Sunday, May 27, 2018

Industrial sabotage, terrorism or merely a disgruntled employee?

Recent news reports tell us that the Tesla Model 3 performed abysmally in braking and sub-sub-par for handling.

Specifically, the test results were very much "an anomaly".  The first full-power braking test was within the cloud of data of competing vehicles.  The next twenty tests were way out in the weeds.

Elon Musk distracted critics by pointing out that Tesla has the "...ability to deploy software updates to its vehicles over the air."

Let's look at Mr Musk's statement for a second.

Your Tesla vehicle can be hacked.  Suppose an engineer had the foresight to leave a back-door.  Further, suppose Mr Musk made a marketing decision to go to market before the engineer signed off that the system was ready.  Do you suppose that could have happened?

Now suppose the engineer, who may no longer even be employed by the company decided to "...deploy software updates...".  I will make the assumption that the engineer is conscientious and simply wants to make a point without needlessly endangering innocent people.  He/she might sneak a wee bit of code into the black box. 

Suppose the rungs of the ladder logic only apply when the vehicle's GPS confirms that the vehicle is within a GEO fence that contains the Consumers Reports test facility in East Haddom.  Further, suppose the ladder logic is triggered by a max braking event from 60mph +/- 5mph.  And further suppose that the degraded response will only be applied to those max braking events that occur within ten minutes of the previous max braking event.

Viola!!!  The Tesla Model 3 would shit-the-bed for the Consumers Reports testing without endangering anybodies' lives.

Too far fetched?  One US automobile company was caught with two sets of calibrations.  One set ran when the hood was up (and the hood light was on) which is how the Feds ran the emissions testing.  More recently a European company was caught with two sets of calibrations, one which was activated when the Power/Time trace tracked the emissions testing protocol and another...much more power and better fuel economy...when the Power/Time trace significantly deviated from the emissions testing protocols.


And even if that is what happened, a disgruntled employee, consider the fact that a malicious person could "...deploy software updates..." to screw with anybody's or everybody's vehicle. 

The malevolent code could be slaved to a particular cell phone or WIFI device.  The vehicles would lurk until the target carrying that device entered the vehicle.  As soon as it shook hands with the vehicle's computer the vehicle would launch into max acceleration and cancel all braking.  Heck, it is software.  A programmer could make it do anything.

Musk touts "...deploy software updates..." as an advantage.  Me, I am not so sure.

1 comment:

  1. I have long thought that the media gives Musk and Tesla a pass on many basic issues. Your comments on the programming of the Model 3 are one of those areas that the media has not questioned or even brought up. As easily as major companies are hacked, it can't be that hard to hack a Tesla for a person who is knowledgeable in such things.

    I have also wondered in regards to the self-driving functionality, how does the decision matrix operate? Faced with a choice or rear-ending a car, an evasive maneuver to the ditch on the right or an evasive maneuver to the left lane which may or may not have oncoming traffic, which one does the computer select and how does it weigh each choice? What information does it use and how can it gather that info and process it quickly enough to make the "right" decision?


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