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Software Bug Transportation Upgrades

Why Your Phone Gets OTA Updates But Your Car Doesn't 305

New submitter kjbullis writes with this snippet from Technology Review: "When Toyota recalled over two million cars last week because of flaws with antilock braking systems and other problems, the fix was simple — a few software updates .The implementation of that fix is far from simple. Every one of those cars has to be taken into a dealership to have the new software installed, an expensive process that can take months. Cars that haven't been fixed could, in some cases, suddenly stall and crash. There is an alternative — the same sort of remote software updates used for PCs and smart phones. Indeed, one automaker, Tesla Motors, already provides what it calls 'over-the-air updates,' which allowed it to execute a recent software fix without requiring anybody to bring in their cars. But other automakers are dragging their feet, both because they're worried about security and because they might face resistance from dealers."
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Why Your Phone Gets OTA Updates But Your Car Doesn't

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  • Umm safety? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fsck-beta ( 3539217 ) on Thursday February 20, 2014 @04:57PM (#46298563)
    Because a bad update on the phone won't cause a high speed fiery wreck.
  • by Forbo ( 3035827 ) on Thursday February 20, 2014 @04:59PM (#46298587)
    ...but I'd rather not add any more attack vectors than absolutely essential.
  • Reboot at 70? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by some old guy ( 674482 ) on Thursday February 20, 2014 @05:00PM (#46298599)

    Please wait while Windows restarts your......KER-BAM!

  • Re:Umm safety? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by camperdave ( 969942 ) on Thursday February 20, 2014 @05:03PM (#46298623) Journal
    Also a phone has communication capabilities built right in. A car... not so much.
  • brick your car (Score:5, Insightful)

    by roc97007 ( 608802 ) on Thursday February 20, 2014 @05:04PM (#46298633) Journal

    Although it doesn't happen as often these days, I do remember OTA updates bricking my phone in the past, and PCs under my care are still occasionally screwed up by "drive-by updates" in the middle of the night. For something like a car with the potential for property damage or stranding me and mine far from civilization, I'm pretty sure I don't want automatic OTA updates, even if they could arrange that the car not be moving during the time. I want to know exactly what problem the update is solving, the likelihood I will experience that problem, whether the update and backout procedures have been vetted, and the post-update test procedure. I make a living with my camera, and I don't blindly install firmware updates for it either.

  • Re:Umm safety? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mythosaz ( 572040 ) on Thursday February 20, 2014 @05:16PM (#46298781)

    Which modern car do you think doesn't?

  • by JDG1980 ( 2438906 ) on Thursday February 20, 2014 @05:23PM (#46298859)

    Having OTA capability encourages vendors to push out incomplete/buggy firmware ("we can always fix it later") and to push out updates without properly testing them ("if it breaks something, we'll just fix it and re-send"). Suffice to say we definitely do not need these kind of perverse incentives on cars.

    And that's without even getting into the trouble that a malicious user could potentially cause if they managed to hack the OTA process and sent out spoofed updates to vehicles...

  • Rebooting (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SoundGuyNoise ( 864550 ) on Thursday February 20, 2014 @05:23PM (#46298863) Homepage
    When you're running late for work, you don't want to wait for your car to reboot to install a software update.
  • Re:Umm safety? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Immerman ( 2627577 ) on Thursday February 20, 2014 @05:24PM (#46298879)

    Well the hardware's cheap, and considering the miniscule data usage I'm pretty sure they could work out something with cell companies - the "phone" wouldn't even need to be on but for a few minutes a month. Wifi support would probably be even cheaper, if not quite as convenient.

    I suspect security and inertia are a bigger issues - auto manufacturers have got to be aware of how atrocious their security is, but at present it needs physical access to attack - and if you've got physical access all safety bets are off anyway. I doubt any company wants their cars to be the first to to be used as Anonymous assassination tools, that's the sort of publicity that could decimate their business.

  • Re:Umm safety? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Aaden42 ( 198257 ) on Thursday February 20, 2014 @06:14PM (#46299387) Homepage

    I do have a right to be sure vehicles have a minimum safety standard.

    This seems easy to fix. Most (all?) states have some sort of annual safety inspection requirement for keeping a car on the road. Generally these safety checks include connecting to the car computer’s diagnostic port to read emissions related information to ensure the car complies with the pollution requirements that applied to its model year.

    Add as a requirement of those checks that plugging into the computer also checks software versions and compare that against a list of updates the respective manufacture has deemed critical for continued safety. A passing safety inspection requires that the car’s systems be up to date with all critical software updates.

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