LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Hackers gaining control of your car while you are behind the wheel may sound like the plot of a science fiction movie, but the reality may not be that far off.

A report titled “Kill Switch” released Wednesday alleges that millions of new internet-connected cars that are hitting the market could be vulnerable to hackers and potentially lead to thousands of fatal crashes on roads across the U.S.

According to the Santa Monica-based nonprofit group Consumer Watchdog, an estimated 17 million new cars will hit U.S. roads in 2020, most of which will contain software for accelerating, steering and braking that contain security flaws that are susceptible to being hacked.

A hacker could feasibly gain control of multiple vehicles on the road at the same time, the report alleges, leading to major gridlock or thousands of fatal wrecks.

“Millions of cars on the Internet running the same software means a single exploit can affect millions of vehicles simultaneously,” the report reads. “A hacker with only modest resources could launch a massive attack against our automotive infrastructure, potentially causing thousands of fatalities and disrupting our most critical form of transportation.”

The report alleges that two-thirds of cars on American roads by 2022 will have internet connectivity to components such as the engine and brakes.

“A plausible scenario involving a fleet-wide hack during rush hour in major U.S. metropolitan areas could result in approximately 3,000 fatalities, the same death toll as the 9/11- attack,” the report states.

Although carmakers have acknowledged to investors that their cars are vulnerable to hackers, they have tried to downplay the issue to the public, Consumer Watchdog claims.

The group says a viable solution is for carmakers to install kill switches in all their vehicles which allow drivers to immediately disconnect their cars from the internet.

In a statement released to CBSLA, Honda spokesperson Natalie Kumaratne said: “As vehicles have become more dependent upon electronic control systems, as well as cloud-integrated, advanced communications systems, Honda has been working collaboratively with suppliers to ensure the integrity of these systems. The private and public sectors must also work together to ensure the security, by design, of products in the marketplace.”

To read the full report, click here.

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