Our Computerized Cars

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It should be no secret that our automobiles now run on computers.  In fact, since the advent of OBD (Federally mandated On Board Diagnostics) we are very dependent upon computers, sensors, networks, and software to allow our cars and trucks to do what we expect them to do – provide transportation.

Outside of transportation duties our vehicles now provide guidance, entertainment, and watch over our environmental needs. They also manage our braking, steering, ride qualities, and when our lights come on.

The current crop of new vehicles have more processing power than the military’s F-35, Joint Strike Fighter.

Key to all this is the software magic that control every aspect of a car’s functions.

Hardware wears out and deteriorates, but software is written broken.  How broken?

A modern car has 10,000,000 lines of code running.  A statistic of the programming industry is that the average is one software bug per thousand lines of code.  So that means that this average car has 10,000 errors waiting to cause who knows what kind of failure.

Half of today’s recalls are the result of software bugs.

That means that 253 million cars and trucks are carrying 2,530,000,000,000 software bugs around on their four wheels averaging nearly two tons apiece. Think about that on your next commute to work.

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But wait, there is more.  Since our cars have become dependent upon computers, their software, and the networks that interconnect every part of the car’s systems together they are also susceptible to being hacked. 

Just a few years ago hacking of automobiles was demonstrated by physically connecting to the diagnostic port and then using a laptop to command brakes not to function or steering to malfunction along with no control over the accelerator.  Interesting but who would let someone attach a laptop to their car?

Now that cars have Internet connectivity, wireless monitoring of tire pressures, OnStar, and a myriad of wireless connections. A cellular modem, Blue Tooth, and who knows what is really on that USB jump-drive that you plug into your MP3 playing radio.

In the old spy movies of the sixties the trick was to plant a transmitter on the bad guy’s car.  Today the car is already a transmitter and the passengers are all carrying their multi-functional cell phones that tattle on them constantly.

In their haste to provide all our automotive wants and needs the car companies have left our cars unlocked and available to hackers and trackers.

If you are counting on our legislators to regulate this aspect of cars and mandate security you can pretty much rule out seeing anything that could keep up with the troublemakers because our legislators haven’t got a technological clue.

Yes, the NHTSA has recalled 1.4 million Fiat Chrysler vehicles to fix their hacking threat, but that is just the one vulnerability that is known.  More will come.

So ask yourself, just how comfortably will you sleep in your self-driving car?

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