Ford demos car-to-car networking for traffic-shaping: can you spoof it to beat traffic?

Ford's Washington Auto Show booth showed off a new range of specialized car-to-car WiFi networks intended to allow cars to automatically negotiate following distances and lane-changes, so that drivers can be alerted to potential traffic hazards. It's a cool idea, but I immediately wondered if you could transmit bogus information about your car's location, speed, etc, in such a way as to cause all the other cars on the road to yield to you, convinced that they are about to get into a terrible crash. This is a new possibility opened up by allowing cars to self-report their locations and speed to one another, one that isn't there in today's advanced cars, which use sensors to determine for themselves who else is on the road and what hazards they present.
Ford's technology works over a dedicated short-range WiFi system on a secure channel allocated by the FCC. Ford says the system one-ups radar safety systems by allowing full 360-degree coverage even when there's no direct line of sight. Scenarios where this could benefit safety or traffic? Predicting collision courses with unseen vehicles, seeing sudden stops before they're visible, and spotting traffic pattern changes on a busy highway.

As much as 81 percent of all passenger vehicle crashes where alcohol isn't a factor are due to such hazards, according to Ford. That amounts to over 4.3 million incidents each year. Ford wants to reduce that number.

Beyond the safety aspect, Ford says V2V technology, if applied on a national scale, could reduce wasted fuel spent in traffic delays. According to the Texas Transportation Intisute, about 3.9 billion gallons of fuel were wasted in traffic in 2009. That's a lot of gas--$808 worth for the average commuter.

Ford Previews Vehicle-To-Vehicle Tech At Washington Auto Show (via /.)


  1. “Ford’s technology works over a dedicated short-range WiFi system on a secure channel allocated by the FCC.”

    That makes me laugh. The claim that a particular radio channel can be ‘secure’.

  2. Will people try to subvert prosocial technology to enable antisocial behavior? Absolutely. Should the rest of us tolerate such behavior? Absolutely not.

    1. It’s no problem really – we’ll just make sure that the onboard computer that’s putting out the wireless signals is secure and can’t be modified by the end user.

      Oh, wait…

  3. Don’ waste your time worrying about whether it could be hacked – it will never be implemented. It’s just a stunt to prop up stock prices based upon so-called cutting edge technology that supposedly saves millions of dollars of gas.

    From a litigious point of view their lawyers would never allow themselve to be put in the foolish position of exposure of this magnitude. From a technical point of view the network latency and propagation issues are daunting in an antenna range full of metal reflectors at a whatever gigahertz range. It’s just blog-bait and you bit.

  4. Can I wirelessly send a “fuck you” message to someone that cuts me off, but is looking the other way and has the radio turned up?

  5. $808 of savings per car user – that has my bogus detector humming. Elsewhere, I find calculations that the average car travels 12,000 miles at say 22.5 miles per gallon = 533 gallons per annum at $3 is an annual spend of $1600. So the Texas Transportation Instisute’s claim as rendered in this news story is that you’ll halve your gas consumption. Hmm. Still. Nice concept.

    1. That may be a national average, but it’s not average for anyone I know that lives in Texas. Most people I talk to seem to average closer to 20k per year on their cars. I put closer to 25k outside Dallas. Things are just so spread out here.

  6. Ford will know who is who, where they are, where they are going, what kind of mileage they get, and how loud the driver yelled when he spilled hot coffee on his lap while attempting to punch in a cell phone number while attempting to negotiate a high-speed lane change.

    Multiply this by all the other car companies, post the results as a Facebook app, and brother, you’ve got yourself some valuable data.

    Not all that new, really. Singapore implemented government tracking of every single vehicle, oh, at least a decade ago.

  7. Of course it’s safe.. they’ll protect it by suing the everliving crap out of anyone that hacks the protocol and posts instructions on the internet.

    Auto-piloting cars are inevitable, might as well get it out of the way now because delaying another 10 or 20 years in a lab won’t improve quality. The additional two decades of “production bug testing” means our roads might actually be safe sometime this century.

  8. Anyone who can “shout” loudly enough in the appropriate band(s) can produce a DoS attack — and the equipment to do it is likely no more expensive than a pot (potential), a 9v battery, some resistors, and a particular length of wire coiled up. And a magnet, to stick them to undercarriages. CDMA is robust, but all it would take is one mobile monkey wrench sitting at an intersection to knock it out for everyone passing through it.

    Then, owning an antenna that’s not attached to a car becomes a class C misdemeanor …

    Or when the car’s internal network gets remotely 0wn3d, turning any arbitrary car into a shouting monkey wrench.

  9. Hack, build database for my preferred route, build remote operable clones, plant in strategic places, drive to work at 120 MPH with no traffic. Sure it might only work for a short time but that short time would be freakin’ awesome.

    Also, could be used by those nefarious terrorists and/or government types. In conclusion, this idea == stupid.

  10. More than 33,000 people die per year in traffic accidents in the US. One day, an automated system will be designed that cuts this figure to, say, 10,000, but many of those 10,000 people will arguably be killed by software bugs. I hope that liability concerns wouldn’t cause people to rip the system out and go back to three times as many deaths because we can’t build perfect software.

  11. Can you spoof it to beat traffic? Yeah, you can also put a fake police light on your car to beat traffic.

    I think such a spoof device would be illegal for the same reason, but would be easier to track across the distributed network described – as a disturbance that doesn’t correspond to a known emergency vehicle – and it would probably be real easy to use existing traffic cameras to collect evidence against the spoofer.

  12. What could possibly go wrong? I bet that:
    1) some russian/chinese dude will soon crack the protocol, so that any average linux laptop or smartphone can join the “secure channel”.
    2) american pranksters will start sending fake signals to make cars stop abruptly, causing pile-ups around the country.
    3) Ford will recall all cars to fix the vulnerability or change encryption keys. After two months, some other russian/chinese dude will crack it again -> goto step 2.
    4) To avoid having to recall cars every two months, Ford will enable over-the-air firmware updates. Malware will spread like wildfire, popping up porn and viagra ads on car screens. Un-enforceable anti-hacking laws will be passed. People will simply buy japanese electric cars. Ford will ask the Palin administration for another bailout.

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