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Is Hacking Cars a Thing of the Past? 748

Posted by Cliff
from the as-cars-become-more-like-computers dept.
PhotoGuy asks: "I went to install a remote car starter in our Honda last week, which used to be kind of an elegant hack (like a controlled hot-wiring of your car), only to find out that additional expensive parts and modules were required, due to the anti-theft system on the vehicle, where the car's computer would not let it start, unless it received the right code from the magnetic encoding on the key! In order to install a car starter, you have to actually put a spare key to the vehicle *in* the add-on module to let the car starter do it's thing. Yeah, that makes me more comfortable, leaving a key installed the remote car starter. That sucker went back to the store pretty quickly, that's way too much work, when a dealership can do it for me. Is the slight reduction in risk of theft of your vehicle, worth that much loss of freedom of choice and control?"

"Ever since electronic ignitions, and especially ones controlled by computers, it seems the "hackability" and user-maintainability of cars has been declining. Your neighborhood grease monkey can't do much to a modern car without a bunch of electronic gear interfacing to the car's computer. It's almost a little anti-competitive.

Carbeurators, and the other mechanical systems which were fairly standard and visible and self-evident, really seem to be the equivalent of "open source", while the new computer-based systems seem to be more closed and proprietary. I know in the early days of cars with computers, there were third party ROM upgrades for performance tweaking; I'm guessing that's falling by the wayside more and more, as these systems get more and more complex.

It almost seems like a Microsoft-like statement, to tell you they're doing all of this to reduce theft, while really they're doing it to ensure you are forced into coming back to their dealerships..."

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Is Hacking Cars a Thing of the Past?

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  • Their goal... (Score:4, Informative)

    by smaug195 (535681) on Thursday December 06, 2001 @02:34PM (#2666019)
    Is to make more money for the dealers. I think that we are moving into many diffrent incompatible car computers that all are worked diffrently so a mechanic cant service more then 1 or 2 diffrent types. Bringing about the death of independent mechanics and the rise of the dealerships. Then again I could be paranoid.
    • Re:Their goal... (Score:5, Informative)

      by saider (177166) on Thursday December 06, 2001 @03:00PM (#2666300)
      Not too paranoid. Dealerships make a lot of their money servicing cars. Granted, most of the money comes from the parent company for warranty work. But this practice will not be opposed because there is a lot of money to be made.

      1) End user maintenance. Why can't the car tell you why the check engine light is on? Because the dealers want you to come down to the shop and pay them $40 just to do a diagnosis.

      2) Mechanics will get the machines that they need to read the computer codes. The car companies make money indirectly by working with the folks who build these boxes. The mechanics make money because they can charge somebody $40 because a light came on.

      #2 really burns me. The computers in the shop are typically PCs housed in a big console with several cables coming out. The cables are simply a black box to the parallel port. There is no reason that this black box cannot be made available in you local Discount Auto.

      Once my car is paid for, I'm going to set out to develop a replacement computer of my own design - Just to spite those guys. If anyone is interested or knows where I can get info on the Ford 4.6L engine, please let me know. I've got the shop manuals, and they do a pretty good job of describing the signals coming from the equipment. The next step is to design the hardware. OpenCar anyone? No...wait...that's a lousy name. How about RagTop?
      • Re:Their goal... (Score:5, Informative)

        by TwoStep (36482) on Thursday December 06, 2001 @03:08PM (#2666367) Homepage
        That "black-box" is available. Check this [obd-2.com] out. The whole rant is sort of flawed, because there is actually a standard for car diagnostic interfaces, called ODB-2. I had a link to the documentation, but can't find it right now.

        Twostep
        • Re:Their goal... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Pyrosz (469177) <amurray AT stage11 DOT ca> on Thursday December 06, 2001 @03:45PM (#2666697) Homepage
          These guys [aeswave.com] sell a generic OBDII scan tool for your Palm or Handspring Visor PDA for $329.

          On the whole "their making it more complex to make more money for dealers issue", its not even close to that. They make it more complex by adding computer controls to get finer control of the car. Mechanical switches and valves are not as good (emissions, gas mpg, etc..) as computer controlled (electronic) ones. I have a feeling a lot of geeks don't even change their own oil let a lone do something like change an engine. Please go to a local net forum about cars and read a little.

      • Re:Their goal... (Score:3, Informative)

        by Tackhead (54550)
        > Why can't the car tell you why the check engine light is on? Because the dealers want you to come down to the shop and pay them $40 just to do a diagnosis.

        Maddest props to Chrysler for making their diagnostic codes [allpar.com] end-user accessible.

        Saved me a bundle being able to walk into a good mechanic's shop and saying "Diagnostic code XX, friggin' oxygen sensor."

      • Re:Their goal... (Score:3, Informative)

        by Leven Valera (127099)
        #2 really burns me. The computers in the shop are typically PCs housed in a big console with several cables coming out. The cables are simply a black box to the parallel port. There is no reason that this black box cannot be made available in you local Discount Auto.

        Actually, for GM, some Ford, and Chrysler cars at least, you can get the AutoTap [autotap.com] which is a OBDII to RS232 serial adapter combo which lets you get engine parameters in real time from the computer.

        Cheers,
        LV
        (owner of a 400hp TransAm with n2o injection)
  • by Zapaanese.Whore (315742) on Thursday December 06, 2001 @02:34PM (#2666020)

    Does anyone even use those things anymore?

    I mean, let's face it, when you hear a car alarm go off, do you even *LOOK* in that direction? I know I don't.

    And even if I saw someone with a jimmy, the hood up, wires sticking out and a .45 in his back pocket, would I do anything? Of course not. Why should I? It's not *MY* car.

    All car alarms do now is annoy people.

    Oh and give kids a something to throw snowballs at during winter ;)

    - Z
    • by Nos. (179609) <andrewNO@SPAMthekerrs.ca> on Thursday December 06, 2001 @02:38PM (#2666063) Homepage
      Its not an alarm. Its an anti-theft device which is not the same thing. A lot (most?) new cars are coming with these now. I didn't know Hondas did, but GM and VW both have these "key readers" that will not allow the vehicle to start without receiving a (magnetic|electrical|???) signal from the key.

      My car, a '99 Olds Alero, has the same thing. It's a nice feature, especially considering I live in the car theft capital of Canada (Regina). It can be a pain for things like car starters and getting extra keys made, but overall I like the idea.

    • My Car Alarm Idea... (Score:2, Interesting)

      by idonotexist (450877)
      ok, I've only shared this idea with friends and relatives, but I'll make it public now: a 'screaming car alarm.' Yes, a recorded scream of a woman would play should a car alarm be tripped. Now, that should get attention...
      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 06, 2001 @02:54PM (#2666232)
        It would be cool if it started off in a low-key mode than got progressively more hysterical.

        Phase 1: *sound of clearing throat then woman's soft voice* Can you sort of leave now before it gets worse for you?
        Phase 2: *loud voice but not screaming* "OK, You were warned. Step away from the vehicle, NOW!"
        Phase 3: *screaming in woman's voice* "Thief! Thief! Help! Thief!"
        Phase 4: *screaming hysterically/shrieking* I'M BEING RAPED! I'M BEING RAPED! HEEEELLLPPP!! HE'S STICKING IT IN MY ASSSS!!! MY ASSSS!!!"

        And so it goes.
  • by SirSlud (67381) on Thursday December 06, 2001 @02:35PM (#2666023) Homepage
    well, I, for one, don't mind losing that kind of 'freedom and control' if it helps the deployment of ignition technologies to keep non-safe drivers out of cars: breathalizer, driver licence check, etc

    to me, it is absolutely criminal that cars are not mandated to have at least some level of drunkdriving prevention. dunno if that would get in the way of alternative security systems, but if it does .. well, lets just say that the average human is a little too attached to their car in the first place :)
    • I guess you must be one of the people that will run an underground garage that will disable or bypass these systems, for the right price.

      Never push for a law unless you think about the huge criminal market it might create.
      • sure, if you WANT to do something, you can. you always can

        My theory is that a significant portion of drunk drivers only feel comfortable driving dunk when they are .. guess what .. drunk. So I would say, sure, underground garages might spring up, but if we found out that the vast majority of cases were people who get in their cars while they are drunk, but wouldn't feel morally comfy with getting such after-market illegal alterations done, then its very much worth it.

        as always, it comes down to the numbers, but the drunk drivers I know wouldn't feel comfortable with using such services. basically, they just 'assume' when they are drunk that they arn't, hop in their car, and go ... because they can, and we still havn't reached the point where its easy to amass social support for not getting in a car after having one or two extra beers in that grey area that you can't 'feel', but numerically contributes to drunk driving.
    • Average American might be a bit more accurate. I wonder what percentage of humans own automobiles.
    • So, if I just took some cough medicine, so that I can stop coughing long enough to drive, I probably wouldn't be able to drive the car? I'm not sure how much a breathalyzer needs to detect, but I would wager this scenario could possibly trip it.
    • by Tassach (137772) on Thursday December 06, 2001 @03:13PM (#2666409)
      Sure, let's treat everyone like criminals because the might do somthing bad. Hell, while we're at it let's put speed governers in everyone's car so nobody can drive too fast. Let's put in proximity sensors to force them to slow down if they are tailgating someone. Let's put in a system to shut off the engine if they run a red light. Let's mandate GPS transponders and surveillance devices in all vehicles so the government can track our every move.



      I have no problem with installing a breathalizer in the car of someone who has been convicted of DUI/DWI, but it's totally unacceptable to require it of someone who has not even been accused, let alone convicted, of a crime.

    • That's all fine and good, but the original question still remains: Why are we being forced to go to a dealership (referred to as SATAN by the email-digest I subscribe to for my '92 Eagle Talon), to upgrade that which we could do by ourselves if stupid digital controls to limit what we can do were not put in place?

      My car's turbo boost guage is wildly inaccurate because the computer feeds it averages of the boost, not a straight reading from the turbo itself. Thankfully, I can buy an aftermarket boost guage, install it properly, and get accurate readings without circumventing the computer. This makes it much easier for me to diagnose problems with my car in the future as I have accurate readings from the turbo, not averages.

      This idea goes for all kinds of other areas of my car, as well as other cars. Besides, the driving tests here in America suck huge hairy ones! There are so many clueless drivers, without knowledge of how to actually drive a car, on the roads because of it. Just like most of the other perfectly good laws in this country (like no drunk driving laws) - if we could enforce 'em with more manpower, we wouldn't need ever more restrictive laws in the first place.

  • Car security (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Starbreeze (209787)
    Honestly, I think the security is worth it. No one pays attention to car alarms going off anymore. My brand spanking new 2002 Taurus won't start unless you use a special key from the dealership with the computer chip in it. While the car came with 2 keys, it will cost me $80 each for additional keys.

    But then, I've never felt the need for a remote starter anyway. I've gotten used to walking outside in my pajamas in the winter to start the car so it can warm up while I get ready for work.
    • Re:Car security (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Call your dealer and ask the cost should you lose all your keys. Duplicating cost is small (if you call $80-$100 small), but often times the cost to start over with no keys can exceed several thousand dollars. Definitely worth the $80 to buy a spare for your safe deposit box.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Ah, so it's nice to know that you car is secure
      with a fancy key required to start it, and yet
      you leave the thing running in your driveway,
      while you get ready for work!

      There's some irony here somewhere, I'm sure.

      AC
    • Well, after locking my keys in my brand new car (2001 Focus, did the 0% interest on GM cars get you too?) I can tell you I'm very happy that only the keys to the car can start it. Once the lock smith arrived it took him only about 45 seconds to use his tool to hit the power lock button. Nothing special, just a bent piece of metal.

      A car theif has the advantage of not having to mind the finish.
  • by LordNimon (85072) on Thursday December 06, 2001 @02:36PM (#2666033)
    APR [goapr.com] has been able to do some amazing things with Audis and Volkswagens. I'd say car hacking is far from dead, you just need to be a lot smarter nowadays.

    Besides, installing a remote car starter isn't my idea of a real hack. How is that any more of a "hack" than installing a new car radio? Obviously, you weren't able to bypass the security system, so you're not much of a hacker.

    • by Nater (15229) on Thursday December 06, 2001 @04:06PM (#2666864) Homepage

      I have far better torque and have beaten every vehicle (whether motorcycle, automobile, truck, or otherwise) off the line and out-paced it for the first 25 meters. Of course that's just in regular city traffic, but occassionally some punk in a fast car tries it. I also get infinite gas mileage. I drive a 1.15 horsepower Schwinn with a 24-speed manual transmission. I could turbocharge it, but I quit caffeine.

      Cornering? Braking? 90 degree turn, 15 foot radius, 20 mph (on a daily basis using worn tires).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 06, 2001 @02:37PM (#2666046)
    Really the only thing you need from the key is the VATS chip off of it. You really don't need a functioning key to make things work. Electric current goes through the chip, and if the car doesn't receive the correct change in current, the car doesn't start. Requiring a key with VATS doesn't do much for the professional car theif or the theif with access to a dealership with a corrupt car parts guy (imagine that).

    Reb
  • It's your car. You can do what you want with it. If you don't wanna put out the effort to hack in the features you want with a level of security that you want, that's not the manufacturer's fault, it's your fault for being lazy. ;)

    Your alternative option is to buy a car thirty years old (air cooled VW's come highly reccomended) and just set up a servo to short circuit the wires you need short circuited, and presto, instant remote start.

    Just don't leave the car in gear when to go to bed at night; use the emergency brake. ;)
  • by Wakko Warner (324) on Thursday December 06, 2001 @02:40PM (#2666078) Homepage Journal
    I tried installing NetBSD on my car last week, only to find out the transmission in my Yugo is undocumented, and they won't tell me how to bootstrap the thing without having me sign an NDA first.

    It's a shame, it really is.
  • Anything that is drop in simple (like a remote car starter package) isn't a hack. Working around this "feature" is hacking the car. I only assume that the author never considering hooking up the car to a serial line and starting to investigate the I/O.

    I've hacked my motorcycles to make things work contrary to the original design on many occasions. Removing parts I didn't want that sucked way power, adding new circuits for auxillary devices, splice here, chop there, etc. Here's the important part, when I've asked other people, the typical response was "Gee, I've never done that." so we figured it out. Wanna know how long it took for someone to figure out that a '96 Kawasaki KLR hand guard could be fit onto a Suzuki SV650 with just a bit of machining? Now that was a hacker at work!
  • by Skyshadow (508) on Thursday December 06, 2001 @02:41PM (#2666091) Homepage
    How on earth do you lose freedom here? You're still free to go buy a car that doesn't use this sort of antitheft system -- get a Kia or something. I don't recall seeing legislation requiring you to go buy a Honda.

    Jesus, this is on the level of whining that you can't use the windshield wipers from your old car (which were brand new!) on a new car you just bought.

    • "I don't recall seeing legislation requiring you to go buy a Honda."

      But all the good 'Riceboy mods' [riceboypage.com] are only available for Hondas..... You can wire the trunk release button on the remote starter to the cleverly mounted fire extinguisher to put out the electrical fire caused by improper installation of the car starter

  • by Junta (36770)
    Why do you want a remote control starter in the first place? This isn't even a case of lazniess, you *have* to sit in the car in order to do anything useful with it. And you say you feel uncomfortable about leaving a key in your unit in order to make it functional, but if they are already in your car and that far anyway, what would they need your *key* for? Starting the car? Well, if they are that far in they would have hot-wired if you didn't have a system in place.

    Besdies, a remote control car starter just sounds like a *really* bad idea. No benefit, all kinds of possible security breaches. You want to make your car easier to steal for no good reason?

    I'll admit that the fancy electronics are pushing out the really small-scale mechanics, but it is by no means microsoft tactics. They want to improve cars, make them harder to steal, more convenient and efficient. Yes, you may have a bit more proprietary stuff in each car, but I'll wager that even if the accessories are produced by a single company now, in the future other companies will have the circuitry for the different models just like they do forconventional parts.

    This is one of the most oddball ideas I've seen on Slashdot.
    • Besdies, a remote control car starter just sounds like a *really* bad idea. No benefit, all kinds of possible security breaches. You want to make your car easier to steal for no good reason?

      Well, the usual reasons include: You want to warm your car up on a cold morning before you get into it. You want to air-condition your car cooler on a hot day before you get into it. You want to know where your car is in a crowded shopping mall parking lot.

      These remote-starter devices have been around for many many years for good reasons, you know.
      • Or you're in the mafia or IRA and want to make sure there isn't a bomb hooked into your ignition system. ;)
      • You want to know where your car is in a crowded shopping mall parking lot.

        From the sound of the engine? "Be vewy, vewy quiet -- I'm hunting my VW Wabbit!"

        As for the other reasons, do what I did -- have kids! They love starting the car, and they'll warm up the seat some too.

    • Re:Huh? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Natasha (31280)
      I don't know where you live, but where I am (Montana) we have below zero winters. Having a remote starter means I can start the car before I'm dressed and have it warmed up by the time I'm ready to go.
    • This isn't even a case of lazniess, you *have* to sit in the car in order to do anything useful with it.

      Sometimes, I wish people who didn't understand something would be quiet, rather than pretend to understand it. Remote starters bypass the ignition switch to start the vehicle. As others have mentioned, starting a vehicle remotely is nice if, say, your car is parked outside on a cold morning, and you want to warm it up before getting in it. However, they ONLY work on vehicles equipped with automatic transmissions and fuel injection. Manual transmissions have a neutral safety switch, which requires the clutch pedal to be depressed in order to start. Bypassing that switch on some vehicles can cause problems with the computer, cruise control, etc. Fuel injection is required because carbureators require you to depress the gas pedal once or twice before starting.

      And you say you feel uncomfortable about leaving a key in your unit in order to make it functional, but if they are already in your car and that far anyway, what would they need your *key* for?

      If a key is required for the remote starter, and someone breaks in to the vehicle, they find the hidden key, remove it, and start the engine with it like a normal person. Or, they could hotwire it, bypassing the "key required" part of the anti-theft system.

      Besdies, a remote control car starter just sounds like a *really* bad idea. No benefit, all kinds of possible security breaches.

      I would *assume* these have some sort of built-in security code, just like a keyless entry system, garage door opener, etc. The security issue is leaving a key in the vehicle. Even hidden, THAT is just a BAD idea.

    • Move out of the tropics and you will get the point real quick. When your nose hairs freeze walking between the house and the car, a remote starter makes for a pleasant morning drive.
  • If you want to protect your car from being started without a key, you need to make sure the key is physically there. Hence, no remote-starting. The way around this would seem to be buying the car with a remote-starter and anti-theft, or else buying one without both and then installing technology to do both.

    I don't see why this means "hacking your car" is a thing of the past. It just means you need an anti-theft device that's more compatible.
  • spare key (Score:5, Informative)

    by TheSHAD0W (258774) on Thursday December 06, 2001 @02:43PM (#2666109) Homepage
    The chip in the key is required to trigger the anti-theft system, but the key itself isn't needed. You could cut the metal tongue off the key, rendering it useless for actually turning the starter, while the chip would still work.

    You would, of course, be essentially disabling that part of the anti-theft system, but thieves now have ways around it anyway. If the key profile is identical to pre-chipped versions, it would also mean you could run your car with a non-chipped key, which is a lot easier to fit on your keychain.
    • A good idea, with a few warnings. First, some manufacturers store the chip in the tongue, so cutting it off would simply destroy the key, Also, the chipped part of the key could be inserted, and then the car could be started with a screwdriver (the key part ensures the lock cylinder will turn easily, and the chip starts the car). With those warnings in mind, have at those cutters!

      Virg
    • Re:spare key (Score:3, Insightful)

      by morris57 (23356)
      I have a Honda with the chipped key, and the remote starter that this guy was talking about. The security question occurred to me, so I tried to think about how a thief would go about using the key that's in the remote starter against me.

      You can't just remove the key and then take the car. You have to remove the key, remove the remote starter, then reconnect the ignition to the car's starter. This job, in an ideal environment would take about an hour to do.

      It then occurred to me that the least secure place to leave the car is in my own garage, since that place would provide the thieves with the most cover to work under overnight.
  • Evolution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by uslinux.net (152591) on Thursday December 06, 2001 @02:44PM (#2666127) Homepage
    As the once proud owner of a 1966 Mustang, I remember what it was like to mod the hell out of my car. Now my wife has a Civic and I have a 4Runner (hey, we live in the mountains, so 4WD is a MUST on at least one vehicle). Modern cars are a LOT quiter, ride better, get better fuel economy, and are better for the environment. Equivalent sized (outside dimentions) vehicles actually have MORE room inside them now, more luxuries (all but the cheapest cars now have power windows/locks/disc brakes/etc, are much safer, etc, etc.

    All of this comes at a price. You now nearly need to be a rocket scientist (or at least an automotive engineer) to work on them, but IMO, the price is worthwhile. Meanwhile, my 5.0L V8 '66 Mustang used to get about 16 MPG and had about 220HP, yet you can buy a 4-cylinder Subaru WRX with 225HP (Turbo) which gets ~27MPG, and will let you walk away in a crash.

    Yes, cars have gotten harder to work on, but they've also gotten safer, lighter, less polluting, and more luxurious. If you want to tinker with your vehicle, buy a 2-door Civic and mod it up, or buy a classic to restore like I did. Or get a kit, and build it from scratch.
    • Not all cars these days are so complicated. Yeah, a 2001 BMW M3 has 10E6 moving parts and OBD-II computers so you can't even change the ignition map. But, a Mazda Miata is so simple that significant performance changes can be seen by simply changing the ignition advance. Seriously! And the Miata is the kind of car where you can still change out the bottom end before lunch on Saturday.

      Also you don't have to go back very far to shed a whole lot of technology. A 1991 BMW M3 is *very* hackable: mechanics, computers, everything. It is also modern enough to have all the safety, emissions, and convenience features we take for granted these days. Perhaps this was the golden age of the automobile.

  • by Restil (31903) on Thursday December 06, 2001 @02:44PM (#2666130) Homepage
    I mean.. why break into cars, hotwire them, and drive them off. The smart thief would save up and get himself a tow truck. The ONLY person who would pay any attention at all is the owner. The alarm could be going off and nobody would give it a second glance. Chances are good, nobody would ever even get a plate #. You could steal the car in plain sight, and never hear a peep about it.

    No antitheft system in the world will help against a dedicated theif. The most effective system would probably be to just remove the distributor cap, or a kludge to disconnect the battery easily. No car thief is gonna spend time under the hood finding out why the car won't start. Of course, you get bit on convienence issues. But you'll never have to concern yourself with car theft.

    -Restil
    • The smart thief would save up and get himself a tow truck. The ONLY person who would pay any attention at all is the owner. The alarm could be going off and nobody would give it a second glance.

      Working in the "high-tech" area of Vancouver, BC, where there are some pretty snobby dot.bombing CEO's driving leased Porches, etc., that don't think that they have to follow parking rules in our part of town, and as a result they cause a bunch of parking problems. I can tell you that a number of us actually ENJOY watching these guys getting parking meter tickets and getting towed. It's always good for a laugh. And you're right, we'd never know if it was just a scam and the guy's car was getting jacked.
    • by spud_daemon (177977) on Thursday December 06, 2001 @03:04PM (#2666325)
      The most effective system would probably be to just remove the distributor cap, or a kludge to disconnect the battery easily. No car thief is gonna spend time under the hood finding out why the car won't start. Of course, you get bit on convienence issues. But you'll never have to concern yourself with car theft.

      LOL, thats an interesting assesment. At a local car show I was near the security booth when one man came to report his 1969 camaro was stolen and he couldn't figure out how it was stolen since he had the rotor out of the distributor in his pocket. Literally within 5 minutes another man came in to report that someone stole the rotor out of the distributor on his chevy truck.

      If theifs want it, they will take it. They are resourceful and will spend some time under the hood.

  • by karmaflux (148909) on Thursday December 06, 2001 @02:44PM (#2666138)
    I think that comparing fuel-injection to closed-source programming is a bit ridiculous. So it's not as easy to work on as a carburetor -- you can still buy a book and learn to work on your fuel injectors. Automobile engines have grown more complicated over time. All technology does. Honda's decision that fuel-injection is more efficient than carburetion does not indicate they are trying to force you out from under your hood.

    As for third-party ROM upgrades, these things are falling by the wayside because, among other reasons, most onboard computers use EEPROMS now, and when most people monkey with their engines they just wind up wrecking the timing and trashing the performance anyway.

    And there's not reason to compare everything you dislike to Microsoft. That radio keylock is a Honda option, nobody forced you to buy it, nobody is keeping you from removing that option from your car, and so on. A little time with a pair of diags and a soldering iron will remove the problem forever.

    As for leaving a spare key installed, what makes you think that's less secure than installing a remote starter? I built a little gadget not six months ago. It's a lot of fun. I go into a mall parking lot and press a button. A couple of 555 timers start cranking... and a few seconds later so do all the tricked-out imports in the parking lot. Granted, I still can't get in the vehicles, but I sure can start 'em up.

    In conclusion, if you want to play with your engine, or your ignition system, or whatever, buy a car you know how to work on. If you buy a 2002 model and can't figure out how to monkey with it, don't blame the auto manufacturer for knowing more about cars than you.

    • by Y2K is bogus (7647) on Thursday December 06, 2001 @06:30PM (#2667742)
      You obviously don't know what you're talking about. Every advancement in car tuning has come at the hands of some VERY smart people. Ford doesn't publish information on how to tune their cars. Niether does GM, or Audi, or Volkswagen, or Honda, or Subaru, or BMW. All of these computers have been hacked in the truest sense of the word. There are people with logic analyzers sniffing the bus of running computers to figure out what's happening. People write emulators and disassemblers to understand where all the tables, functions, and scalars are.

      OBD-II has made it a lot easier to hack computers, but the tuning of the engine is still an art practiced by people who have learned A LOT and still don't know everything. It's rare to find an aftermarket engine that is tuned to the quality of the OEM engine, it just doesn't happen all that often.

      So what happens? There are several companies who manufacture aftermarket drop-in computers for controlling engine functions. For Fords SpeedBrain and the Ford SVO EPEC come to mind. For race cars the Edelbrock EFI, Accel DFI, Speedpro, and Motronic are used often. The upside to the aftermarket is that you get documentation and they rarely are as complex as OEM computers.

      Here's a list off the top of my head of sensors and functions a Ford EEC-IV computer controls:

      Mass Air Flow Sensor, Barometric pressure sensor, Throttle Position Sensor, Engine Coolant Temperature sensor, Air Charge Temperature sensor, O2 sensor, Vehicle Speed Sensor, Exhaust Gas Recirculator valve, Canister Purge Valve, Thermactor Control Valve, Thick Film Ignition module, Idle Stabilizer Valve, Automatic transmission accumulator pressure, 1st to 2nd gear shift point, 2nd to 3rd gear shift point, 3rd to 4th gear shift point, Torque Converter lockup RPM, Idle RPM, Automatic Transmission Drive Idle RPM, Neutral indicator, etc.

      That's just sensors and some basic interactions. Most aftermarket computers don't use half those sensors, and on top of that they are usually Manifold Absolute Pressure based rather than Mass Air Flow.

      So, as you can see, it isn't "Just buy a book". I have every book on Ford EFI, and none of them tell you the slightest thing about tuning an EEC-IV computer. Everything I've learned has been from the internet (there are enthusiasts who hack and document their hacks) and from hacking.

      I've been there, I've done computer tweaking, and I know it's not simple or trivial, it's all just hacking and guesswork.
  • Most of the old car work was thing like points, and carberators. Both are gone, replaced by something that is not only more reliable, but easier to controll. A good hacker can replace the comptuer on his car with something tuned to his likeing, and has more information doing it. Old cars never had O2 sensors to help you figgure out what the right mixture setting on the carbrator, new cars have that sensor, and the ability to change things in REAL TIME for the best mixture. (for some definition of best understanding the emissions/proformance/milage trade off)

    Sure it is more work, but then turning a screw on the carb wasn't a hack it was just easy to do, and needed to be done often enough that everyone could do it. Today there are no screws to turn so the real work is a real hack.

  • There was an article about this topic in the Boston Sunday Globe this week [boston.com]. But the author of the article doesn't necessarily cry over the recently announced demise of cars like the Camaro and the Firebird. In order to get another 50 horsepower out of one of those beasts meant "boring out the cylinders, tinkering with valves, changing pistons ... a greasy, lengthy job." With the new "tuner cars" all you've got to do is drop in a $500 tuner chip.
  • Why not leave the key in the car?


    Is it that much more of a security risk as having a remote starter for the car? Having a remote starter for a car always seemed to me as an security risk in itself. Why is it needed? It is not as though the car will park itself for you and pick you up at the door.

  • by cmowire (254489) on Thursday December 06, 2001 @02:46PM (#2666161) Homepage
    Now, this is hacking cars [insoc.org].. ;)
  • Computers making modern cars un-hackable? That's a bit far-fetched. For just about any car there's dozens of custom mods for them that can be installed by any mechanic. There are still 3rd-party performance chips you can put in. You can still change just about everything in a car, the only thing different is that it's a little harder to do. You can go get all the computers that a dealer uses and do all the tweaks yourself. Yeah it's more expensive, but so are cars and so are the parts inside them.
    And I wouldn't go around comparing cars from the past to open-source and modern cars to microsoft - that's essentially saying open-source software, though infinitely hackable, is inefficient, outdated, and insecure. Drawing a parellel between Microsoft (closed-source) and modern cars would in effect say MS software is clean, efficient, secure, and performs well out of the box.
    If modern cars are less "hackable" than older cars, why are there thousands of custom shops dotting the country, hooking up modern cars? Why are there still car shows for people to show off their mods (some of which leaving the original car nearly unrecognizable)?
    Cars aren't getting less hackable, you just have to do it differently than before.
  • On one hand, you're right. Cars are getting more complex, and your average Joe Blow Monkeywrench can't take his set of Snap On crescent wrenches and play with his car very easily anymore.

    On the other hand, the aftermarket is keeping up with the electronicification of cars quite well, from what I've read. Yes, there are a lot of electronics in cars, but that simply means you either work with them or around them now.

    In your case, you couldn't install a remote starter because of your antitheft system. So? Perhaps you should choose a different system (if available) that won't interfere with $50 off-the-shelf Pepboys remote starting systems. Yes, you didn't have to make this choice before. Yes, before you could do it all yourself. Well, welcome to the future.

    What it really boils down to is that it is still possible to hack your car (as you put it), but the effort and price associated with doing so has increased. That's all. Basing your assumption purely on your own single experience is hardly scientific.

    I recommend that you pick up an issue of Sport Compact Car [sportcompactcarweb.com] sometime, and see what they're doing. They're not exactly the remote-starter types, but they are doing just about everything under the sun imaginable to everyday vehicles, including full standalone engine management. Yes, it's expensive, but it's most certainly a very cool hack.

  • "It almost seems like a Microsoft-like statement, to tell you they're doing all of this to reduce theft, while really they're doing it to ensure you are forced into coming back to their dealerships..."

    I disagree. A feature that requires the key to be present to start the car is useful to almost every end user. It can help keep your car from being stolen. It is true that it inconvieniences a small percentage of users who want to fiddle but overall it is a positve thing.

    On the other hand Microsoft (and lots of other companies) tend to add features that are not good for the user. One example of this is the XP authentication nightmare. Another (non MS example) is the SDMI. How about DVD region coding. These are all 'features' that make the product less useful.

    I think that's an important difference. It's the difference between a feature you don't like and a feature that no one likes.
  • Yup, lessee. Car running a little sluggish? Pop the hood, spin that old 10mm box-end, twist the distributor clockwise a few degrees, now I'm humming right along. Oops, getting a little hot - turn a screw on the carb - now I'm running so rich I can smell the gasoline in the exhuast.

    I drive past the smog-check stations and scoff.

    There has to be a reason why lots of people don't mind putting the time and effort into maintaining 40 year old econoboxes.

    Maybe because everything that's been offered since then has been lacking.
  • by CaseyB (1105)
    It's almost a little anti-competitive.

    That stupid little quote caps off the dumbest story I've seen on /. in MONTHS. He's so deep in his own ignorance that he figured the only way to save his silly little rant was to add a "your rights online" buzzphrase. "Honda is just like *Microsoft!*".

    This dumbass is upset because a key is required to start the car. Uh, brainiac: that's the whole PURPOSE of keys. Honda is finally doing keys RIGHT, and you're bitching about it.

  • Hacking your car is still alive and well; there are certainly some challenges (cruise control, security systems, etc.). I was on a few mailing lists for hacking the Toyota Prius... there's a Yahoo! group dedicated to it, and the people on there are amazing. There's an LCD display in the Prius, and people are attaching it to night-vision, DVD players, rear-view and side-view cameras, you name it. Plus there's tons of info on hiking up gas mileage, increasing battery capacity and all sorts of cool things.

    As with all hacking, it CAN be done, and if someone hasn't done it yet, there are certainly people willing to help you figure out how.

    Toodles,
    ---Chip Lynch
  • I don't really see any improvements in a car that has a remote starter.

    What is it good for? Most of the gadgets that enable you to warm up your car before you get in (standing heater / a/c) will come with a dedicated "engine" which is essentially a small combustion engine hooked up to the primary fuel circuit and starts at a preprogrammed time or catches a remote signal to start immediate heating (like when you don't know exactly when you will leave). This engine will then run with very little fuel and pump all the heat into the car. Absolutely no need to fire up 200+ hp for some heat. I think the same systems also exist in the states, over here in Germany the company "Webasto" is making these very successfully.

    The remote starte reminds me of a story I read in Ralph "Sonny" Bargers book "Hells Angels". Back in the 60's or 8ß's there obviously was a cop who had a reputation with the Angels for being a tight investigator. He used to remote start his car (which was parked in his driveway) by standing far away from the car in a "secure" spot before getting in. Obviously afraid of car bombs. One morning when he started, the car roared up as usual. Too bad somebody had planted a bomb right in the "secure" spot where he used to stand when remoting the baby. He did not survive to tell anyone about it.
  • There are tradeoffs in everything. If you want the remote start ability you give up some of the security.

    As far as leaving an entire key in place I guess that depends on the car and the kit your using. My Acura has one of the mentioned keys and when I looked into a remote start for it, I was told I needed to buy a spare key which would be disassembled to get just the coded portion out. I decided it wasn't for me.

    But the point about cars being less hackable is valid. For years manufacturers have been making it harder to replace stock radios, and if you want to retain steering wheel controls your going to need lots of electrical tape and redbull.

    I think Mercedes Benz has taken this to an entirely new level. New MB vehicles are incredibly difficult to steal thanks to their code hopping IR keys, so much so that the theft portion of insurance rates on them are down right cheap (which is good). But forget putting a remote starter in your brand new benz. Last time I tried counting there are 97 buttons within reach of the driver in the S class (I counted knobs as one switch even if they had more than one selectable position). All of this runs through a central computer in the car so basically if you want a different stereo system you better know german and feel like dumpster diving at MB headquarters.

    Mercedes has a integrated cell phone system that comes with voice recognition. It uses a standard motorola timeport phone, identical in every sense except the firmware. Yet if I plug in my old timeport the car refuses to recognize it. Mercedes apparently thinks that the $87K you spend on the car with the phone isn't enough, they want the extra $450 for every phone you want to use in the car.

    I'm currently trying to figure out how to get a copy of the firmware off the timeport that comes with the benz system so that I can put it on my original timeport.

    This is quite sad, among manufacturers there is zero incentive or requirement to play nicely. I understand that they want to protect profit margins but its damn near predatory. There was an article on wired about some company offering a in car voice recognition system that works with bluetooth enabled cell phones. Great idea, too bad bluetooth is a technological unicorn and car manufacturers are bound to shut these guys out of the business.
  • You want a secure, programmable, remote start for your car with a voice UI and reporting features?

    Have a child. They also mow lawns and do dishes.

    Can't patent them though, my parents have prior art...
  • Carburetors were amazingly elegant little mechanical devices, but they were anything but precise. Computerization of cars has permitted hundred-fold reductions in CO2 and NOx emissions (and less dramatic improvements in fuel economy). Safety advances like anti-lock brakes and active suspensions also wouldn't be possible without computerization.

    In an industry that had seen very few true innovations for 70 years (disc brakes being just about the only automotive hardware invented since the 30s), computers have completely revolutionized just about every system in an autombile. As a result, cars are cleaner, more efficient, more reliable, more comfortable and safer than would have been possible with entirely mechanical systems.

    You seem to argue there are fewer people customizing their cars. I think there are just fewer shade-tree mechanics doing what's now unnecessary maintenance: Replacing points and distributors that don't exist anymore, spark plugs that now last 100k miles, adjusting timing that's automatically adjusted, etc.

    What about the hot-rodders who customized their cars? I'd argue there are just as many of them as there ever were. The modifications just require a different skill set than they used to, and the cars are Civics and Integras instead of Novas and Mustangs.

    If you want to get into customizing your car, there's plenty you can still do from high-tech "superchips" to good old-fashioned intake & exhaust mods. Just pull your head out of that 20-year-old Chilton's manual if you want to get serious about souping up a late-model car.
  • I love hacking cars. Saddly here in the USA there is less of a modern-car hacking cultrure. In the USA we've *mostly* got old hot-rodders with carbed V8's, and kids with big-wing/big-exhaust otherwise-stock imports. Not many people are doing MODERN performacne hacking, but there are some.

    Many other countries have a real strong culture in this area though. For an example, go to Autospeed [autospeed.com], an Australian site where they post weekly articles about auto performance and electronics hacking. Australia is a real hot-spot for this stuff. It doesn't matter that the auto manufacturers are making more complex and advanced products - it just promotes the creation of more brilliant hacks.

    If you're interested in programable engine management, adding electonic accessories, etc. all you have to do is dig a little and you'll find a whole world of resources. Just like Tivo, DirectTV, Audrey, or anything else - If you build it people will hack it.
  • If your car is too complicated to customize, maybe you should consider souping-up some other things around the house [home.net].
  • Luddites unite! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Matey-O (518004)
    (Oh boy, FINALLY a topic I know something about!)

    I'd MUCH RATHER have a GOOD factory security system than a botched aftermarket one. (I've had 4 cars that had aftermarket systems installed by previous owners. ALL of them have caused more headaches than the 'security' they provided.)

    Having any kind of security system will not likely prevent the really serious fella trying to seal your car. While you CAN buy LOJACK et al, they pretty much ensure you get back the bits and pieces you DON'T care about. By the time somebody recovers the professionally stolen car, all the nifty doodads have been stripped or broken.

    I own Corvettes. (That my, ahem, other hobby) One's an 89 and the other's a 98 (OBD I and III) yeah they're more difficult to work on than the 76 Pontiac I _just_ got rid of, but no more so than working on computers. Often, that 'technological B$' folks complain about actually HELPS in diagnosing the problem.

    If you aren't willing to spend time learning how to work on something, you probably oughtn'ta go at it uneducated.

    As far as installing the remote starter, it didn't sound like you wanted it bad enough. IMHO, the one thing it MIGHT give you (remote starting) isn't worth the things you MIGHT get (wiring issues, intermittent gremlins, connections that don't AGE well.)

    Honestly, a Nerd complaining about complexity on Slashdot...who'da thunk?
  • Some thoughts:

    Many car manufacturers are moving to using industry standard buses and protocols (CAN and a couple of SAE standards) for internal communication. There is a lot of "wiggle" room for people to come up with Gizmos that attach to this hardware and do things the manufacturer never intended. For example.. many people love to have a tach, but many dashs lack them. The tach information is available on the computer/diagnostic bus, how about designing a simple PIC circuit to read the RPM message and display it on a LED display.

    Lets face it.. hardware hacking in all its forms has gotton harder and harder for the last 20 years as more custom PLC and ASIC devices appear and Surface mount becuase the standard.

    If you really want a challenge, convert your old gas powered car to electric [sover.net]. You'll end up with an extremely simple system you can work on yourself (only one moving part in an electric motor and no need for complex computers and emission controls) as well as a car that will get you to work in the worst weather, without the need to warm it up. (Just jump in and go, heat is electric and instantanous) and DC motors can really hual ass [nedra.com]. Oh.. and its non-polluting, so you can feel smug about never having to get a smog check again.

  • C'mon this is hardly an amazing revelation. Cars have been getting more and more computerized and difficult for the average Joe to repair for at least the last 15 years. Open the hood on any car from *1990* and you'll find a big black box with wires running out of it. It controls the fuel injection, the engine tests, the digital controls, you name it. You don't want to be messing around with those cars, except maybe to change the oil.

    But how is this different than any other electronic consumer device? Nobody hacks up their PC motherboard or DVD player innards. And nobody complains about it either, not even the crazies who think that every corporate manuver is an encroachment on freedom of speech.
  • First of all, you are a puss. If you are installing one of those things, you have an automatic. Second, real mods are not 'installing a remote starter'. It's squeezing a big freakin' engine into a little dinky car. (Saw a Chevy big block crammed into a Nash Met a few years ago in HotRod).

    Second, I'd prefer a v-8 with rear drive. But with a family, a Mustang/Camaro doesn't cut it. So I'll be driving FWD I-4 or v-6 engines with tons of electronic controls.

    Now, for just a handful of engines with which I am slightly familiar:

    Zetec I-4 (ford focus): turbos, superchargers, nitrous.

    Duratec v-6 (ford contour): superchargers (for some models), nitrous.

    Honda I-4 (civics, CRV's): block and head upgrades, turbos, superchargers, more handling kits and brake kits than you can shake a stick at.

    VW 4's and 6's: see above.

    See, there's tons of stuff available for certain cars. Real stuff. And of course, if you like remote starters, neon trim, and 100w headlights, you can always go to JC Whitney.

    And if you want traditional cars, they are available aplenty. 60's Mustangs and Camaros. 80's BMWs. And if you like old iron, there are tons of component (kit) cars available. Any ford up to WWII. Almost any Chevy of the same vintage. I've seen kits to put a '55 chevy on a late model Caprice.

    The enthusiast magazines have been asking this question for years. And the answer has always come back a resounding 'NO'.
  • by Nightclaw (41212) on Thursday December 06, 2001 @03:22PM (#2666477) Homepage
    Comparing modern computer-controlled cars to closed-source software is a bit unfair, really. Modern cars are VERY hackable, if you know what you're doing and don't mind voiding parts of your warranty. The car-modding game's the same, but the rules have changed is all. If you understand the rules, there is little you cannot mod on a new car.

    To use my own car as an example, there is a program that would allow me to modify the fuel tables, ignition tables and other operational parameters on the on-board computer using a standard PC (program: LS1Edit). This acheives the same thing as playing with the distributor dwell and carb mixture on an older engine, and then some.

    Or, for the less adventurous, Hypertech [hypertech-inc.com] makes a device [hypertech-inc.com] that allows you to apply "macros" to the onboard computer, doing the same thing as LS1Edit, but to a lesser degree.

    Further, modern cars (with the appropriate computer hacks) still respond quite nicely to the old-school tricks: headers, camshafts, intakes, strokers, blowers, etc. It's like having the best of both worlds - the reliability and economy of computer control, and the performance and "hackability" of old-school tricks.

    It all comes down to learning new rules to play the same old game. :-)
  • A few thoughts (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jabber01 (225154)
    Auto hacking isn't dead, it's mutated and evolved. No longer can you rebuild your carburator with a Swiss Army knife, like you could on old VW Bugs.. No longer can you do those little tweaks that let you eek a few extra HP's out of your 'Cuda..

    Similarly the computer hackery of yore has passed from sight, only to be replaced with OC madness, case modification, heavy-duty server setups in one's broom closet, and so on..

    It used to be that hackers would race hard-drives across table tops, and race Mustangs down the main drag. Now, the script-kiddies and rice-boys put skins on their virus generators and Acura Type R stickers on their Dodge Neons!!!

    Flash has replaced content. It's all about appearances, and who cracks first.. Neon light kits under the chasis of either your Dell or your Civic warn that you are clearly a force to be reckoned with.. A 40 pound spoiler and a muffler the size of a coffee can are the automotive equivalent of running an animated desktop hack or semi-transparent windows - performance be damned!!

    Just as in computing, auto-hacking has simply grown, and become so widely exposed that it's attracted it's own brand of poseur. There's the wankers who put stickers on their cars, because race cars have stickers, so stickers turn mom's old beater into a renegade from Indy.. There's the wankers who assign unique audio events to every window action and have true-color, animated mouse pointers.

    Then there are guys who rewire their own auto audio systems, making sure the trunk DOES NOT rattle when they turn the music up, and those who put performance parts in and then actually USE them in motocross events. These are the overclockers and liquid-coolers of the auto-hacking world.

    Take a look at the Honda Insight [arstechnica.com], and note the very cool side-mirror to LCD screen hack.. There is still auto-hacking.. But like real PC hacking, it takes effort, perseverence and creativity.
  • by Malc (1751) on Thursday December 06, 2001 @03:29PM (#2666544)
    My Passat has the same 1.8T engine that is used from Jettas/Golfs all the way up to Audi TTs. The computer chip that controls the engine is programmed to de-tune it compared with the Audis. Some of the things the chip does is control maximum turbo pressure, etc. Considering the price difference, I guess they don't want performance equality between VW and Audi. My Passat only gets 150hp, whereas the TT gets 225hp from the same engine. Seeing as some many components are shared with Audi, the car can easily take these changes. Another common hack is getting the tiptronic transmission re-programmed to modify the shift points and the time it takes to shift.

    There is a big market in reprogramming or replacement ECM chips... I can easily get another 40hp and perhaps better millege by going down this route. The hp can be increased further with turbo replacements, etc, but apparently, you start having to make other big changes for the car to handle 200+hp.

    Take a look around http://www.clubb5.com/ [clubb5.com] for some ideas... these B5 Passats are very hackable. Whether it's just plugging a laptop into the VAG-COM thing and re-programming the locks, or wiring in new tools like The Alien, or putting in Xenon lights and the Audi sport suspension.
  • You probably live in too cold a climate and/or don't have a garage. I would suggest moving far enough south that frost on your windows during the day isn't a problem. In the morning you car will be in your warm garage, so no problem then either...

    :-)

    Believe me, I know your pain, I just moved 900 miles south of where I used to live. I am getting spoiled awfully quickly with upper 70 degree temps in December... I don't think you could get me back up north for anything now.

  • by Boomer2 (515406)
    When will automakers offer the ability to set options? When we make them, of course.

    I personally hate the lighting systems that act like your mom. I don't want my lights on during the day. I also want the dome light to go off immediately when I shut off the car, unless I intervene. I also don't want the @$%# locks to lock every time the car goes off->on and vice versa.

    Add to that the ability to turn on/off the chipped key requirement and whatever else isn't absolutely required for the car to run.

    Would it be so hard to allow the owner to chose?
  • by NastyGnat (515785) on Thursday December 06, 2001 @03:51PM (#2666737)
    You think ODB-II is screwing us, wait till OBD-III goes live. Here are some of the features as stated by the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA).
    ---
    OBD-III TECHNOLOGIES

    Three ways to send/receive data:
    Roadside reader
    Local station network
    Satellite
    ---

    That's right, a radio link to tell big brother where you are, and what your car is doing. Why??

    ---
    ENFORCEMENT MECHANISMS
    Incorporate into biennial I/M program
    Read fault code to screen for vehicles that need complete testing
    Pass or short test for vehicles with no fault code
    Does not speed up repair process
    Out-of-cycle inspection
    Compile and screen data
    Mail notice to vehicle owner requiring out-of-cycle inspection within 10 days
    Require Certificate of Compliance (C of C) on next registration/resale, or
    Require C of C within 30-60 days, with citation for noncompliance
    Enforce citation via court and/or DMV penalty at next registration
    Roadside Pullover
    CHP flags down vehicles with fault codes
    Technician verifies problem by inspecting and/or testing vehicle
    Issuance of notice requiring out-of-cycle inspection
    Same enforcement (C of C /citation)
    ---

    On the other hand they also realise that there are legal issues by this statement on their site.

    ---
    OBD-III raises 4th Amendment search and seizure privacy issues:
    ''The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated...''
    ---

    But afterwards state that the OBD system should be leagal because it's a nondiscrimitory, mass population product. Whereas the 4th amendment only protects individual privacy and not a group of individuals.

    Read more about this at
    Sema web site [sema.org]
  • by dcavanaugh (248349) on Thursday December 06, 2001 @03:55PM (#2666770) Homepage
    The car-starter situation is nothing new. For quite a while, the car manufacturers have been making it harder to build knock-off parts, while simultaneously preserving installation revenue for the dealers. Funky tools, fasteners, threads, anything to discourage the non-dealer mechanic or the knock-off manufacturer. Standardization encourages dealer avoidance, hacking, cloning and (in the case of cars) theft. Cars with lots of interchangeable parts are popular with the "chop shops".

    To be fair about it, Honda had a big problem with theft. It's no secret that the engine computer is the final frontier of anti-theft technology. How can anyone critize Honda for addressing the problem?

    Car hacking is not dead, but it requires more ingenuity than it used to. I remember the old days when I upgraded my home computer by soldering additional memory chips on top of the onboard memory. Just because I can't do that with a modern motherboard, does that make it "unhackable"?
  • Ever hear of OBD-II? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by GrammarPhone (513904) on Thursday December 06, 2001 @04:52PM (#2666965)
    Your neighborhood grease monkey can't do much to a modern car without a bunch of electronic gear interfacing to the car's computer. It's almost a little anti-competitive.

    Well, since 1996, every car sold in America has required OBD-II compliance, which dictates a requirement for an interface to the engine management computer that adheres to certain government standards. As a result, with a Palm Pilot and a $200 cable, anyone can pull all sorts of nifty information from any modern car's engine computer. Not exactly "a bunch" of electronic gear, when the whole setup fits in a jacket pocket.

    One could argue that such standards are pro-competition, since one doesn't need a bunch of specialized equipment for each manufacturer (the situation prior to OBD-II). No need for a Ford computer tool, a GM computer tool, a BMW computer tool, etc...

    In short, you can still work on your own car. Just like 50 years ago, you can't do anything without the proper tools. Just happens that the tools are electronic now, rather than mechanical.

    And, like many people are going to tell you, if you don't like it, buy a TR6 and shut the hell up.

  • by logicassasin (318009) on Thursday December 06, 2001 @04:55PM (#2666981)
    It's actually quite simple - the "chip" on the key is nothing more than a resistor. In order to bypass it, you need to find it's value with a simple multi-meter. Once you have that, you need to add a few resistors, to approximate that resistance as closely as possible, to the VATS sensor wire in the ignition column.

    Most remote start kits should come with several resistors for just this reason.

    BTW, car audio/security/sales was my profession for 6 years. Back in those days, we cursed the big 3 daily for their "new innovations" that made our jobs harder.
  • Yup. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by supabeast! (84658) on Thursday December 06, 2001 @05:00PM (#2667025)
    Hacking a computer is nice and no big deal, because they are cheap (Compared to cars.) and unnecessary for things like getting to work, the grocery store, etc. If I screw up my computer, no big deal, it can wait to be fixed. If I screw up my car, my life is thrown into a screwy loop. If my computer is stolen I go drop $1500 on a new one and wait for the insurance company to reimburse me, if my car is stolen I cannot go anywhere until the insurance company reimburses the creditor of the car and I can buy a new one.

    Cars are not meant to be toys anymore. If you really insist on playing with your car, buy an old mustang that you don't need to worry about.

"Stupidity, like virtue, is its own reward" -- William E. Davidsen

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