Archives For July 2012

HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Daisy … Daisy … give me … your answer … do.

As the driverless car story continues to unfold, there are plenty of Isaac Asimov-level questions set to come up.

Do you remember this little slice of cinematic perfection?:

Dave Bowman: Open the pod bay doors, HAL.
HAL: I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.
Dave Bowman: What’s the problem?
HAL: I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do.
Dave Bowman: What are you talking about, HAL?
HAL: This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it.
Dave Bowman: I don’t know what you’re talking about, HAL.
HAL: I know that you and Frank were planning to disconnect me, and I’m afraid that’s something I cannot allow to happen.”

(A little help for the kids in attendance, it’s the classic dialogue between a spaceship pilot and his onboard computer-gone-mad HAL 9000 in the classic film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Rent it kids, it’s required viewing.)

As the self-driving vehicle debate continues, check out this hilarious thread posted to, where the original poster asks his forum mates:

“If the cops stop the Google driverless car for a moving violation does the car go all HAL 9000 and refuse to pull over? Who gets the ticket? So many unanswered questions.”

The anonymous poster was actually reacting to this very real news story (well, photo) — that the cops pulled over and stopped Google’s driverless car in D.C.

Well … what the heck happens?

It’s a worthwhile question, if the search giant’s Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt was right when he predicted in this TechCrunch report that “self-driving cars should become the predominant mode of transportation in our lifetime” — these questions are GOING to come up.

Who gets the ticket?

The human driver? Which one? The human driver in the right-hand side passenger seat?

Or, heaven forbid … the company that manufactured and sold the robot-driven car.

This is going to get interesting, isn’t it …?

Here’s a not so pleasant one.

A CCTV camera caught a car crushing a teenage girl up against the door of a convenience store.

In a horrible case of apparent mistaken identity, the girl’s friends all climb out of a car outside the store and gather around another vehicle that’s also parked outside, right by the door. One male passenger from the same car climbs out and immediately opens up the trunk, and pulls out a baseball bat.

As the group gathers around the car (apparently under a completely incorrect assumption of who’s inside) the male passenger starts to completely tee off on the vehicle — shattering windows and sending glass flying.

The assaulted vehicle then panics and drives into the girl, pinning her to the wall of the store.

This video is not for the faint of heart!

Please remember, keep safe on the roads and keep your wits about you.

Watch the full video below here:

Whew!!! Well this one is a fun one.

After watching stunt racer (and shoe salesman) Ken Block’s “Gymkhana Five” blow up on the web last week (18M views and counting),we’re definitely left wondering how much it cost to block off this much of the historic streets of San Fransisco.

No more empty stadiums, etc., for this one-man driving circus!

Check out Block’s fancy drifting, tire smoke-blowing trick ride in his Ford Fiesta as he flies through the most famous parts of downtown, weaves in and out of scenic cable cars and takes a couple MASSIVE jumps. There’s even a couple stunts at the end where he circles and messes with a stunt-bike driver — blowing smoke like crazy all over the downtown buildings.

Block’s Fiesta is apparently capable of reaching 60 mph in 1.8 seconds. This exhibition definitely represents the apex of the Gymkhana series, which have helped vault Block into the World Rally Championship and altogether have netted some 135 million views.

Make no mistake, Block definitely has his detractors, but some of these moves are unmistakably sick.

Block’s car definitely throws so much smoke in the air that it’s perhaps most exciting air pollution San Fran has ever seen since Steve McQueen’s “Bullitt.”

Handout photo from the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles.

All right, apparently these robotic, self-driven cars are already a guarantee — so when’s it gonna be already?

On the roads next to you in half a decade?

According to the automaker Ford, driverless cars will be sharing the U.S. roadways with human drivers by 2017, reports ExtremeTech.

Think that U.S. culture can adjust to the robot-driven way of life that quickly?

Japan by 2020?

Not to be outdone, the Land of the Rising Sun is also promising driverless cars by 2020, according to Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, transport and Tourism (MLIT).

Now hold on, this is also no joke.

This statement by the Japanese government represents the FIRST time that any government in the world has expressed a commitment to pursue the future of driverless cars.

The industry’s heavy hitters that are joining in are also nothing to scoff at.

We’re talking Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Fuiji, and Mazda. Yeah, those are the big boys.

The Japanese government promises a report on the status of their program some time around March 2013.

Sunshine State Closer Than Ever?

[Quick hit here: We have to give a shout out to this comment thread from Digg that suggests driverless cars could bankrupt California.]

With a unanimous vote, California’s Assembly Transportation Committee passed legislation that would allow testing and the regulation of driverless vehicles.

The vote is still just preliminary, advancing the legislation along.

According to an article from ComputerWorld, it passed on the condition that debate would continue on the language to limit the liability of automakers.

Still mired in squabbling, but it’s coming — are we ready for this?

Every … second … counts, case in point: Hackers stealing a BMW 1M stolen without keys — in 3 minutes!

There’s a lesson here for all car owners: Thieves will always find a way to get into your car – what you need is real-time awareness of when/where someone tries to violate your vehicle.

This viral video from the UK posted below blew up in the last week, and has already landed half a million hits since July 3.

In it, the hackers exploit a security loophole, using gizmos that plug into the vehicle’s OBD port — then programming the blank key fobs and taking off in their new ill-gotten cars.

According to this recent Jalopnik piece posted on MSNBC’s Technolog, the car is entered, “either via nearby RF jammers that block the fob lock signal from reaching the car (preventing owners from securing their vehicles) or, more crudely, by breaking a window. … In cases of the window break, the thieves seem to be exploiting a gap in the car’s internal ultrasonic sensor system to avoid tripping the alarm.”

When the thieves get in — they hack into the vehicle key fob’s digital ID so that they can program a different fob to interact with the car. The hackers make that work by first connecting some kind of device to the soon-to-be stolen vehicle’s OBD-II connector, the MSNBC post said.

Now listen up, Viper fans — you can protect yourselves and make sure that you don’t suffer from the same super-swift car theft.

We asked our engineers and experts here for the best tips on just what these criminals are doing and how car owners can fight back against them.

They told us:

Number 1.      In order to steal a car, the thief doesn’t need to reprogram the key right away. The criminal just needs to bypass the vehicle immobilizer quickly using potentially bulkier equipment — and drive away. Key reprogramming can be dealt with later at a secure location with less time constraint (let’s say 15-30 minutes).

Number 2.      BMW security has a hole: It employs a relatively weak, 48-bit Hitag system that can be hacked in under 3 minutes using computer hardware costing less than $10,000. There is also a known weakness in the randomization of the security key and its dependency on the CAS (one of the vehicle’s modules) dump. Such a dump is available over OBD connector. In other words, all components for a system are available on the Internet and putting the system together does not require a lot of technical skill.

Our experts were quite sure that BWM engineers are well aware of these shortcomings and are working on tighter the security and probably on upgrading their encryption method as well. That will address BMW’s security issue — but also will make any key-cracking job harder.

Number 3.      In order to deploy such a system, one needs to bypass the vehicle alarm system. The OEM one-way security is susceptible to jamming while more sophisticated two-way systems provide real-time status feedback and have additional sensors, etc.

Get connected to your vehicle and get ahead of the criminals: Thieves will always find a way to get into your car – what you need is real-time awareness of when/where someone tries to violate your vehicle.

See the whole quick-as-lightening BMW theft video below: