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Toyota Black Box Data Is More Closed Than Others' 276

Posted by timothy
from the in-the-dark dept.
wjr writes "Many cars these days contain black boxes that record information (speed, accelerator position, etc) and can preserve information in the case of an accident. Ford and Chrysler say that they use 'open systems' so anyone can read out the data; General Motors has licensed Bosch to produce a device capable of reading its cars' black boxes. On the other hand, Toyota has only a single laptop in the US capable of reading its cars' black boxes, and generally won't allow the data to be read without a court order. Honda seems to have a similar policy. This is emerging as an issue in the investigation into unintended acceleration."
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Toyota Black Box Data Is More Closed Than Others'

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  • A challenge... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by plover (150551) * on Friday March 05, 2010 @02:13AM (#31367888) Homepage Journal

    Wouldn't it be grand if the guys who hacked Ubisoft's latest game [slashdot.org] took on this challenge instead?

    And it would be covered in extra-special awesomesauce to see the code posted to SourceForge.

    • Re:A challenge... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ColdWetDog (752185) on Friday March 05, 2010 @02:18AM (#31367914) Homepage
      Unless the data is encrypted (and it appears that their first line of defense is security by obscurity) it would seem to be a doable thing. Grab a used Toyota (good prices these days), track the various potential variables and look at the data. Maybe delve into how the other recorders do things - it's unlikely that Toyota would completely re invent the thing.

      Sell it to a couple of attorneys.

      Profit...
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by binarylarry (1338699)

        Toyota's systems have over a 100 million lines of code: http://news.discovery.com/tech/toyota-recall-software-code.html [discovery.com]

        Not exactly a trivial app to just run strings on.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by El_Muerte_TDS (592157)

          "100 million lines of code" doesn't say anything. I can write "hello world" in 2 lines of code, or 200 lines of code.

        • Thats stupid, they would just be hacking a few outputs. Simply the interface. If they can do it for WoW they can do it for a car. Way WAY simpler.
          • Re:A challenge... (Score:5, Informative)

            by timmarhy (659436) on Friday March 05, 2010 @04:09AM (#31368444)
            what makes you think it's simple? there would be literally 100's of sensors connected to inputs/outputs on multiple logic boards throughout the car, all these sending encrypted/obfuscated data to the blackbox. the data itself could well be so complex you wouldn't know real data from the obfuscated data.

            i've done software that reads outputs from lab insturments and from onboard computers on haul trucks before, and it can be very very hard even with the manual to the instrument, let alone someone actively trying to prevent anyone decoding the data.

            • Re:A challenge... (Score:4, Insightful)

              by profplump (309017) <zach-slashjunk@kotlarek.com> on Friday March 05, 2010 @04:52AM (#31368656)

              A) There's not reason to believe the data is any more obfuscated than simply "undocumented". It would be extra work to intentionally hide the data, and it's not clear that Toyota is doing that, or what they would gain from it if they did. All we know is they aren't going to any extra effort to allow other people to read it, and speculation into possible obfuscation is poorly founded.

              And I'm just going to pretend that you didn't say encrypted, because even people who well motivated often screw up encryption, so it's incredibly unlikely that Toyota has a correctly-implemented encryption system (which includes things like making sure not all cars have the same key, which would be exceedingly difficult to do correctly).

              B) Reverse engineering isn't trivial, but it's not incredible difficult either. "100s of sensors" is not a huge amount, particularly when you can tell what most if not all of those sensors or measuring, and get the analog/digital readings directly from the sensor package to correlate with the output even. You could even take the sensor network and computer out of the car, rig it up to allow a computer to generate billions of different input combinations, and then use automated statistical analysis to find correlated input and output parameters.

              • Re:A challenge... (Score:4, Insightful)

                by ranulf (182665) on Friday March 05, 2010 @09:36AM (#31370112)

                get the analog/digital readings directly from the sensor package to correlate with the output

                Not gonna happen, I'm afraid. Almost everything on a car in the last 10 years is done over a CANbus. You don't have hundreds of wires going into an ECU or a dial any more, you have a couple of buses, each connected to a load of devices.

        • Re:A challenge... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by wiredlogic (135348) on Friday March 05, 2010 @03:50AM (#31368372)

          Toyota's systems have over a 100 million lines of code:

          Frankly, that statistic doesn't make much sense. In the article it's just a BS number that shouldn't have been quoted by the hack writer and it isn't even referring to Toyota. The rank and file microcontrollers that do most of the work in a modern car can't possibly have that much source code in them. The only place where a large amount of source code could be involved is for advanced accessory functions like entertainment, communication, and navigation systems. Those should all be properly isolated from the critical systems needed to operate the car safely. The Mercedes is stated to have 20M LOC and I'd bet the farm that 90% of that is in non-critical components. It's even less likely that a generic Toyota like the Camry has anywhere near that much code in its computers. Come on mods. If you can't even follow the links at least use your brains.

          • Exactly correct. (Score:3, Informative)

            MOD PARENT UP. Thanks for saying that.

            I was talking to an acquaintance at Daimler who heads a programming project for Daimler trucks. The number of processors and lines of code in a Toyota is wildly exaggerated. The actual figure is somewhat the same as in Mercedes-Benz automobiles.
          • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

            by Anonymous Coward

            And when they tote up the "100 million lines of code", they're probably counting the operating system and packaged apps they bought to play media. If the dash panel entertainment display computer is running Windows Mobile I bet that gets you to 100 MSLOC right there. I find it hard to believe there's more than a million lines in the application level code written custom for the car, and hopefully under 100K or even 10K for the microcontrollers running the critical systems. More than that would be impossi

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by mcgrew (92797) *

            Frankly, that statistic doesn't make much sense. In the article it's just a BS number that shouldn't have been quoted by the hack writer and it isn't even referring to Toyota.

            This car runs on code. [ieee.org]

            The avionics system in the F-22 Raptor, the current U.S. Air Force frontline jet fighter, consists of about 1.7 million lines of software code. The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, scheduled to become operational in 2010, will require about 5.7 million lines of code to operate its onboard systems. And Boeing's new 787

        • Re:A challenge... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by brufleth (534234) on Friday March 05, 2010 @08:30AM (#31369678)
          What does the number of lines of code have to do with reading the fault log out of non volatile memory?
      • by ipquickly (1562169) on Friday March 05, 2010 @02:56AM (#31368094) Homepage

        their first line of defense is security by obscurity

        I think their first line of defense is knaji, hiragana, and katakana.
        That leaves over 97% of the world out of the loop.

      • by tehcyder (746570)
        4) Debtors prison?
    • by jamesh (87723) on Friday March 05, 2010 @02:35AM (#31367990)

      Wouldn't it be grand if the guys who hacked Ubisoft's latest game [slashdot.org] took on this challenge instead?

      It would be nice, but it's impossible. They'd have to be some sort of elite uber-hacker to even attempt such a challenge.

      Absolutely impossible.

      Not a hope in hell.

      Can't be done.

      • Re:A challenge... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Z00L00K (682162) on Friday March 05, 2010 @03:17AM (#31368216) Homepage

        Just wait - soon it will be a legal requirement to log a lot of parameters in a format that can be read.

        • by jayveekay (735967) on Friday March 05, 2010 @04:47AM (#31368630)

          I'm guessing that Flight Data Recorders are mandated by law for commercial aircraft. I would say that the information that they have provided over the years has been very helpful in improving the safety of air travel.

          How many people were killed last year in aircraft accidents? Hundreds would be my guesstimate. How many in car accidents? Tens of thousands would be my guess. If there are a lot of people being injured in car accidents then it would seem very useful (from an economic retrun on investment perspective) to start making data recorders both mandatory and have them record specific information in a published standard format, with the goal being to better understand accident causes and improve auto safety.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Albanach (527650)

            How many people were killed last year in aircraft accidents? Hundreds would be my guesstimate. How many in car accidents? Tens of thousands would be my guess.

            The wiki [wikipedia.org] reckons you are off by an order of magnitude. There's been over 40,000 auto deaths every year for the past decade. About 115 per day. And that's only in the United States.

            Given only a small fraction of motor accidents are fatal, I'd guess the overall number of accidents is well into the millions. More quick googling suggests about 6.5 million

          • by b4dc0d3r (1268512) on Friday March 05, 2010 @11:22AM (#31371286)

            I agreed with you initially. Then I realized that air travel is a completely different problem, requiring a different solution. Try to justify your position and you'll see what I mean. Here's what I came up with, basically it would be an edge case, return on investment is going to be negative, that's why it's not already a law.

            A 1985 study by K. Rumar, using British and American crash reports as data, found that 57% of crashes were due solely to driver factors, 27% to combined roadway and driver factors, 6% to combined vehicle and driver factors, 3% solely to roadway factors, 3% to combined roadway, driver, and vehicle factors, 2% solely to vehicle factors and 1% to combined roadway and vehicle factors.... A 1985 report based on British and American crash data found driver error, intoxication and other human factors contribute wholly or partly to about 93% of crashes [wikipedia.org]

            If 57% of the accidents in airplanes were caused by the passengers, we would not have even thought about black box recorders. Roughly 10% of accidents (not deaths) have the vehicle as a factor, and only a portion of those are fatalities.

            Given that lots of people have problems with GPS and SpeedPass systems, how would you explain your desire to log everything a vehicle did just to catch a few data points in the off chance it's helpful? When a plane goes down, you don't have options like pulling over to the side of the air, or pointing towards an uphill slope to slow you down, or moving it into neutral, or other tricks - you can only hope you're near water. The people are likely to die, leaving no explanation of what happened. Driver deaths are much less likely due to safety features of the car, and the car generally not leaving the ground, so you usually have someone who can describe what went wrong. That's really where this idea falls apart - air incidents are very rare, but much more likely to result in total loss of anyone who can intelligently report on the event, proving the need for data recorders.

            It's not the number of deaths which is important - the question is, how many of those could be prevented with additional logging? Evidence points to a much smaller number than you might think. Going with the other replies, 40,000 every year at 10% gives roughly 4,000 events where the vehicle is part of the problem. How many of those are mechanical vs. electronic? I'm going with a small percent, simply because of things like tire underinflation, or other maintenance issues which could also be rectified.

            So you'd have to analyze the logs of every car crash, to see if anything strange happened or identify trends. Who's going to do that? Otherwise you let the logs die with the car, and wait until a mystery pattern like this emerges. We might see a problem faster, and identify the cause faster, but all of this time and money and effort prevents how many crashes? GM just did a recall for around 10 crashes with 1 fatality. All of this *might* have saved one person's life for that particular issue. What's the return on investment there?

            In short, your proposal is the equivalent of the proctologist giving you an oral exam - it's good information to have, but useless in almost every case.

    • Re:A challenge... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 05, 2010 @03:03AM (#31368132)

      The only hack I'm interested in is one that disables the system. I consider these "black boxes" a massive invasion of privacy and in no way benefit me personally. Yes I know the argument would be what if I'm the victim in an accident wouldn't I want the courts to access the other guy's black box? The same argument can be made for recording phone calls and other invasions of privacy. You'd have to accept all privacy is bad. I don't wish to live under a microscope. I'm tired of people giving away my freedom because they think it makes them safer. all it does is make you less free. I should be able to drive to the store without a record of it being kept in my car. Already most of my purchases are tracked so now my location is tracked as well? I know so far the information is hard to access but the government is pushing for more and more access to the information. Eventually the info will be provided for things like divorce court. Do I have something to hide? That isn't the point the point is do we all want to live where we have to second guess how our actions will be interpreted later?

      • Re:A challenge... (Score:5, Informative)

        by fyrewulff (702920) on Friday March 05, 2010 @03:27AM (#31368260)

        Car black boxes cannot be used to track where you've been. Not only do they not record positional data, they also only record a buffer of about 10-15 seconds. By the time you pull off the highway and get to your house, everything you've done prior in the day (or since you've gotten on the highway) has already been pushed off the stack.

        Not only that, the actual scene data (skidmarks, etc) are much more valuable to accident reconstruction and investigation than the black box. It's only a small bit of data they can use, it can't be the sole one. Especially if for example, the car gets rolled over - even if it happened at 40mph, the free spinning wheels would show that the car suddenly went from 40mph to 80mph..

        • Re:A challenge... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by zmollusc (763634) on Friday March 05, 2010 @04:05AM (#31368426)

          That's put my mind at rest. Good job computer memory only gets more expensive and reduces in capacity over time or else it would be possible to use the acceleration forces to make a map of your route and overlay this on a real map to find out where and when. And god forbid global positioning hardware or mobile phone technology gets built into cars.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Dr_Barnowl (709838)

            There is some legal impetus to do this. In the states, they are following the commercial route by having insurers offer premium reductions in exchange for fitting these systems.

            In the EU and the UK, they are pretending that these systems would be used to implement "road pricing" ; a sort of variable road tax which charges more for driving on roads that are heavily congested (as if that wasn't it's own penalty in the first place). If that was the real aim, you could produce a system with the same functional

          • by tehcyder (746570)

            That's put my mind at rest. Good job computer memory only gets more expensive and reduces in capacity over time or else it would be possible to use the acceleration forces to make a map of your route and overlay this on a real map to find out where and when. And god forbid global positioning hardware or mobile phone technology gets built into cars.

            Simple solution, buy a bike.

        • Re:A challenge... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by ortholattice (175065) on Friday March 05, 2010 @05:39AM (#31368848)

          Not only that, the actual scene data (skidmarks, etc) are much more valuable to accident reconstruction and investigation than the black box. It's only a small bit of data they can use, it can't be the sole one. Especially if for example, the car gets rolled over - even if it happened at 40mph, the free spinning wheels would show that the car suddenly went from 40mph to 80mph..

          I don't disagree actual scene data isn't essential, but the example you picked is a highly useful supplement to that data. If the speed suddenly increases from 40 to 80, obviously that happened at the instant the tire lifted off the road, since it is physically impossible for the car to accelerate from 40 to 80 suddenly.

          So, from the black box data we now have a record of exactly when the tire left the road, plus we have the speed of the car just before the accident happened (which would be more accurate than a skid mark estimate, esp. if the road was icy or slippery), and we have the fact that the driver's foot (or in Toyota's case possibly the computer) was pressing the accelerator since otherwise it wouldn't have sped up to 80. So what was the driver trying to do at the instant of the accident, and why were both the brake (skid mark) and accelerator (sudden tire speed up) being pressed simultaneously, etc.?

          Combining black box data with the scene data could provide a far more accurate reconstruction of the accident than scene data alone. Of course it doesn't replace the accident scene data - no one is saying that the scene data should be ignored, as your straw man argument seems to imply. .

    • Re:A challenge... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by phantomfive (622387) on Friday March 05, 2010 @03:11AM (#31368176) Journal
      In all honesty it is significantly more difficult. Hacking the game was probably as simple as changing some line to always return 'true.'

      Whereas a complicated protocol or file format can be nearly impossible to decipher. Live data systems can send out megabytes of data at a time, so it is a lot to figure out. Each part of the datastream represents something different, and sometimes the only way to figure out what it represents is by isolating the system (in this case the car), and changing one piece at a time to see how the recorded data changes. In something that is used to record the evidence of car crashes, this can get expensive quickly.

      It can be further complicated by weirdness like fields that are 21 or 22 bits long. You can't even reliably know where one datum starts and another ends unless you know the protocol. The worst thing I've seen like that was a 5 bit signed integer stored in an 8 bit field. Messy. If you don't have the documentation, it can take a long time to figure stuff out.

      Even something as relatively ubiquitous as NTFS took years to figure out reliably.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by MichaelSmith (789609)

        I was impressed that Andrew Tridgell was able to reverse engineer the bitkeeper line protocol to develop sourcepuller [sourceforge.net]. Especially since he claims to have done it without access to a client. The story is he polled the server to get samples of the protocol.

        I have seen many binary line protocols reverse engineered over the years. If you have enough data quite a bit is possible.

        • In all honesty, while I have the utmost respect for Andrew Tridgell, bitkeeper was not the most difficult reverse engineering he's ever done. The protocol was basically in English [lwn.net], and had a help menu. Quite friendly of it.

          I'm going to once again say that the difficulty here, with Toyota, is going to be collecting the data and correlating it with real events. Figuring out the basic packet structure, and maybe the timestamps, will be easy, but beyond that, even if you manage to figure out that a certain d
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by brufleth (534234)
        You are drastically over-complicating the issue. The data is almost certainly unencoded hex in the standard NVM location for fault logging. All you have to do is get a data dump of that and then line up the data with a parameter list. I wouldn't say this is trivial but it'd be doable for someone with the right tools and facility. It wouldn't require a team of uber hackers.
    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by Nutria (679911)

      Wouldn't it be grand if the guys who hacked Ubisoft's latest game took on this challenge instead?

      If Alberto Gonzales' Justice Dept were trying to prosecute accused terrorists, most of /. (and, for that matter, the EFF and Huffington Post) would be applauding Toyota for respecting people's privacy.

      Hypocritical bastards.

    • by aussie_a (778472)

      Would that result in free games for the hackers? No. Well too bad. They'd rather spend their time playing pirated games then actually contributing to society.

  • Dude! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by oldhack (1037484)

    The Japanese are protecting our privacy!!! What are you, thick?!

    Hehehe.

  • This is proving to be an ongoing public relations disaster for Toyota. If they don't take meaningful action, vastly exceeding the expectations of the public, a well-respected brand name's reputation for safety/reliability is going to end up in the trash. Releasing the interface to read the black boxes contents (in read only mode) would be a good start. I don't say this as a geek who has a fetish for tabulating acceleration data, but as a nervous driver.

    Yes, Toyota could be sued, but it's going to be sued an

    • by Rakshasa Taisab (244699) on Friday March 05, 2010 @02:36AM (#31367998) Homepage

      Why would it be a good idea? I thought slashdot was all gung-ho about protecting people's privacy?

      If there really was a case of an accident caused by unintended acceleration then a court order would be piece of cake to get.

      • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday March 05, 2010 @02:51AM (#31368076) Journal
        I'm not entirely clear on how not having access to one of the computers in a piece of my property, or even knowing exactly what it does, protects my privacy...

        Some sort of scheme for compulsory(or even many flavors of "optional") collection of black box data would, indeed, be a huge privacy violation; but that isn't the proposal.

        This is a system embedded in the car, to which you need physical access to connect. Anybody who could get to that box could plant a GPS+accelerometer bug on your car considerably more easily. Documentation for reading the black box would give the owner of the system more control and information(and, who knows, maybe even let third party mechanics break the dealer grip on certain services) without notable privacy implications.
        • by Nutria (679911)

          I'm not entirely clear on how not having access to one of the computers in a piece of my property, or even knowing exactly what it does, protects my privacy...

          You ninny. If it's easy for anyone to get at the black box info, it's easy for the government to track your movements.

        • by houghi (78078)

          I'm not entirely clear on how not having access to one of the computers in a piece of my property, or even knowing exactly what it does, protects my privacy...

          For one your insurance company can't just say at random dates: Give me the data. The police can not do that. Nobody can do that UNLESSS there is a cour order.
          It is the same as with your browsing habbits, your phonenumbers you called, the books you take out of the library and the money you spend with your credit card.

          And the fact that there are illiga

      • by dcollins (135727)

        "Why would it be a good idea? I thought slashdot was all gung-ho about protecting people's privacy?"

        Arguing that corporations are not people since 1886.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Arguing that corporations are not people since 1886.

          You think that is Toyota being protected when a cop tries to 'prove' you were a reckless driver with blackbox data for hitting that drunk guy walking out on the road? Especially when the data is from 5 minutes earlier when you were going slightly above speed limits on a clear road but has no connection to how you were driving at that moment?

          A court might not let the prosecution retrieve that information, but won't help you much if they already got it through an usb interface in the dashboard of your car.

          • by berzerke (319205)

            ...A court might not let the prosecution retrieve that information, but won't help you much if they already got it through an usb interface in the dashboard of your car.

            Courts can and have dis-allowed information to be used. Just because they have it doesn't guarantee it can be used. It has to be obtained legally...in theory at least - there are judges that shouldn't be judges.

            • by Splab (574204)

              Must be nice to believe in the system...

              What is far more likely is the police officer will get you into an interview room, show you the data and tell you speeding will add x years, but you can do a plea bargin for x-y years - that bypasses court and sends you straight to prison.

              Or if you live for instance in Denmark, any evidence obtained, illegal og legal can be used against you, done something wrong you get your day in court. (This sounds bad, but police here is generally pretty nice and the court system

      • by pipingguy (566974) *
        I'm still not convinced that this latest scare of unintended acceleration is not due to operator error.

        The increased complaints may simply be due to hysteria.

        Apparently some people are not aware of brakes and when confronted with odd car behaviour, panic.
      • Well according to AP version of this story (from the NYTimes here [nytimes.com]), getting a court order is a piece of cake, getting Toyota to cooperate is another matter entirely.

        Complaints against Toyota include "Has frequently refused to provide key information sought by crash victims and survivors." and "In some lawsuits, when pressed to provide recorder information Toyota either settled or provided printouts with the key columns blank."

        So it would seem that something is going on here, possibly as simple as cost
    • by houghi (78078)

      Releasing the interface to read the black boxes contents (in read only mode) would be a good start.

      In the current situation people can not randomly ask for your data. You will need a court order. If there was an accident AND there is a dispute, then a court order can ask for your data.

      In the situation where you open it for all, you will get sooner or later in a situation where the insurance company demands for your data and decides not to pay for your cardiac bypass as you stopped at McDs too often to the

  • Heh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Airdorn (1094879) on Friday March 05, 2010 @02:30AM (#31367974)
    Lol @ the recent mysterious deluge against Toyota.
    • Re:Heh (Score:4, Insightful)

      by retchdog (1319261) on Friday March 05, 2010 @02:41AM (#31368026) Journal

      Yes, it is suspicious and makes one wonder about the extent of the "pro-America" propaganda machine.

      • by afidel (530433)
        Uh, there's been quite a bit of coverage of the issue in Japan and europe as well, to the point where Toyota Japan in a fairly unprecedented move for a Japanese consumer complaint response agreed to an open investigation by the governments consumer protection arm. The norm is to offer a deep apology and for the followup to be completed behind closed doors.
        • by retchdog (1319261)

          I was not aware of this, thank you for the information. There is some concern in certain circles, that the US government response is influenced by the domestic auto bailout. I will recalibrate my opinion based on the baseline response outside the US.

        • by TheLink (130905)
          Even if they aren't at fault (not saying they aren't) they have to do that apology thing etc.

          It's a lose-lose.

          If they deny it, they get in trouble - which driver is going to say he/she screwed up? If they say it's their fault, they get in trouble.
  • I prefer having breaks, steering, and not having an accelerator stick to the floor.
  • by sumdumass (711423) on Friday March 05, 2010 @02:31AM (#31367980) Journal

    It seems like it was only yesterday when people were complaining that the black box data was there in the first place. Then came along the complaints on how it was being used against people in courts and in accident investigations. Then the complaint was that only certain people could get the information and you couldn't get it to clear your name or anything- even in one case where I believe the prosecutor got the information and decided it was worthless and tossed it (may be wrong on that).

    Now, it seems that everything happening that would have caused a complaint is good and those not allowing it to happen is bad. Go figure.

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday March 05, 2010 @02:56AM (#31368098) Journal
      The status quo is a powerful thing. Once something Just Is people start treating it as a baseline.

      More specifically, though, is complaining about information asymmetry at all unreasonable? If the black box is present, why shouldn't I object to the fact that I, the owner of the vehicle, have no access to its contents; but those who have more power than I do do? There are substantial virtues to privacy and substantial virtues to transparency(in certain contexts); but asymmetric transparency is basically the worst of both worlds.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Well, if they have to get a court order to retrieve the data then Toyota will have a copy of it (prosecution can't 'lose' it) and it will have been retrieved under a court order (so the prosecution can't throw it away since it was 'useless').

        Seems most people are reacting to FUD and not realizing Toyota are the _GOOD_ guys here.

        • Here's how it could work:

          1. Using an Ethernet jack provided by the car, you use HTTP to grab an encrypted blob. This contains the data, including a timestamp and the VIN.

          2. Upload the blob to Toyota's web site. They decrypt it and store it forever.

          3. Download the decrypted blob.

          Download can be limited to the uploader by default, with other people only able to see that it exists. If you want a copy and you didn't perform the upload, simply get a court order.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by scdeimos (632778)
            It's more likely retrievable through the OBD-II connector, which is required to be fitted in all new vehicles sold in the US.
    • by Weirsbaski (585954) on Friday March 05, 2010 @03:02AM (#31368128)
      It's not as inconsistent as you'd think- if the owner of car wants the blackbox data, she should get it, no problem. If anybody else wants the data, let 'em either ask the owner to voluntarily go along with it, or ask a judge for a court order (with appropriate legal conditionals so the judge can't just rubberstamp it).
      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 05, 2010 @03:40AM (#31368328)

        Hah. In most cases "voluntary" means doing something with a gun to your head.
        Want insurance (which you're required to have)? Better "voluntarily" open up that black box data.
        Want to not be arrested? Better "voluntarily" open up that black box data.
        Want to get your emissions checked? Better "voluntarily" open up that black box data.
        Want to get a license for that car? Better "voluntarily" open up that black box data and let us connect it to an auto-ticketing device.

        And so on....

        The problem is a lot of "voluntary" things quickly become non-voluntary (i.e. forcibly waived) if you are to get standard services.

  • Uh huh (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TheSpoom (715771) <{ten.00mrebu} {ta} {todhsals}> on Friday March 05, 2010 @02:35AM (#31367988) Homepage Journal

    Toyota sees only loss potentials in making an open access EDR, since more data provided in crashes means more potential liability. Therefore, they encrypt it and make it only available by court order.

    Pure business (you know, excluding the human factor as usual).

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      Yup. Same goes with medical equipment and everything else: encrypt the firmware uploading apparatus so that the only people who see the firmware instructions are the engineers who create it. Technicians and the public remain ignorant, and fixes are released as "new features" before the public figures out that their gadget is a fire hazard.

      But I doubt all that would stop a team of determined reverse-engineers familiar with the microcontrollers used. Enter the DMCA.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You're right. And most of these accidents and screaming crisis victims are idiots who hit the wrong pedal. for the most part, attempts to show these cars are flying away out of control have failed. Yes, even with the pedal and mat recalls. Toyota screwed up in not using Japanese Denso pedals in all their cars. The US Pedal manufacturer was well outside spec. This shit happens when you make stuff in China or the USA.

      And a cornered animal is a dangerous animal. Toyota is a worldwide automaker that is p

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by phantomfive (622387)
        Your analysis of the car industry might have been more convincing if it hadn't left out the biggest competitors to Toyota. Most of the lost sales from Toyota have gone to Honda or Hyundai, and Ford has beaten GM in sales recently. There is more to the auto world than just Toyota and GM.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 05, 2010 @02:37AM (#31368000)

    Absolutely *no* car manufacturer has your best interest at heart. Not Toyota, not Ford, not GM, not a single one of them.

    Who made the SUVs that literally jumped off their tires and turtled at so much as a harsh look? Who made trucks and thought it was a brilliant idea to mount the gas tanks *outside* of the frame? Who made cars that exploded when they were nudged at the backend? Which car manufacturer computes the costs of killing some of their customers vs. spending a bit more to make each vehicle safe?

    It's not just Toyota. But, today, with the US government being the largest shareholder in GM, I would bet that life for Toyota is going to get really bad.

    • by jhoegl (638955) on Friday March 05, 2010 @03:01AM (#31368122)
      You know what? When all these "sudden recalls" came out from Toyota once their acceleration issue came to light in the media, it indicates to me one thing.
      Toyota has been holding back a lot of recalls at the expense of customer safety.
      So champion Toyota all you want, and come up with a conspiracy theory that the USA gov is behind this whole thing.
      It indicates to me Toyota was playing with fire and now they got burned. Nothing more, nothing less.
    • by Lehk228 (705449) on Friday March 05, 2010 @03:07AM (#31368156) Journal
      those failing tires? were made by bridgestone/firestone, a japanese company.

      and the pinto?

      However, a 1991 law review paper by Gary Schwartz[17] claimed the case against the Pinto was less clear-cut than commonly supposed. The number who died in Pinto rear-impact fires, according to Schwartz, was well below the hundreds cited in contemporary news reports and closer to the twenty-seven recorded by a limited National Highway Traffic Safety Administration database. Given the Pinto's production figures (over 2 million built), this was not substantially worse than typical for the time. Schwartz argued that the car was no more fire-prone than other cars of the time, that its fatality rates were lower than comparably sized imported automobiles, and that the supposed "smoking gun" document that plaintiffs claimed showed Ford's callousness in designing the Pinto was actually a document based on National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regulations about the value of a human life rather than a document containing an assessment of Ford's potential tort liability.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DigiShaman (671371)

      with the US government being the largest shareholder in GM, I would bet that life for Toyota is going to get really bad.

      Toyota screwed up big time, for sure. But make no mistake about it. These hearings on Toyota were aimed at one thing and one thing only. To make them look bad so our Federal Gov can continue to capture the UAW votes by bolstering GM sales.

      Now you tell me? How fucked up is that?!

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mcgrew (92797) *

        Nice antiamerican, antiunion rant there, buddy, but UAW [uaw.org] workers work for Toyota. From the supplied link:

        The Toyota Corolla, for example, is made in the United States by UAW members, but the Canadian model is made in a nonunion plant and other models are imported from a third country. To be sure you have a union-made vehicle, buy one of the vehicles on this list.

        Toyota workers unionized because they were being screwed over by Toyota, which is the only reason to unionize. You can thank unions for the five day

    • > But, today, with the US government being the largest shareholder in GM, I would bet that life for Toyota is going to get really bad.

      Let's be honest. The elephant in the room during the GM buyout was the production capacity. The United States cannot afford to lose the production capacity of GM, because in the event of a full scale sustained conventional war we would need its production capacity. The government buyout wasn't only about keeping money in Detroit or helping other GM stockholders or even

  • by OrwellianLurker (1739950) on Friday March 05, 2010 @02:38AM (#31368008)

    Toyota ... generally won't allow the data to be read without a court order.

    All it takes is a court order. So essentially the only thing slowing the investigations would be an unwilling Federal government.

  • Chill out (Score:2, Insightful)

    by KamuZ (127113)

    Chill out, they only need a court order and seems the USA Federal Government is always good at giving these ones away.

    No need to "hack" the box or anything like it.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by fatalwall (873645)

      unless you as an owner personally want to see the data.. then hacking is the only route... unless you think its not a giant pain in the butt for the owner to have to get a court order

  • Anyone (Score:2, Insightful)

    by G4Cube (863788)
    got a crashed Prius to hack? If we can break DRM in a day.....
  • Surprising (Score:5, Funny)

    by theArtificial (613980) on Friday March 05, 2010 @05:15AM (#31368746)
    Will Toyota stop at nothing?!
  • by IHC Navistar (967161) on Friday March 05, 2010 @09:03AM (#31369892)

    I believe that Toyota's obstinence to providing such information to the concerned parties in the light of such serious safety issues is the result of a serious language barrier between Japanese and American English. Someone should provide the Japs with an accurate explaination of the following important sayings and terminology:

    1) "We will screw you to the wall in a court of law",

    2) "Gorilla Lawyer assrape",

    3) "Pound me in the ass prison",

    4) "Contempt Of Court",

    5) "There is another nuke headed your way, in the form of a lawsuit",

    6) "You don't have a choice",

    7) "We're not in Japan",

    8) "Supoena",

    9) "De-listing"

    and last, but certainly not least,

    10) "North Korean Menace".

    I believe that the clarification and explanation of the aforementioned terms would lead to the speedy resolution of the problems that are currently occurring with the Toyota Motor Corporation and it's products.

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