China contest hacks Tesla Model S, finds vulnerabilities

Article by Christian A., on July 17, 2014

Tesla Motors will probe and rectify any vulnerability discovered during a hacking contest in China that targeted its Model S sedan. Qihoo 360 Technology Co. has discovered methods to remotely control the car’s locks, horn, headlights and skylight while it is in motion, the Internet security firm said in a posting on its Sina Weibo account.

Wu Jing, a director of investor relations for Qihoo 360, disclosed that its information technology department conducted the experiment. Tesla said in an e-mail that it is not associated with SyScan +360 conference and is not a sponsor of the contest, it supports the “idea of providing an environment in which responsible security researchers can help identify potential vulnerabilities.”

It added that it hopes that the security researchers will act “responsibly and in good faith.” Tesla said it will investigate the matter and take immediate action to rectify any “legitimate vulnerability” identified during the competition.

The carmaker has requested security researchers to report possible vulnerabilities in accordance with its policy. It also requested them not to hack its Web site, servers and networks.

The SyScan +360 conference will pay $10,000 to anyone who could hack into the Model S. In June, Tesla chief executive Elon Musk disclosed that the EV maker’s patents will be “open source” and available for free in order to hasten adoption of electric vehicles.

Tesla started deliveries of the Model S in China in April, with Musk saying that sales in the country may tally with the figure in the United States as early as next year.

As the first all-electric sedan, the Tesla Model S is indeed an evolution in auto engineering. Setting the expectations higher for the car of the modern times, the Model S elegantly fuses performance and efficiency while earning the highest possible safety ratings. Its evolutionary nature is also marked by the fact that it keeps improving through over-the-air updates and it travels the most distance among electric vehicles.

Underpinned by the Tesla Architecture, the Model S has a very low center of gravity, an attribute that doesn’t just improve its performance and handling but also lowers the risk of rollover. This is thanks to the fact the battery of the Model S is located on the floor while its electric drivetrain sits beneath it.

The new Model S is considered as one of the safest cars on the road, as evidenced by the high ratings it earned from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the European New Car Assessment Programme. In fact, it owns the record of lowest chances of occupant injury, as evaluated in the United States. This safety record is made possible primarily by the Tesla platform and partly by the absence of an engine, which means that its crumple zone is larger than other performance sedans, allowing it to better absorb the impact of a front collision.

Contributing to the safety record of the Model S is an array of standard active safety elements -- lane departure warning, automatic emergency braking, blind spot detection and collision warning -- and optional convenience features such as traffic-aware cruise control, summon, autosteer and autopark.

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