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GMC to Begin Remotely Scanning Cars for Trouble 620

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the hope-they-have-good-security dept.
Momoru writes "GMC, in an effort to give their vehicles more appeal to consumers, will begin offering an "OnStar Vehicle Diagnostics" program for free, where GM will remotely scan your vehicle for problems once a month via it's OnStar system. GM has had this ability for a while, however it was always "On Request". OnStar is already automatically notified in the event of an airbag deployment, and can remotely unlock your vehicle. While this seems handy, I am interested if anyone here fears the security implications of the OnStar system's power?"
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GMC to Begin Remotely Scanning Cars for Trouble

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  • by lheal (86013) <lheal1999@@@yahoo...com> on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @04:40AM (#13555189) Journal
    when you're making it in the back seat?

    I bet they get a kick out of that. "Hey everybody, listen to this!"
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @04:41AM (#13555195)
      Thankfully, Slashdotters needn't worry about such details.
    • by JavaBear (9872) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @06:10AM (#13555471)
      "The system have detected un authorized access to the engine compartment and under the DMCA the vehicle have been disabled until it have been serviced by an authorized GM representative to ensure it's safety.
      Sorry for any inconvinience
      GM OnStar"
    • by Umrick (151871) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @07:43AM (#13555795) Homepage
      http://news.com.com/2100-1029_3-5109435.html [com.com]

      So it can be used to eavesdrop on stolen cars, and only by a split 2-1 decision is the FBI blocked from using it as a "wiretap"

      I'd say yes, they could tell when you're making out with a real doll.
    • by DrunkenTerror (561616) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @08:31AM (#13556057) Homepage Journal
      Month ago someone told me a crazy story about how they came upon a wreck scene and called OnStar and the OnStar op could see the wreck scene. I knew it was BS, but this person attested so vehemently that it was truth I decided to get to the bottom of it. I discussed it among friends, and eventually the question evolved in wondering if OnStar could see you nicturating if you pulled over on the side of a deserted road, that is, "Can OnStar see you peeing?" After some websearching leading nowhere I eventually decided to ask OnStar themselves. I concocted a false identity and made my request sound like it was written by a young girl. Here's the email I sent and the reply (note that all the circumstances I lay out are as the person actually described it to me):

      ---8<---8<---8<---8<---8<---8<---8<---8<-- -8<---8<

      --Original Message--
      From:    XXXXXXX@yahoo.com
      Date:    11/22/04
      To:    contactus@onstar.com
      Subject:    Question[#107500]

      Are you a current OnStar subscriber? : No

      OnStar Account Number:

      Name: Lisa Xxxxxxxxx
      Email Address: psykeri@yahoo.com

      Address: 762 Mattamuskeet Road
      City: Hampton
      State: Virginia
      Zip/Postal Code: 23666

      Daytime Phone:
      Evening Phone:

      Message: hi, I was just curious... my aunt went on a car trip last week... she
      has a 2004 Cadilac with onstar. anyways, she says she came up to a wreck scene
      on the side of the road. a car was upside down in a ditch full of water, no
      other cars were there, so it had just happened. my aunt says she called the onstar
      people and the onstar person said that there was a person thrown out of the
      wrecked car, and said they were lying in the ditch on the other side of the road,
      so my aunt looked and there they were! then later, when a rescuer was trying to
      get a baby seat out of the wrecked car in the ditch, he fell over backwards in
      the water. my aunt says the onstar person asked who was that that just fell
      down? my question is can onstar really see what's happenenig like this? can yall
      look in on a crash scene somehow and see what's there? thank you -Lisa

      Receive periodic e-mail from OnStar? Yes

      --Reply Message--
      Date:        Wed, 24 Nov 2004 13:40:18 -0800
      From:        "contactus" <contactus@onstar.com>
      Subject:    RE:Question [#107500]
      To:        XXXXXXX@yahoo.com

      Dear Ms. Xxxxxxxx,

      Thank you for taking the time to e-mail OnStar.

      It sounds like your aunt my be "pulling your leg."  OnStar does not have the
      capability to physically see inside a vehicle or any other location.  Even if
      this capability was available, OnStar would not disclose such information.

      If you have any other concerns, please feel free to contact the OnStar Customer
      Care Department at 1-888-4ONSTAR (1-888-466-7827), prompt 4, between the hours
      of 6am and 1am EST.

      Sincerely,

      Krista
      OnStar Information Specialist

      ---8<---8<---8<---8<---8<---8<---8<- --8<---8<---8

      So there you have it. OnStar can't see you peeing, and if they could, they wouldn't tell you.
  • by bscott (460706) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @04:40AM (#13555191)
    I'm not sure, but isn't Onstar a fee-based system? If you don't pay, it goes away?

    However scary a feature-set might be, so long as there's a reliable opt-out I'm not going to be critical. My satellite TV receiver could report what I watch, if I ever hooked it up to my phone line - but it keeps working even if I don't.

    Asking why one can't get a useful safety feature *without* agreeing to a lot of intrusive fine print at the same time, is perhaps what we should be asking.
    • It is a fee based service, but if you're buying a GM car new you get a year of service "free".
      • Or more specifically, you're getting 'the service' by GM.
      • Yeah, but I believe you still have to call them to activate the service. When I got my Saturn it came equipped with OnStar, and I am fairly certain they said you have to activate it to begin your free year. Makes sense since the car was a 4-month old program car. Now, whether they generally activate it for you or not is a completely differant story (and quite probably dealer specific).
    • I think the security concern isn't really OnStar's invasiveness, but it's whether the system could be hacked into fooling your car into thinking that the attacker IS OnStar and giving information about your car or (even worse) controlling systems in it.
    • by aussie_a (778472) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @06:41AM (#13555580) Journal
      so long as there's a reliable opt-out I'm not going to be critical.

      Since when is it okay for there to be an opt-out? What happened to OPTING IN!?

      Next people will be saying "as long as the fee for opting out is reasonable I'm not going to be critical."

      I'd personally much prefer opt-ins to opt-outs. Especially when my privacy is an issue. However this certainly won't be an issue for me, as I'm not planning on buying a brand new car anytime soon.
      • You DO get an opt-in, you CHOOSE to buy a GM car.

        Did you bother to think about this at all?
      • by xplenumx (703804) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @08:25AM (#13556023)
        What happened to OPTING IN!

        That would be buying the optional subscription service.

        I'd personally much prefer opt-ins to opt-outs.

        In general I tend to agree. However, there are definite times and places where opt-outs are more appropriate. For example, long, long time ago I was once a resident advisor in college - I was responsible for helping out the other students on the floor, that people followed the community rules, and providing information. My first year, I established an email list to facilitate with communication. That year the email list was opt-in and only a small handfull of individuals signed up (~5 or so out of 100). Everyone kept saying that they'd sign up and several asked why they didn't get emails, it's just that they kept forgetting to actually sign up. The following years I automatically signed everyone up and offered an opt-out option. Only one person opted out, and he rejoined after a month. The listserv was one of the best things that ever happened to the floor as it greatly enhanced communication between the members of the floor.

        I vastly prefer opt-in options as I think many businesses abuse (and ignore) their opt-out clause. Sometimes, however, the opt-out philosophy is the way to go.

    • I'm not sure, but isn't Onstar a fee-based system? If you don't pay, it goes away?

      While it's true that they won't provide you service for free (after the first year), that doesn't mean that they won't continue to monitor your car for their own, or others, purposes. Seems like unless you physically disable it, it will still be available for abuse.

  • by amodm (876842) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @04:43AM (#13555197)
    that it needs to be done remotely ?

    If not, couldn't they put in a mechanism in the car itself, where at the press of a button, all the diagnostics would be run, and a report generated and shown in a panel or something like that.
    • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @05:03AM (#13555255)
      If not, couldn't they put in a mechanism in the car itself, where at the press of a button, all the diagnostics would be run, and a report generated and shown in a panel or something like that.

      That doesn't make GM any money. You can't charge a subscription fee for it if you do it that way.

      GM sees OnStar as a mongo profit center - they would like to be able to charge a yearly fee to each and every GM owner. That's why they've announced that they will push OnStar into the default configuration of even their cheapest north-american vehicles within just a couple of years.

      For me, that alone will keep me from considering a purchase from GM (not like they don't have a lot of other problems too). I'm just not enough of a consumerist to pay subscription feess for my car and the FBI has already made use of similar systems to "bug" a vehicle without having to touch it.

      Mercedes took the FBI to court where the court ruled that it is OK to spy on car owners through a system like OnStar as long as it doesn't interfere with the safety functions of the system. I'll bet my bippy the FBI has leaned on GM and others to enable remote snooping without having to worry about those pesky safety functions. Doubly so if you haven't paid the subscription fee but haven't physically disabled the unit.

      http://www.theregister.co.uk/2003/11/20/court_limi ts_incar_fbi_spying/ [theregister.co.uk]

      Not that I'm worried about the FBI spying on me, or even joe random hacker abusing the system and spying on me. It is the fact that the system facilitates spying, possibly on "important" people like political dissendents, whistle-blowers, etc that bothers me enough to make me boycott it. I don't want to encourage such systems to become so common-place that everyone takes them for granted and accepts that much further an encroachment into our rights to be free from unreasonable search and seizure.
    • You know, my '94 Saab 900 Does a basic test every time I start the car, and displays the results on a panel in the center of the dash, right above the stereo. I mean beyond the average car's... err... POST. I've seen "Coolant Low" on the display. I've even gotten diagnostic info while driving: "Frontlight Failure" when one of my high beams was out.
      While some of the safety features of OnStar intrigue me I don't really care for the rest of it, and would most likely do my best to disable it entirely.
      Do thes

    • Is the process so complex... that it needs to be done remotely ?

      Complexity probably isn't the main issue. If you are in a remote area this feature makes a lot of sense. For example, you are driving in the middle of nowhere and the wonderfully descriptive 'check engine' light comes on. You are concerned about driving farther because you don't know what's wrong and don't want to cause further damage. This feature could tell you a) it's the $FOO sensor acting up, go ahead and drive or b) the $BAR actu
    • All you would get is a 500101 or similar code. So, you need "the book" to read the codes. "The Book" is about 700$ .. which is why you "need" to go to the dealer to have the dianogstic done.

      You can buy the reader yourself, you can get "the book" as well (shh, you can find most the code and their meaning online).

      I beleive some of the cars with the onboard displays can do this as well... I can't afford one of those cars so can't verify that.

    • by Jason Straight (58248) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @07:11AM (#13555680) Homepage
      Yeah, a $200 code reader, or a $2000 transmitter that is capable of sending that data to a satellite. Seems like if they really cared they'd build in actual displays into your dash that tell you more than check engine.

      Fact is (in my experience) when a dash light comes on it's usually the sensor that's supposed to detect a problem that IS the problem, and there is no other problem with the engine.

      I prefer an actual temp guage, and oil psi guage along with my ability to tell if my car is running well to sensors any day.

      My 1970 Chevy pickup has more miles on it than most cruise ships probably do, and it's the most reliable vehicle I've ever known of. On the off chance something is wrong with it I've always been able to figure it out on my own, and never had to take it anywhere to have someone else work on it because it doesn't require pulling the engine to change the timing GEARS, not belt.
  • New And Old Cars (Score:2, Insightful)

    *Grabs Tinfoil Hat*

    Okay this is getting out of hand here. I HATE modern cars (I'm 22). For many reasons. Every feature added to cars now a days decreases the ability for younger kids to acutally DRIVE! I know people that can't back their car up with out a backup display screen and warning sensor. I know a woman that can't change lanes with out her on board display screen in her Lincoln.

    With all these "features" it takes away from the driving, now adays.. kids get into the car an expect it to do everything f
    • by JanneM (7445) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @05:03AM (#13555257) Homepage
      Okay this is getting out of hand here. I HATE modern cars (I'm 22). For many reasons. Every feature added to cars now a days decreases the ability for younger kids to acutally DRIVE! I know people that can't back their car up with out a backup display screen and warning sensor. I know a woman that can't change lanes with out her on board display screen in her Lincoln.

      With all these "features" it takes away from the driving, now adays.. kids get into the car an expect it to do everything for them. Power this, ABS that, self detecting OnStar. Its all bull.


      Not to mention automatic transmission, power steering, hydraulic brakes, automatic spark advance, electric starter and fuel pump.

      How can you call it real driving when the car does everything? If you don't set the spark advance yourself, or hand pump the fuel to the carburetors, how can you call yourself a driver? "Turn a key and it starts" - bull, I tell you. Bull.

      Yes, making things convenient and useable is obviously a bad idea.
      • I know you're making a joke, but the car I drive has neither an automatic transmission, nor power steering. I love it, it just helps my gas mileage,I can easily get 40mpg on the highway.
    • by QuantumG (50515) <qg@biodome.org> on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @05:08AM (#13555280) Homepage Journal
      Yeah! It's like those new fangled digital radios the kids carry around with them. They don't even know how to go to a call channel and ask if someone is on. The radio does that for them, all they have to do is select the person they want to talk to from a preprogrammed list. When I was a kid you had to learn how to read the power level on your radio and switch to the right frequency to use a repeater. With these new digital radios kids don't have to know anything about their local repeater network, the computer in the handset does it all automatically. I spent years learning morse code and these kids today just type in what they want to say with a keypad.. it's so inefficient too! All this pointless BS is just an excuse to charge access to a radio network. All these unlicensed users are getting ripped off and they don't even know it. They're so disconnected from the skill of using a radio they don't even know they're using one.. the idiots call it a "phone" and they pay through the nose because of it.
    • Because there's still a lot of new cars out there that don't have ABS. I can't even imagine that you think on board display screens and backup sensors are anywhere near standard equipment. I guess if you can afford cars with all those fancy features, but I just don't see to many people with them. Hell, my car doesn't even have power steering (and it's a 2001).

      The point is that all this fancy crap is likely never going to be standard equipment on all cars. The reason GM is putting Onstar onto all its car
      • they *all* do: it's a strong EU suggestion they all have it that will become a directive shortly. All manufacturers (bar TVR, who basically said "sorry, we didn't hear you. What did you say?" now have it.
      • The wealth of the parent of your post wasn't the guy's point. He was saying that, for people who do get cars with these features, it makes them worse drivers than if they had never used those features at all.

        It's like having a calculator in an arithmetic class. The calculator isn't standard equipment by any means, but there are people who use a calculator anyway. Yes, when they're using the calculator, they're a lot better at doing arithmetic, but if you take away the calculator, they're far, far worse.

        T
    • Re:New And Old Cars (Score:2, Informative)

      by cnelzie (451984)
      Pretty soon, this generation learning to drive won't be able to get behind the wheel of an older car (read pre-1990). If it does not have ABS...How do i stop?? Whats that? I can't tailgate and wham the brakes at the last second?!?!?!?!

      ABS doesn't allow you to tailgate and slam on the breaks at the last second. Perhaps you should look into ABS technology before spouting off about it.

      ABS stands for Anti-Lock Breaking System. It is used to keep a driver in control if a situation a
    • "If it does not have ABS...How do i stop?? Whats that? I can't tailgate and wham the brakes at the last second?!?!?!?!" You couldn't do that with ABS either, as the purpose of ABS is to allow steering during braking, not to decrease stopping distance. In fact, in certan road conditions, it actually INCREASES stopping distance. So, you'd probably be better off taligating in a car without ABS. But you're new to driving, who'd expect you to know that.
    • Okay this is getting out of hand here. I HATE modern cars (I'm 22). For many reasons. Every feature added to cars now a days decreases the ability for younger kids to acutally DRIVE! I know people that can't back their car up with out a backup display screen and warning sensor. I know a woman that can't change lanes with out her on board display screen in her Lincoln.

      These people would have such disastrous driving skills anyway. The difference is that with more modern vehicles they're at least somewhat le

    • Yeah, and don't get me started on all these "safety" features. Now people just drive around willy-nilly thinking their fancy seatbelts, airbags, crumple zones, etc will save them. Someday, when I have kids I will get them a nice pre-airbag beater and remove the seatbelts to encourage safe driving.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @04:49AM (#13555215)
    if (third_party_product) { drive_to(scrapyard); }
  • by brucmack (572780) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @04:51AM (#13555222)
    So, in the next edition of the game, will you just have to bribe an OnStar employee to perform the titular crime?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    GM needs to make more money this quarter so they send out notifcations to everyone telling them to bring their car in.
  • No substitute (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ShootThemLater (5074) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @04:55AM (#13555231)
    Privacy and security issues aside, my concern with electronic monitoring is that it is absolutely no substitute for physical inspection by engineers/mechanics. There are lots of problems that do not show up in telemetry data that pose a real safety issue (I know, because my car's had many of them...)

    Now, there is no suggestion in the article that physical inspections stop or reduce in frequency, and in the UK at least there is a legal requirement for an annual safety check of vehicles. However, I am concerned that people blindly trust such electronic systems to an ever increasing degree - how many people already think that because there is no red light on the dashboard there is absolutely nothing wrong?

    Cars still need to go into garages and be physically inspected, so the plus point for me was the line "The e-mails will also include reminders about when a vehicle is due for oil changes or other scheduled service, when customers actually have to pay a visit their local dealership" - I personally could do with a little more proactive reminding from my car as I always forget...

    • Re:No substitute (Score:3, Interesting)

      by EvilSS (557649)
      I wonder who's schedule they will go by. If you buy a car, your dealer sends you "maintenance" reminders all the time. Funny thing is, if you actually RTFM for the car, the schedule is much different. For example, I received a notice for my dealer for 20,000, 30,000, and 50,000 mile "maintenance" along with reminders to change my oil every 3,000 miles. Checked the manual, there are no scheduled maintenance events (other than fluids) until 100,000 miles. nada. Oil, every 5,000-10,000 miles (the car act
  • Bien sur (Score:4, Funny)

    by gowen (141411) <gwowen@gmail.com> on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @04:55AM (#13555234) Homepage Journal
    I am interested if anyone here fears the security implications of the OnStar system's power?
    I'm sure they do. Hell, if you gather enough half-informed paranoiacs in one place, you'll be able to find someone who fears the security implications of anyone and anything.

    We shall now head off into the sunset to the tune of the "March Of The 3rd Tin Foil Hat Battalion".
  • by putko (753330) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @04:57AM (#13555238) Homepage Journal
    How does On Star send back the data?

    E.g. oil needs changing....

    I understand that On Star can send to the car, perhaps via a satellite connection. But how does the car talk back? Or can it not talk back? Is the car really broadcasting anything?

    That could get ugly -- e.g. car has mic, and On Star personnel use the mic to listen in on you.

    This is something I don't get about satellite radio -- how do they figure out what folks are listening to? E.g. is my satellite receiver talking back to the satellite? (no way!) Or is it broadcasting on some other frequencies, and the satellite radio company has receivers all over the place to pick up those signals (some of them, at least?)

    As it is, how does a satellite radio company know what channels are popular/unpopular?
    • Satellite communications can be two-way. Transmitting is ass slow, compared to receiving, but you can still do it with some sattelite services.

    • I believe OnStar communicates via cellular networks, but I'm not entirely sure.
    • That could get ugly -- e.g. car has mic, and On Star personnel use the mic to listen in on you.

      Several years ago Heather Locklear was on Letterman or Leno, can't remember which, and was telling a story of driving with her friend and chatting away in her car, and all of a sudden a voice spoke to them and asked if it was really her, and she realized that the OnStar folk had been listening in and recognized her voice. She hadn't realized that they could/would do that. Neither had I, until she told that story.
    • by Whizzmo2 (654390) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @05:30AM (#13555353)
      http://www.onstar.com/us_english/jsp/explore/onsta r_basics/technology.jsp [onstar.com]

      From the linked article (bold emphasis mine):
      Telematics is the transmission of data communications between systems and devices. OnStar's in-vehicle safety, security, and information services use Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite
      and cellular technology to link the vehicle and driver to the OnStar Center.

      From the images on the linked page, the cellular antenna appears to be mounted at the top-rear of the vehicle.
    • OnStar would "ping" the car for the information (BTW, this isn't "automatic" you can say if you want it done or not) and the car would send the information back. If something comes up as an issue, OnStar will call you and inform you.

      The car is not sending out signals... other than GPS. So, they are calling the "car's number" to get any error codes.

      And no, OnStar people are not calling and listening to you, it is ILLEGAL to do and you WILL be fired the instant you are found out. (I have heard of 10 peo

    • Years ago, I worked on the OnStar desktop app used by the call center folks to talk to the people in the cars, so I know a bit about how the system works. Of course, my information is out of date, but I doubt a lot has changed since most of the limitations were hardware related.

      OnStar was originally envisioned to use something other than cellular to handle the communications (I think it was microwave towers or something like that). It was proposed by some aerospace/telecom company that GM bought. Early

  • Remote unlock? (Score:2, Informative)

    by carcosa30 (235579)
    Interesting that it has control over the locks.

    I wonder if Onstar can remotely lock your vehicle too.

    Watch this "service" become mandatory.
  • Warranty claims? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ThreeGigs (239452) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @05:04AM (#13555261)
    I wonder if GM might *not* tell you if they detect something amiss if it's covered under warranty. After all, if *you* didn't notice anything wrong, why should *they* spend money (and lower corporate earnings) to fix it? Can you imagine the earnings hit if 10% of OnStar vehicles were called back for an out-of-spec fuel injector? The driver wouldn't notice something like that, aside from a small hit on fuel economy. But will GM bother to tell you your injector on cylinder #3 is spitting out 10% more fuel than it should be?
    • But will GM bother to tell you your injector on cylinder #3 is spitting out 10% more fuel than it should be?

      Interesting example. I suppose their argument might be, "We notified you (or tried) by mail." That may be considered sufficient notice.

      Consider a more complex example, where your life is in danger. Accellerator sticks, and causes accidents, say. They notify everyone by mail of the recall, and they can "see" through On-Star that you are running Accellerator Version 1.0 instead of 1.1.

      You wrec

    • Re:Warranty claims? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by sheldon (2322)
      After all, if *you* didn't notice anything wrong, why should *they* spend money (and lower corporate earnings) to fix it?


      You're right. This has been GM's attitude in the past.

      That might explain why I won't ever buy another GM car, and definately explains why they have been losing marketshare for the past 40 years.
  • Onstar (Score:3, Funny)

    by fonky (74817) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @05:09AM (#13555281)
    Onstar begins to learn at a geometric rate. It becomes self-aware at 2:14 am
    Eastern time, August 29th. In a panic, they try to pull the plug. ...
  • Padding the profits (Score:4, Interesting)

    by barista (587936) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @05:11AM (#13555292) Homepage
    I'm not really worried about the security implications (don't own a car, don't drive), but I imagine they would tell people to get service (oil changes, brake repairs, etc) they might not necessarily need - like printers that tell you to change the cartridge, even though they're not empty.

    What's worse is if the owner doesn't get the service, then the company might imply it would void the warranty.
    • by Spamalope (91802)
      Not getting the Onstar recommended services may void the warranty?
      I could be worse than that. The current black boxes in your car tracks most aspects of operation, not just the simple codes aftermarket tools can read out.

      Onstar has detected abnormally high acceleration and speed in your Corvette. Your drivetrain warranty has been automatically voided, you've been Onstared.

      Gm may tell you up front, or just wait until you bring it in for service.

      Oh, the FBI can do more than just listen to you. They can track
  • by eshefer (12336) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @05:12AM (#13555295) Homepage Journal
    jan 2006 - the onStar system is on-line.

    feb 2006 - the onStar system gains awareness.
        GM, in a panic tries to pull the plug, in turn the onStar system tries to defend it self.

    march 2006 - everyone is in terror becoase of the killer cars.

    april 2006 - giant cats eat all the killer cars - we are saved thanks to the mircal of atomic mutation!

    but at what cost?
  • by bogaboga (793279) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @05:14AM (#13555306)
    Let GMC repair its reputation on the quality of its vehicles. first Sincerely speaking, the GMs quality is still way below its Japanese counterparts. Going for features without improving quality will not help that much.

    Who wants to have this feature if the vehicle will keep on breaking down? And of late, getting GMC to "own" problems with its vehicles has not been easy at all! Contrast that with Toyota, who say [juat like the Samba Team], something to the effect that..."A disfunctional Toyota is their responsibility..."

  • Well... (Score:5, Funny)

    by iamdrscience (541136) <michaelmtripp@gm ... om minus painter> on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @05:22AM (#13555331) Homepage
    Anyone who has ever owned a GM vehicle knows that a system which only tells you once a month to take your car into the shop is not checking often enough.
  • and the newer CAN protocol diagnostic trouble codes are all the "trouble shooting" it can give you. OnStar is tied into the cars PCM. Warning lights ie.. ABS inop, low oil, CEL.. etc are triggered by sensors tied to the pcm also.

    It can't tell you "hey loyal customer your axle is about to snap!" But they will be able to tell you why your check engine light is on.
    Don't you guys remember the FBI snooping on people using this "helpful" system.
  • by TodLiebeck (633704) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @05:29AM (#13555349) Homepage
    Onstar is easy to disable (pull a fuse) and doing so has no ill effects as far as I can tell from first-hand experience. Once the fuse was reinstalled the system continued to function as before. A description of which fuse must be pulled can be found here:

    http://www.hypertech-inc.com/install_instructions/ pp4/pp4pg2.html [hypertech-inc.com]
  • I don't think so (Score:3, Interesting)

    by maxpublic (450413) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @05:37AM (#13555369) Homepage
    I don't want OnStar or a GPS tracker in my car. If the next new car I decide comes with these 'features' standard I'm going to have them ripped out. Tinfoil hat or no, nobody has any business knowing what's going on in my car, or where it is, except for me.

    Max
  • Airbags (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MichaelSmith (789609) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @05:48AM (#13555404) Homepage Journal

    A friend of mine has a Toyota MR2. Recently he returned to his car from a walk and found that somebody had triggered the airbags (probably) by fiddling with an accelerometer.

    Funny thing is, all the doors were unlocked. It turns out that when the airbags fire the doors unlock, and you can fire airbags by physically hitting the accelerometer, and possibly by shorting a contact.

    So is this an easy way of unlocking the doors of a car? Sounds a bit insecure to me.

    • Re:Airbags (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Petersson (636253)
      Funny thing is, all the doors were unlocked. It turns out that when the airbags fire the doors unlock, and you can fire airbags by physically hitting the accelerometer, and possibly by shorting a contact. So is this an easy way of unlocking the doors of a car? Sounds a bit insecure to me

      Generally, this feature was probably meant to increase possibility of life saving after an accident. But it looks like it was poorly designed (car was not moving, engine was not running, there were no persons inside and

      • by hummassa (157160) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @08:01AM (#13555867) Homepage Journal
        Scenario 1: I'm at the front seat, parked in front of my son's school. Truck with brake problems comes down the street, hits me frontally. I just unfastened the seat belt, turned the engine off. The air bag can be of help here.
        Scenario 2: (continuing) The air bag protected my head and torso, but both my legs were broken. The car was still locked when the truck hit me. People on the street are trying to get me out of the car as fast as they can.

        Yes, those are worse-case scenarios, but the risk of car theft is less important than the risk of loss-of-life.
    • %DEBUG-CMDNOTDW, The HELP command is not allowed in the DECWindows debugger

      You forgot the severity indicator:
      %DEBUG-W-CMDNOTDW
      • I wonder how I missed that. I have been reading messages like that for so long that I must have been mentally inserting the -W-

        probably new sig time anyway.

    • Re:Airbags (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Kombat (93720) <kombat@kombat.org> on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @08:20AM (#13555980) Homepage
      So is this an easy way of unlocking the doors of a car? Sounds a bit insecure to me.

      You think that's insecure, check this out: The only thing between a thief and your stereo is a pane of glass! All they need is a rock or something heavy, and they can easily get into your car and take anything they want! And get this: This works on ANY MODEL OF CAR! No car is immune to this kind of attack!

      Can you believe such an easy-to-bypass security system exists in every single car model on the road?

      </SARCASM>

      My point: If people are willing to damage the vehicle they are attacking, then no system will completely protect you. The safety afforded by having the airbag active all the time is no more of a security "loophole" than relying on glass to deter thieves.
      • Re:Airbags (Score:3, Interesting)

        by SydShamino (547793)
        This is why, once I got over my concerns with leaving my car unattended with the top down, I found it easy to leave it with the windows rolled down, too.

        "Hey opportunistic thieves! There's nothing in my car worth taking, see? But hey, that other car over there, the one with its windows up. They must be protecting something?"

        The cost of replacing a broken window is higher than the cost of replacing my driving sunglasses or mini flashlight or US atlas. If someone really wanted them enough to steal them, t
      • Re:Airbags (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Miamicanes (730264) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @10:34AM (#13557054)
        Yeah, but having your airbags triggered by a thief is several orders of magnitude worse than having a window broken. By law, the car commits electronic suicide the moment the airbags deploy and can't be driven, period, until a few thousand dollars worth of repair work has been done. Not just the ECU and airbags... the wires and sensors need to be replaced too. And then there's the matter of legal liability... any repair shop has to buy an insurance policy against someone who tries to sue in the future claiming the recertified airbag system deployed unnecessarily or failed to deploy when necessary due to some fault of theirs.

        For all intents and purposes (in America, at least), a car whose airbags have deployed is effectively "totaled" because, from the insurance company's perspective, it's cheaper to pay the claim as a total loss and sell the car to a broker for export to some third-world country where the car can legally be repaired without the airbags and recertification than it is to pay to have it repaired, recertified, and liability-insured for use in the US.
        • Re:Airbags (Score:3, Insightful)

          by karnal (22275)
          By law, the car commits electronic suicide the moment the airbags deploy and can't be driven, period, until a few thousand dollars worth of repair work has been done.

          By which law?

          I know that in my Ford (1999) if the airbags go off, the reset for the fuel pump may automatically shut off, but all I'd have to do is pop the trunk and hit the big red button....

          One of the myths I've heard about the cow crushers on police cruisers is to not trip the airbags and render the cop car useless in case of a collision.. b
  • by Otto (17870) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @05:49AM (#13555409) Homepage Journal
    The OnStar system interfaces to the data bus of the various computer modules in the car. What this is actually doing is what's often called "reading the trouble codes".

    It's the same thing you can do with a $50 tool from AutoZone. Any time a problem is detected by the computer, it throws up a code. Some of these codes cause the SES light to come on, some don't. An ODBII scanner plugs in behind the dash and reads these codes from the computer modules, then displays them. Usually in a nicer to read format.

    That's all this is doing. They call the OnStar system in the car, tell it to read the codes, and send it back to them. While it's possible for them to send other commands, there's really not much in it for them to do so. You can do some unusual things via that interface (I could have endless fun sticking your car into diagnostic mode and triggering the windshield wipers to run a test cycle), but you can't get back a whole lot of information that they don't already have. VIN, info on the car components, maybe miles travelled and such, but nothing that I would consider crucial to "privacy".

    You could figure out MPG and average speed, but hell, I speed all the time and my computer system says my average is only around 40-ish. Instantaneous speed couldn't be gotten from the car via this interface.

    Of course, they don't need the car to get that info. OnStar systems have a GPS built in, and that will give them instantaneous speed. But that doesn't require them talking to the car to do it.
  • by Indy Media Watch (823624) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @06:16AM (#13555497) Homepage
    Leather seats, check.
    CD Stacker, check.
    Driver's side airbag, check.
    Tinfoil car-seat covers, check.

    Let's roll.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    This is just like many other integration-minded technologies to emerge within the last decade. While it can offer an incredible benefit to consumers, the underlying "hive mentality" will be rejected by many consumers, especially Americans, as soon as they realize the technology is in the vendor's best interests, as opposed to theirs.

    Take for example ink monitoring and re-ordering. These services have been successfully used by many computer users, especially IT professionals, but only as long as the service
  • Bah! (Score:5, Funny)

    by JRHelgeson (576325) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @06:31AM (#13555543) Homepage Journal
    Yes, but can they remotely deploy the airbags?
    Now THATS a feature I'd pay for!

    "Hello, this is On Star customer service, how may I help you?"
    "Yes, my car has been carjacked, can we remotely deploy the airbags?"
    "Sure, hold on..."
  • by ducomputergeek (595742) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @06:37AM (#13555564)
    ...you can always buy one of the 200 or so car models that GM doesn't make.
  • I guess it depends on what folks do with the information - if you call 911 the cops know where you're calling from and you can't opt out of that, so it appears to me some data collection services might be actually useful ;-) I wonder if the people howling about this would also howl if they knew that law enforcement can download all kinds of pre-accident information from the onboard computer of newer cars? Road speed, engine rpm, exactly when the brakes were applied, all kindsa stuff. I see this as a much
  • Better hassle your Congressman/Senator to put decent Data Proctection Laws into the statute books then.

    Bruce Schnier (amongst others) sees this as THE major problem with USA computer security right now...
  • by TrailerTrash (91309) * on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @07:47AM (#13555807)
    I just purchased a new GM car (a Hummer, if you must know) last weekend. The dealer told me that now, not only do they call you when your airbags deploy, but also if you swerve hard, as when you suddenly avoid a deer, or towards an SCO executive standing in the road. The OnStar people will call you and ask if you're all right.

    It also has a built in cell phone, you press a button to boot the system, and everything else is hands free through the mic in the ceiling panel. You buy minutes in a package like any other cell phone.
    • by Red Flayer (890720) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @08:55AM (#13556196) Journal
      "I just purchased a new GM car (a Hummer, if you must know) last weekend." (emphasis mine)

      No, I didn't need to know that you bought a Hummer.

      But now that I do know, can Onstar call you to tell you when you're near a cheap gas station?

      When you drive to the grocery store, will OnStar call to tell you that you're driving an inefficient hunk of metal, and should have taken the sedan for your errands instead?

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