Home Scientists Can Now Take Over Your Car

Scientists Can Now Take Over Your Car

An unexpected result has come out of the investigation into the apparent accidental acceleration of Toyota cars. The National Academies created the Committee on Electronic Vehicle Controls and Unintended Acceleration.

According to a report by Technology Review, the scientists in the group proved they could take control of cars using “GM’s OnStar and Ford’s Sync, as well as through the Bluetooth connections intended for making hands-free phone calls.”

The scientists, including Tadayoshi Kohno of the University of Washington, and UC San Diego’s Stefan Savage discovered they could use the cellular system many cars have to upload code delivered by audio to take over the car’s function. In essence, they could take control of the car from the driver and stop it, drive it away and more.

Previously, the scientists showed they could take over a car, providing they had “physical access to the vehicle’s onboard diagnostics port–a federally mandated access point located under the dashboard in almost all modern cars.” This is qualitatively different however. Now scientists, and by association all manner of goodies and baddies, can in theory (and at least in this study in practice) take over a car they had not previous connection to.

What are the implications of this? On the positive side, a driver who passes out or has a heart attack could, if it were caught in time, be saved by piloting the car to a safe stop. A criminal, say a car-jacker, could be driven straight to a police station. On the other hand, high-tech thieves might, in mastering these elements of our new, more high-tech cars, find it a great deal easier to steal them.

Model-T photo by Dave Seven | amphibious car photo by Susan Williams

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