A Committee of Correspondence

A Committee of Correspondence

Toyota, “OnStar” & Hackers: A Speculation

We were chatting with an electrical engineer, a computer engineer and a software engineer yesterday afternoon. The conversation took an interesting turn.

None of us has any inside information nor does any one of us know if all the cars so far affected by the “stuck accelerator” phenomenon that lately has been in the news actually had a satellite-based communications system active on the vehicles. However, it occurred to the electrical engineer that since OnStar and the other satellite-based communications systems can be used to unlock a car when one loses one’s keys, or to stop a stolen car, that it could also be used to make one accelerate and it could be used to override the brakes. In fact, satellite-based communications system could be used to take control of a vehicle.

No one present had any data supporting OnStar employees or employees of any satellite-based communications system being the actual villains of this piece. In fact, the computer engineer and software engineer were of the opinion that hackers could be at work. It’s the sort of thing hackers like to do — just to prove they can. It’s a power trip nerd-style.

Almost everything has computers embedded in it. Cars have MANY computers embedded in them. The fact that Toyota refuses to even consider the “electrical components” of their cars as the possible culprit of the stuck accelerator issue makes all of us MORE than suspicious.

Just for the record, none of us owns a Toyota, nor have we ever owned a Toyota. We also have NEVER purchased OnStar nor any other satellite-based communications system. Nor will we ever willingly purchase OnStar or any similar “service.” Both of those choices were given a great deal of thought at the time. Now, the one regarding OnStar-like services would require NO THOUGHT AT ALL.

P.S. A Master Mechanic once advised us that ANY time a vehicle is behaving in an alarming manner, the best thing to do is to TURN IT OFF. GET EVERYONE OUT. And then if there is still time, disable the ignition system. We think that’s really good advice.

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