Honk for safety

In Christmas times it’s often nicer to take the car to the shop, rather than walking.

So I’m going to write about cars.

The digitalisation of cars, and their equipping with more and more electronic tools, could hardly have escaped the engineering savvy citizen, or even the average driver.

Neelie Kroes wants all cars in the EU to be digitalised within a near future, possibly having been inspired by a German research team hoping for remotely controlled vehicles with a potential of decreasing motorway accident statistics.

In the US, a novel political idea is equipping all cars with electronic tools for assisting in parking, and small, electronic devices have been helping drivers past tolling station on roads in a number of nations for years (I make no distinction between public or private tolls).

This spring, researchers identified a large number of security flaws in onboard car electronics. This summer I found an article about remotely spoofed electronic warning systems in cars. Along with my slightly patriotic glorification of the 1975 model of Volvo, which just keeps going and going and going, it made me think more about the implications of car digitalisation and maintenance needs.

Cars are increasingly dependent on specialised spare parts, different not only per brand but also per model. It makes it difficult to recycle spare parts, and to supply generic parts. Greater complexity, not just mechanic but also electronic or even digital, makes it difficult even for advanced users, or owners, to do their own error searches, rebuild or fix their vehicles. In practise we end up quite locked in with the certified mechanics of our particular brand.

I’m not sure that hacked cars would ever turn into a bigger problem for an average driver, but malware infected cars? Perhaps a problem for a diplomat or the military. In any case, it doesn’t feel good to have politicians this willing to sacrifice the information control of individuals to obtain security which is, at the baseline, still dependent on sanity. The unintended consequence seems to be, instead, whose sanity determines when, where or how an accident happens.

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  1. december 19, 2010 kl. 19:52

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