Desperate John Deere tractor owners are downloading illegal Ukrainian firmware hacks to get the crops in

John Deere is notorious for arguing that farmers who buy its tractors actually "license" them because Deere still owns the copyright to the tractors' software; in 2015, the US Copyright Office affirmed that farmers were allowed to jailbreak their tractors to effect repairs and modifications. Read the rest

If Google wins its trade secrets suit against Uber, it could tank Uber

Google is suing Uber, alleging that the company recruited a former Google exec who had secretly offered to give them access to trade-secrets from Google's self-driving car project. Read the rest

Kickstarting a car-hacking tool that lets you take control of your own vehicle

The fully-funded Macchina project on Kickstarter is an Arduino-based, "open, versatile" gadget that bypasses the DRM in your car's network, allowing you to configure it to work the way you want it to, so you can customize your car in all kinds of cool ways. Read the rest

The previous owners of used "smart" cars can still control them via the cars' apps (not just cars!)

It's not just that smart cars' Android apps are sloppily designed and thus horribly insecure; they are also deliberately designed with extremely poor security choices: even if you factory-reset a car after it is sold as used, the original owner can still locate it, honk its horn, and unlock its doors. Read the rest

Bad Android security makes it easy to break into and steal millions of "smart" cars

Securelist's report on the security vulnerabilities in Android-based "connected cars" describes how custom Android apps could be used to find out where the car is, follow it around, unlock its doors, start its engine, and drive it away. Read the rest

Beyond the Trolley Problem: Three realistic, near-future ethical dilemmas about self-driving cars

MIT Professor Emeritus of Robotic Rodney Brooks has published a thought-provoking essay on the most concrete, most likely ethical questions that will be raised by self-driving cars; Brooks is uninterested in contrived questions like the "Trolley Problem" (as am I, but for different reasons); he's more attuned to the immediate problems that could be created by selfish self-drivers who use their cars to get an edge over the people who drive themselves, and pedestrians. Read the rest

How a law prof got a judge to rule that speeding cam tickets are unenforceable

Adam MacLeod is an associate law prof at Faulkner Christian University in Montgomery, Alabama: when he received a speeding ticket generated by a traffic camera for a time when he knew he hadn't been driving his car (he'd been lecturing at the moment when the picture was snapped), he decided he would fight it to the bitter end. Read the rest

DoJ indicts six VW executives in total for Dieselgate fraud

It's not just regulatory compliance exec Oliver Schmidt -- arrested last week -- who faces personal criminal repercussions for his role in the Dieselgate scandal: five more VW execs have been indicted and face criminal charges, including the former head of VW R&D, the head of engine development, an engine development supervisor, and another regulatory compliance liason. Read the rest

Chrysler's Dieselgate: 100,000 Chrysler trucks said to have emissions "defeat devices"

The EPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) say that since 2014, Chrysler shipped 104,000 trucks with "defeat devices" designed to cheat emissions tests -- like VW's cheating, this software was designed to produce low NOx ratings when the trucks were undergoing emissions tests, but to ramp up NOx emissions during normal road use, trading emissions for fuel-efficiency. Read the rest

FBI arrest the VW executive who stonewalled on the first Dieselgate reports for defrauding the US Government

Oliver Schmidt led Volkswagen regulatory compliance office from 2014 to Mar 2015, and it was he who issued statements dismissing the initial West Virginia University reports of cheating in the emissions control systems of the company's cars, lying to US regulators and insisting that the systems were merely buggy, and not deliberately designed to get around emissions testing; after the company admitted to the fraud, he appeared before the British Parliament and insisted that the fraud didn't violate EU law. Read the rest

Hedge fund managers' sports car ownership predicts their unwise risk-taking

In "Sensation Seeking, Sports Cars, and Hedge Funds" Three business school researchers analyze a huge data-set of previous and current hedge-funds that have been hand-matched with the vehicle-ownership records of the funds' managers and analyze the data to see if the ownership of a "performance car" correlates with a hedge fund manager's willingness to take risks, and whether those risks pay off. Read the rest

Ah yes, the short-lived 1950s fad of illuminated tires

In the 1950s, car enthusiasts began playing around with illuminated tires made of translucent synthetic rubber that could be tinted any color. Goodyear soon got in the game in case it took off, which unfortunately never happened.

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Car Wars: a dystopian science fiction story about the nightmare of self-driving cars

Melbourne's Deakin University commissioned me to write a science fiction story about the design and regulation of self-driving cars, inspired by my essay about the misapplication of the "Trolley Problem" to autonomous vehicles. Read the rest

London Mayor sends VW a £2.5m bill for Dieselgate cheaters' Congestion Charges

Drivers in London have to pay a daily "congestion charge" intended to encourage the use of public transit and bicycles, but low-emission vehicles are exempt, and so for years, drivers of VW diesels got free rides thanks to the company's fraudulent claims about their cars' pollution. Read the rest

Amazing photos from Kinshasa's scrap car-parts megamarket

The N’Djili district of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo is home to an enormous market of scrap auto-parts, carefully salvaged from Japan's waste-stream and meticulously arrayed on blankets by merchants eking out a marginal existence. Read the rest

Electric cars must now emit engine-tones at low speeds

My friend Gilbert was the first Prius owner I knew; a hacker, Gilbert was accustomed to eating at a drive-through at 3AM, but the first time he took his silent car through the lane, the order-taker curtly said that they didn't serve people on foot; when he insisted that he was in a car, she demanded to know why she couldn't hear the engine idling? Read the rest

Mercedes' weird "Trolley Problem" announcement continues dumb debate about self-driving cars

In 1967, Philippa Foot posed the "Trolley Problem," an ethical conundrum about whether a bystander should be sacrificed to rescue the passengers of a speeding, out-of-control trolley; as self-driving cars have inched toward reality, this has been repurposed as a misleadingly chin-stroking question about autonomous vehicles: when faced with the choice of killing their owners or someone else, who should die? Read the rest

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