Embedded system causes death?

Discussion in 'Embedded Systems and Microcontrollers' started by dthx, Jul 7, 2013.

  1. dthx

    Thread Starter Member

    May 2, 2013
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    I ask this question in the interest of a hypothetical.
    And I ask it here because I'm interested in the opinion of those of you who are experts in embedded systems.
    There is some talk on the news that a death has occurred by way of possible tampering with the microcontroller in a particular late model car.
    An upper level Cyber Spook (Richard Clark) in the USA said this week that it is possible to commandeer a car via reprogramming the car's chip....
    Would it truly be possible to replace the cars "brain" with one that you could control remotely?....driving the car from another location....
    Or....make the car accelerate and then drive off the road....?
    The car crashed in a fire and burned extensively...so no trace of tampering may be able to be found..
    Sounds like science fiction to me....?
    What say all of you ?
     
  2. Papabravo

    Expert

    Feb 24, 2006
    10,145
    1,791
    The FM car radio sitting on the same CAN bus as the engine controller is the most likely attack vector. It is absolutely possible.
     
  3. ErnieM

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 24, 2011
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    Did this car have an automated steering system? If it's a manual system then there is a zero chance to cause it to "drive off the road."

    Besides, everyone knows that particular car got droned. :cool:
     
  4. LDC3

    Active Member

    Apr 27, 2013
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    There is talk about a "Fly by Wire" system where all the controls are are potentiometers, encoders, switches, etc., like on a remote control. In essence, the computer reads all the inputs, and controls where the vehicle goes and how fast. As far as I know, no car manufacturer has adapted this system since control is lost with a system failure.

    From 2012: http://www.popularmechanics.com/car...-will-put-drive-by-wire-in-2013-cars-13818193
    From 2008: http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/military/planes-uavs/4295240
     
  5. MrChips

    Moderator

    Oct 2, 2009
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    Rental cars are known to have GPS and engine remote disable features. Law enforcement agencies have used this feature to locate and disable stolen vehicles.
     
  6. DerStrom8

    Well-Known Member

    Feb 20, 2011
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    If it's a late model, I would expect it to have power steering and accelerator control, in which case I think this is definitely possible. It would take quite a bit of work to program it as such, and modifications to the car's electrical and mechanical systems. I doubt you could really do it by just swapping in a different computer, unless someone was able to incorporate all the extra circuitry inside the computer case. That seems rather unlikely, though, due to space constraints.

    I guess the bottom line is, it would require an expert in automotive computers, electronic design, and circuit construction to pull it off, but I would expect it to be entirely plausible.
     
  7. LDC3

    Active Member

    Apr 27, 2013
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    Power steering still has a mechanical linkage to the steering of the car. To overcome your control of the car would require the power steering control to force the steering. I don't think the mechanics will allow this to happen.
    Computer control of fuel injection would increase fuel economy so most cars would use this system.
     
  8. LDC3

    Active Member

    Apr 27, 2013
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    A disabled car can still be steered. Only if the car is on a winding road would the car have a change of going off the roadway, if the driver panics when the engine dies.
     
  9. strantor

    AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 3, 2010
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    I believe you could cause a car to accelerate but that's about it. As mentioned, the steering is still mechanically linked; you can still steer a dead or "possessed/hacked" car. And the key switch is still hard wired, so the victim could always just turn it off to take away control from the puppet master, and steer safely off the road. I'm sure it could be done with much modification and addition of extra parts (actuators/etc.) but those things would remain even after a fire and tampering would be plainly evident.
     
  10. dthx

    Thread Starter Member

    May 2, 2013
    194
    14
    Thank you all...
    The reporter's name was Michael Hastings. He was 33 years old.
    He wrote the story that caused General Stanley Mchrystal's downfall...
    His Colleges have evidenced an email in which he says that he is working on a super secret story that is bigger than that. In the email he says that the Feds are after him.
    Anyway, his car veered off the road and exploded....
    Given antilock brakes and explosive devices and the ability to accelerate the car via a chip...I think its possible too....
    They say the car was going extremely fast...not something that he was prone to do...
    Conspiracy theorists are already setting up the scenarios...
    My granddad use to say...Just cause Im paranoid, it doesn't mean that someone isn't after me...
    Im sure there will be more in the news about it....
     
  11. blueroomelectronics

    AAC Fanatic!

    Jul 22, 2007
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    Yep, okay. Bye bye.
     
  12. MrChips

    Moderator

    Oct 2, 2009
    12,446
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    Yep, we can't discuss Michael Hastings just as we can't discuss Edward Snowden, Bradley Manning and Julian Assange.
    Or whether the jackals got Hugo Chavez too.
     
  13. dthx

    Thread Starter Member

    May 2, 2013
    194
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    Oh......sorry...didn't mean to break a rule....
    sincerely......
    D.
     
  14. Mickster

    Member

    Jan 10, 2010
    25
    11
    Don't dismiss this possibility entirely out of hand.

    The following may be interesting reading, for those wishing to have a look.
    http://www.autosec.org/pubs/cars-oakland2010.pdf

    Additionally, do a search for Sir Ranulph Fiennes & Boston brakes and see what comes up..

    Lastly, I'd like to add that under certain conditions, Electronic Power Steering can turn the steering wheel by itself. I have witnessed it in the workshop and although I could hold the steering wheel to counter the torque, since I was expecting it, it took some effort. I am unsure whether I could have reacted quick enough if driving the vehicle at high speed, unaware of what was about to suddenly happen. IIRC, the fault was a defective torque sensor and the steering wheel would turn itself quickly to full-lock. It wasn't my job, but everyone in the shop got to have a look and have a go, since it was so unusual. I don't know enough to categorically rule out the possibility of this being replicated by external means, so for now, I'll keep an open mind about it.

    Regards.
     
  15. Potato Pudding

    Well-Known Member

    Jun 11, 2010
    684
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    A busted torque sensor issue would be very easy to replicate with a code change to the controller that reads that sensor signal. To compound that you could brake steer by jamming on the brakes on one side of the vehicle with a traction control/antilock hack.

    Disabling brake controls likewise.
    Overriding the throttle controls likewise.
    You could cross remap the throttle and brake controls.

    Any car with a sophisticated cruise control would be well set for that tampering.

    Just to make the situation worse, you would would want to set off the airbags before you mess with the controls. You might be able to knock the driver out or at least stun them. It would be suspicious if the airbags never deployed and wasting their protection with a premature deployment makes the most sense to me. You could open windows and sunroofs. Move their seat too far back to reach the controls or too far forward so that they were face against the windshield.

    There is no doubt that it could be done. Would anyone believe they could get away with it and use vehicle hacks as a method of murder is not an electronics question.
     
  16. ananthapriya

    New Member

    Jul 18, 2013
    10
    3
    what embedded is dead ? this is it impossible!!! Always Embedded is LIVE. i think car having some other problem with inner part.so only car crashed in a fire and burned extensively...Yeah i agree with mrchips.Gps is the glopal position tracker this way we can find stolen car or bike. why law enforcement agencies take action to enable this one?



    BacklinksVault
     
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2013
  17. DerStrom8

    Well-Known Member

    Feb 20, 2011
    2,428
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    I think you misunderstood the post....
     
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