reflects an industry shift in philosophy about hacking and hacking culture.
It wasn't that long ago when carmakers sued hackers who sought to reveal car network vulernatiblties, such as when Volkswagen successfully enjoined computer scientists from publishing how Porsches, Audis, Bentleys, and Lamborghinis could be started remotely.
The auto industry is notoriously conservative, but instead of suing hackers, Cruise's CEO is embracing them. Other driverless vehicle provider hopefuls, as well as carmakers in general, will probably warm up to the idea as well that total transparency when it comes to vulnerabilities is an important facet of security policy.
Apple CEO Tim Cook did not have a lot to say about Apple's self-drive program when queried by analysts during the company's third-quarter earnings call.
We are very focused on autonomous systems from a core technology point of view. We do have a large project going. We've made a big investment in this, and for me, autonomous is sort of the mother of all AI projects. Autonomous systems can also be used in a variety of ways. Vehicles are only one way, and there are many different areas of it. And I don't want to go any further with that.
However, as Cook's comments indicate, autonomous cars are but one among many different projects Apple is working on.