Monday, May 24, 2010

Well, isn't this just special?

IBM applies for right to stop your car at intersections, week after researchers hack car.

A tip of the boonie hat to Typeay for forwarding the link above. A snippet:

If you're at all in fear of a Skynet future controlled entirely by computers such as that featured in the Terminator franchise, look away now.

IBM has applied for a patent that covers "a method for managing engines in response to a traffic signal".

If you're crawling through traffic in 2025 and approach a traffic light, IBM hopes it will be able to take control of your car.

And according to the patent, you won't be able to go again until it lets you.

Which sounds relatively harmless - it's something we do, or should do, anyway - but the issue of computer-controlled cars had some uneasy light thrown on it last week, when researchers at the universities of Washington and California enjoyed themselves at the expense of current models.

In effect, they hacked a family sedan.

With a laptop and customised software called CarShark, the researchers disabled the brakes of a regular family car and switched its engine off - while it was moving.

They also played with its air-conditioning and added a "countdown" feature, which saw the car stop, doors lock and a series of little honks notify the driver trapped inside that their engine is about to die.


Anonymous said...

Holy Sh*t on a Shingle!
Can this be done retroactively to older vehicles?
Or does this only apply to current / future vehicles?
Say, those with OnStar?

B Woodman

Daphne said...

That's a disturbing story.

Anonymous said...

OnStar can already do this on any newer GM product.

Scott J said...

Have you not seen the latest OnStar commercials featuring "stolen vehicle slowdown"?

I figure it's only a matter of time until that same system is used to disable a vehicle if a payment is missed on it.

There's a reason I'll never sell my beat up old 1985 CJ-7. Even if I have to rebuild it from the frame up.

DMS said...

Oh good. Time to start shopping for an original VW Beetle.

This does represent an opportunity for somebody to make and sell an aftermarket refit kit or software that renders a modern vehicle immune to cyber attack. Desktop computers have antivirus software and hardware locks, after all.


Steve K said...

Hacking a vehicle isn't a very difficult thing as they are trying to imply with that program called "CarShark." In order to use that one, it requires that they be plugged into the OBD-II system on your car, and if they are plugged into that then you have bigger things to worry about than them messing with car and engine settings. The reason this is possible is because all modern cars with chips in them operate on software called CAN Bus. This is basically a universal computer language for vehicle and engine management and has been the standard in the industry for nearly 15-20 years. Car companies and propriators have had software to access car functions from day 1, I guess some innovative people finally publicized their invention of a more open-source program that allows manipulation of those vehicle functions.

The wireless bit is a bit more disconcerting though. That is something new.

Dr. Richard said...

These devices are already used on some cars that are financed.

Pay cash and get an older car that does not have this "feature". Better yet, get one you can maintain yourself.

Mel Torme said...

"Can this be done retroactively to older vehicles?"

Well, of course not. If you don't have computers on board, how can you control the car via computers?

So, it all depends on what you mean by older - up to mid-eighties, I don't recall many cars with any more computers than that ignition module (even then, there was no communication ability, other than monitoring via the engine light on the dash).

Keep those 70's and 80's (even most 90's) cars running, and you won't have a problem. I never really liked a car that locked the doors on me and kept the dome light on extra long (I realize the idea was so I was "extra safe" getting out of the car, but the real effect is that I would have to hang around for 2 minutes to monitor it, to make sure I wasn't about to run my battery down.)

Don't you hate that shit? I just end up pulling out the bulb on any rental like that, if I can't find the full-off switch. If this makes me old-fashioned, so be it. I just don't really want the car to control me; I'd rather control it. So, based on this attitude, "On-Star" is way past my computer-tech limit on autos. If I had it, I'd be obliged to take out the whole shebang.

Be nice to your mechanic, or, better yet, learn about your old car. I also don't like making large property tax payments.

David T. McKee said...

As a Software Engineer, I laugh at IBM's audacity in thinking this will last more than five minutes. The fact is, as the hackers showed, you can connect a laptop to your own car, using the CAN protocol, and override any feature they put in. And the internet will be filled with lots of after-market and black-market parts to override this crap.

OR better yet, buy a 1979 or prior vehicle and don't worry about it - no computers!

Anything they can do - we can do better.

David T. McKee III

typeay said...

There has never been a better time to invest in a "classic" vehicle like a 1960s automobile, a vintage P/U truck, or even an original VW beetle. Easy to work on, parts are still available, easy on gas, no computers, EMP resistant, and they'll ALL hold their long term investment value. What's not to like?

Son of Sam Adams said...

The company that enabled the Holocaust hasn't changed much, has it?

pdxr13 said...

A bargain in this kind of vehicle is late-1980's Subaru. I'd prefer hatch/wagon, manual trans, TBI (not-turbo). TBI is essentially a fuel injector pretending to be a carb hanging above the intake manifold. This kind of intake can be pretty-easily converted to propane.

My 1988 DL Wagon 5sp/4WD weighs less than 2000 pounds and gets 30+mpg around town in stock form. It's a decent platform for conversion to electric with lead-acid deep cycle making a real-world 40 mile range. Not many 4WD cars are capable of that. The car was $150 (rust free, drove home), which was much of the appeal.

The usual cautions of small vehicles apply. Don't get in a wreck. A full cage and body armor is recommended.


suek said...

Anybody want to buy a horse? I have a few...!!

Anonymous said...

Time to buy a couple GM small block engines, intake manifolds, a couple of carbs with rebuild kits and a couple of points & condenser distributors w/caps and rotors.

Those of you with LOJACK might think about having it removed also, its a tracking device that can be activated remotely and you'll never know its on unless you monitor the frequency of the transmitter on a scanner or two way radio.

Legal Alien said...

Nothing new here.
Cops in many cities are already using similar technologies on 'bait' cars.
Place a bait car, with hidden video cams and mics in a conspicious area that is know for car theft, then watch as perps get it and drive off, just to initiate a remote controlled shutdown and lockdown in a safe area and haul the perps out.
Watch it on COPS all the time.
Hilarious to see perps reactions and hear their stories, but disconcerting to know what can be done with an auto's electronics remotely.

Legal Alien

Rhodes said...

I guess we will be keeping that old truck for a very long time now. At least it cant be hacked by police state wannabes.

DB said...

And the day I stop driving will be.... or I'll just have to start rebuilding a classic.

Anonymous said...

Ok lets just all take a big breath and pause for a minute. The big deal here is not the computer in the car, it is the cell phone that allows other people to access the computer controlled features of the car. A car without a cell phone or other wireless interface cannot be 'hijacked' or controlled by someone else without being plugged into your OBD system. Right now, that is hard to do.

Avoid OnStar equipped cars and you should be safe.

There are several problems with driving a vehicle from the last century. I know, I am the proud owner of a 1980 Ford F100. Parts are -not- that available. The suppliers don't carry older parts because of low volume of sales and high costs of warehousing. Junkyards have scrapped many of the older cars when metals went up in price in the last couple of years. Even if you want to do a frame up restoration, if the truck comes from a state that uses salt on the roads in the winter, the frame is probably significantly rusted.

There will always be exceptions, like Jeeps, but for the most part, this is only a problem for newer Escalades and Excursions.

Anonymous said...

Legal and creepy big brother issues aside, this is terrible.

No one listened to me a few years ago when drive-by-wire systems and "stability management" systems first started to pop up on cars and I said this is ridiculously stupid and unsafe. You can't rely on software to control such complicated things (especially when it can mean life or death), as we have seen with Toyota's recent encounter with the ghost in the machine.

Not to mention automotive computer systems aren't exactly the most reliable things. Try finding a 90s or earlier car with no electrical gremlins in even such "safety" systems as ABS. In the hands of an average owner (which is to say someone who doesn't know squat about cars and doesn't do any maintenance on them, ever, or even brings them into the dealer to have it done), I feel completely comfortable saying that at least a full half of those cars don't have completely functional electrical "safety" systems.

Rollory said...

If I am sitting at a red light and a semi is coming up behind me at 60mph with no sign of being physically capable of stopping in time, my vehicle is damn well going to get moving, red light or no red light.

This is just an example, but this is WHY principles matter. No, you do not have the right to control my vehicle, and no, I will not permit you to do so.

Same reason I do not permit software companies to exercise control over software on my machine. It has happened several times that I have bought software, discovered it had a always-phone-the-mothership behavior, returned it and gotten my money back, then gotten the hacked version and used it anyway. They can have my money when they start treating me like a customer instead of a serf.

Anonymous said...

ISTR reading here or at kindred sites about 1. The publicizing of the formula for black power during the American War of Independence, and 2. A similar publication of some gun plans by one of the most famous inventors.

Both serve to illustrate that technology that is proprietary and secret does not work for freedom

The same principle applies all the more to software. Those of us who
insist on using closed source software may well find that those binaries do more than the user intended or wanted. Sat. sap.

all the best, cycjec

P.S. Free Software != Open Source.
There's a difference there too.

P.P.S. I believe there's a Linux
Users Group in Birmingham. Hope they know how to do more that grab
Ubuntu images from the 'Net.