How would you react if your vehicle was suddenly hacked into, and you lost all control of its brakes, engine and steering? Sounds scary, right? Well, that’s exactly what two researchers managed to do in the US.

WIRED’s Andy Greenberg was in his 2014 Jeep Cherokee, and in a pre-planned programme, two security researchers managed to take over the controls of the vehicle, remotely.

They started off with the air-conditioning, turning it to full blast, then the stereo, up to full volume, the windshield wipers, to full speed and turning on the wiper fluid too. As the wiper fluid blurred the glass, Greenberg began to get anxious. The hackers even a posted a picture of themselves on the car’s display.

Next up, they disconnected the engine from the drivetrain and essentially put the car into neutral. As Greenberg slowed down perilously on the highway, he started panicking, and he finally had to turn the ignition off and on again to reengage the drive. He miraculously avoided getting rear-ended by a semi-trailer, and eventually came to a safe stop on an operational freeway on-ramp.

2014 Jeep Cherokee-02

This hacking technique is a zero-day exploit can target vehicles such as the Jeep Cherokee through its Uconnect system, completely wirelessly. Their code is a nightmare scenario, as the software can infiltrate the vehicle’s entertainment system to access its dashboard functions, steering, brakes and transmission – all from a laptop that could be anywhere in the country.

Surprisingly, the two security researchers cum hackers, Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek, were doing the hacking from Miller’s basement at home. Their hack can also enable surveillance by targeting the Jeep’s GPS coordinates, calculate its speed and drop pins on a map to trace its route.

Chrysler, like most manufacturers, has a feature called Uconnect, which essentially turns a modern automobile into a smartphone. Therefore, due to a vulnerability in the system that Miller and Valasek will reveal at an upcoming Black Hat conference, any hacker can identify the vehicle’s IP address from anywhere in the country.

Miller and Valasek are able to rewrite a chip in the vehicle’s head unit, within the entertainment system, by stealthily overwriting the chip’s firmware to plant their sinister code. Scarily, the firmware can then send commands to the car’s internal computer network. The researchers believe all Uconnect vehicles from late 2013 onwards are vulnerable to this hack.

Thankfully, both Miller and Valasek have been sharing their research with Chrysler for nearly nine months, enabling Chrysler to release a patch for about 471,000 susceptible cars, all fitted with Uconnect, ahead of the Black Hat conference. Fiat Chrysler Automobile (FCA) were notified of the patch on July 16, and owners will have to manually implement it via a USB stick.

So it’s all safe for now, but it does give us a glimpse into how increased automation can actually be quite dangerous if it’s exploited by sinister individuals who are hell-bent on wreaking havoc on the masses.

Do have a look at the video above for a great insight into this hacking exploit.