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Ford Tests DIY Firmware Updates

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the what-could-possibly-go-wrong dept.

Security 164

wiredmikey writes "This month, Ford is borrowing something from the software industry: updates. With a fleet of new cars using the sophisticated infotainment system they developed with Microsoft called SYNC, Ford has the need to update those vehicles — for both features and security reasons. But how do you update the software in thousands of cars? Traditionally, the automotive industry has resorted to automotive recalls. But now, Ford will be releasing thirty thousand USB sticks to Ford owners with the new SYNC infotainment system, although the update will also be available for online download. In preparing to update your car, Ford encourages users to have a unique USB for each Ford they own, and to have the USB drive empty and not password protected. In the future, updating our gadgets, large and small, will become routine. But for now, it's going to be really cumbersome and a little weird. Play this forward a bit. Image taking Patch Tuesday to a logical extreme, where you walk around your house or office to apply patches to many of the offline gadgets you own."

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164 comments

Don't worry guys! (5, Funny)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#39293661)

Just leave at least one wireless interface active and I'll handle all the updates for you!

Sincerely, B. Hat,
Honest Gentleman

Re:Don't worry guys! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39294129)

Just like this, I'll force you to shoot your man juice into my dirty hole...

I won't stop even if you scream, cry, or faint...

Patch Tuesday... (4, Funny)

LoudNoiseElitist (1016584) | more than 2 years ago | (#39293673)

"Play this forward a bit. Image taking Patch Tuesday to a logical extreme, where you walk around your house or office to apply patches to many of the offline gadgets you own."

I'm assuming by the time we need to upgrade firmware or software on our refrigerators, toasters, coffee makers, and toilets that they'll all be sentient and just do it themselves.

Re:Patch Tuesday... (3, Funny)

plover (150551) | more than 2 years ago | (#39293775)

Hey, I have a 10 year old ordinary Ford pickup, and I recently had to reboot it. The transmission wasn't leaving 2nd gear (a.k.a. the "safety" gear), so when I stopped at the next intersection, I shut the engine off, waited five seconds, then turned it back on. It was fine after that.

I have no idea what went wrong, only that a reboot fixed it. I'm just glad I was able to choose the circumstances, rather than have the truck decide to update itself in the middle of the road because it forgot it wasn't in the garage.

Re:Patch Tuesday... (2)

LoudNoiseElitist (1016584) | more than 2 years ago | (#39293941)

Weird that you replied to my post with this problem. I have this same (or similar) problem with my Explorer. Did the OD light start blinking or stay on? Mine does this, and turning the truck off and back on fixes it. The bad part is that it only gets worse, and now I'm lucky to get to work without it kicking in. I've had it not want to shift out of second a few times, but usually it just doesn't want to downshift when accelerating, meaning you have to floor it just to get moving from a stop.

It's apparently a sensor issue, and it only gets worse. From what I've researched, it also means a new transmission to fix, at least that's what they'll tell you. I haven't found anyone locally that can fix the sensor.

Re:Patch Tuesday... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39294279)

My 98 Ranger did this. IIRC, they replaced the computer. They had a factory service bulletin, but they didn't do a recall. If you have less than 50,000 miles, try to argue that the computer is part of the emission control system and is covered by warranty.

Re:Patch Tuesday... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39295137)

This could be something as simple as the kick down cable being stuck. Does your car still have such a part? If so, that could be it.

This cable goes from the gas pedal to the transmission and signals the transmission to delay shifting into higher gear when you're depressing the gas pedal past a certain point (such as when you're flooring it to get out of the way of an oncoming truck.)

If this cable gets stuck, the transmission is always thinking that you're flooring it, so it keeps it in the lower gear for as long as it possibly can (usually not as far as you're willing to push your engine.)

Re:Patch Tuesday... (1)

plover (150551) | more than 2 years ago | (#39295145)

I remember seeing the OD light being on unexpectedly recently, (probably in conjunction with this incident,) but I don't recall if it was blinking or not. It's only happened a few times, once about two months ago, and once about two weeks ago. (I refuse to believe that two points makes a trend.) And mine's a Ranger, which is built on the same frame as the Explorer.

Your post just made me think of it, and that if the update software was of the same quality that it could just as easily have been so stupid as to update itself mid-traffic.

And now you're making me think that I should keep my ODB-II reader in the truck, just in case it happens again. Maybe it can discover something useful. But there would have been no way to safely plug it in during the little reboot incident I mentioned -- I was very concerned that I would be able to shut it down and turn it on before the light changed. Maybe I can just keep it plugged in and recording all the time, I'll have to read the book again.

Re:Patch Tuesday... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39294005)

...rather than have the truck decide to update itself in the middle of the road because it forgot it wasn't in the garage.

...because this happens all the time. What's your point caller?

Microsoft WSUS - Home edition (1)

Yo_mama (72429) | more than 2 years ago | (#39294635)

When is someone going to release a software package to handle a household's updates automatically? People aren't going to want to think about it.....

Re:Patch Tuesday... (1)

RenderSeven (938535) | more than 2 years ago | (#39295011)

Great quote from an old Embedded Design Magazine: "I knew the world had fundamentally changed when I had to reboot my stove's exhaust fan"

Wait a minute there... (5, Funny)

14erCleaner (745600) | more than 2 years ago | (#39293677)

Since when does an automobile entertainment system need security updates? Oh, the wonders of Microsoft...

Re:Wait a minute there... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39293765)

Since when does an automobile entertainment system need security updates? Oh, the wonders of Microsoft...

They all have. There've been plenty of "Maliciously crafted music file could hijack the system" type vulnerabilities, in both Microsoft's CE based system, and the Linux based ones. As far as "needing" them? As far as I know there's never been a successful attack in the wild, because...seriously? Who would try, and for what motivation?

Re:Wait a minute there... (2)

masternerdguy (2468142) | more than 2 years ago | (#39294077)

Yep. Its very possible to craft an mp3 that can setup a buffer overflow and execute some arbitrary code. Just recently it turned out the Kindle Fire could be jailbroken by such an attack. Id rather not have unpatched vulnurabilities in a car anyway.

Re:Wait a minute there... (2)

toadlife (301863) | more than 2 years ago | (#39293777)

Sync is a lot more than a fancy radio control interface.

http://www.ford.com/technology/sync/features/ [ford.com]

If think it's a bit naive to think that a piece of software could be written within typical commercial time and resource constraints and have no bugs.

Re:Wait a minute there... (1)

toadlife (301863) | more than 2 years ago | (#39293895)

Before I get bombarded with hello world jokes, I meant "a piece of software that complicated".

Re:Wait a minute there... (3, Funny)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#39294155)

I would argue that if gave an unreasonable deadly for a hello world program, many of them would have a bug of some sort.

"You have 1 minute to write a hello world program...45 seconds of which will be in a meeting to be sure every one knows what is taking place.

Re:Wait a minute there... (1)

Cro Magnon (467622) | more than 2 years ago | (#39294347)

Even a "Hello World" program can have bugs. As soon as I modify it to allow the user to type his name and get "Hello $NAME", there's the potential for buffer overflow. :)

my car crashed (3, Insightful)

v1 (525388) | more than 2 years ago | (#39293785)

no, really. no, not like that. I was just running this firmware update and now there's a note on the dash telling me there was a problem and I need to restart my car? but when I turn the key it won't start anymore?

Re:Wait a minute there... (2)

Sir_Sri (199544) | more than 2 years ago | (#39293833)

since you could try and buffer overflow an input?

Even if the system is completely disconnected from everything else on the car, it would still be problematic to have your entertainment system crash constantly.

Even if the system itself is read only (which has it's own problems) it could still crash if it tries to read in bad data.

Whenever you use an existing platform you accept that there's going to be some problems, some fixable, some not, in an era of software you have no excuse for not fixing known problems. With hardware, well, other than replacing the unit there isn't much you can do, and it's not worth replacing hardware if it fails on a bad codec or a corrupted file or whatever.

Re:Wait a minute there... (2)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 2 years ago | (#39293923)

The real solution here is to make sure the entertainment system is totally decoupled (or read only enforced with hardware) the systems that operate the vehicle itself.

Re:Wait a minute there... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39294041)

The real solution here is to make sure the entertainment system is totally decoupled (or read only enforced with hardware) the systems that operate the vehicle itself.

And what do you know, that's exactly the case. Sync (and systems like it) have no control over any of the safety or drivetrain systems.

Re:Wait a minute there... (5, Interesting)

mrquagmire (2326560) | more than 2 years ago | (#39293995)

It's not a security update. This update is more like a complete rewrite and has very little to do with Microsoft. You see, for their first attempt Ford decided to outsource the project to a company called BSQUARE who put the UI together using Adobe Flash Lite [tumblr.com]. For some reason, the results were slightly [consumerreports.org] less [autoblog.com] than [nytimes.com] stellar [fordedgeforum.com].

Anyway, the preliminary reviews of the new version sound promising so I am at least a little hopeful. I am still quite frustrated, however, that I've had to deal with such awful software for well over a year on a brand new vehicle that cost almost $40k.

Re:Wait a minute there... (2)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 2 years ago | (#39294069)

Anyway, the preliminary reviews of the new version sound promising so I am at least a little hopeful. I am still quite frustrated, however, that I've had to deal with such awful software for well over a year on a brand new vehicle that cost almost $40k.

That, unfortunately, is a problem with being an early adopter.

This strikes me as the kind of stuff you wait for version 3 before you buy it. Because if this is essentially a rewrite, it's likely still a Steaming Heap of Innovative Technology with an entirely new set of bugs.

Re:Wait a minute there... (1)

aix tom (902140) | more than 2 years ago | (#39294359)

Ummmm.... But it already WAS Adobe Flash Light 3.1.7. So what could possibly have gone wrong???

Re:Wait a minute there... (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | more than 2 years ago | (#39294795)

Shoulda had a V-Dub!

The Fender stereo system in my wife's new Jetta is bitchin', and the software so far has performed flawlessly.


Being rather old school myself (I drive a 1980's carburated truck), I typically lift my nose at any automotive technological gadgetry that doesn't increase the performance of the vehicle... however, I will begrudgingly admit it's pretty awesome to have my music stream jump from my phone to the car stereo with no manual intervention on my part (other than inserting the key).

Re:Wait a minute there... (3, Interesting)

sparkyradar (908639) | more than 2 years ago | (#39294117)

Well, the hardware was made by Sony, so "update" means:

a) remove functionality
b) rooting and snitching on your usage
c) adding requirement for cryptic, lightning-fast keypresses to perform even the most-basic functions, like turning on
c) new TOS to prevent suing

I cannot think of a better Marriage Made in Hell than Sony and Microsoft. B*stards forever :-)

Re:Wait a minute there... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39294189)

You mean putting a Bluetooth device running Windows on the same CANBus that runs your car's door locks, steering lock, ignition, fuel injection, electronic power steering, braking and throttle and etc. etc. etc. wasn't a good idea after all?

Wow, who saw that one coming?!

Remember, folks, CANBus does not have any authentication; any device on the bus can send arbitrary packets to anything else on the bus. Putting a wireless device on there is probably not a great idea.

Wi-Fi? (1)

mws1066 (1057218) | more than 2 years ago | (#39293687)

They should have put Wi-Fi onboard. Park the car in your garage or driveway, hope on your home network, voila.

Re:Wi-Fi? (5, Insightful)

SirGarlon (845873) | more than 2 years ago | (#39293743)

What could possibly go wrong with a capability to wirelessly update your car's firmware?

Re:Wi-Fi? (3, Insightful)

Sir_Sri (199544) | more than 2 years ago | (#39293847)

seems more like the sort of thing that should be done routinely when you get your maintenance done, but then mechanic shops would need to have computer techs on staff, and replacement parts for when things go badly.

Re:Wi-Fi? (1)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 2 years ago | (#39294013)

but then mechanic shops would need to have computer techs on staff

Why?

Roll the update machine over, plug it into the (presumably new for this purpose) update plug, flip the (probably hidden) write-enable switch. Power up the machine, type in the VIN - update is determined and uploaded. Reverse the process to disconnect.

They do that same kind of shit with OBDC scantools already. Just an extra couple of steps.

and replacement parts for when things go badly.

I could see this, yes. But, if it was designed properly - they would only need to keep a stash of MMCs or something similar and just swap them out. It's only a pain to deal with bricked routers and such because they solder the flash to the board. Put the device's storage on removable media and that issue goes away. Put the very basic bootloader on the board if you must, but the whole thing doesn't need to be on there.

This wouldn't be so bad - just another part they have to grab from the parts store, like any other. Hell the car manufacturers could standardize it (or at least stay consistent within the brand. For example, all Nissans would use the same chip/card/cartridge. If the bootloader in the hardware is coded right the first time, then larger sizes/speeds won't matter (just like they don't for PCs)

Re:Wi-Fi? (1)

Sir_Sri (199544) | more than 2 years ago | (#39294281)

Because mechanical people aren't software people, and inevitably some firware flashings will brick the firmware, and you need someone who is an electronics guy to fix it. You need to know how to operate the machine, how to identify problems with the update or with the machine, and have some idea how to fix them.

Right now they plug in a computer, it spits out a code and they work from there. But now you're into actually mucking with the software on the car you need people who are specialists in what the new software does, how it works, how to identify software vs hardware problems and so on, and because replacing the parts would be expensive.

These would be specialties like any other within being a mechanic. The guy who does your brakes isn't generally the same mechanic who does your radiator. But the guys who do the really routine maintenance stuff, oil changes and checking lights, they would have to change significantly to include firmware in routine maintenance. Sure, a big outfit with 20 mechanics adding one more employee or training one in a new specialization isn't a big deal, but when you have 4 mechanics it's kind of a pain.

Maybe I'm biased, around here we have shops that just do oil changes and that sort of thing (the really routine maintenance), there are big shops too. I wouldn't worry about them, but the small guys... not so much. If all you do is rotate tires, lube oil filter lights adding 'firmware' is a pretty big hurdle in manpower and training.

Re:Wi-Fi? (1)

nschubach (922175) | more than 2 years ago | (#39294859)

Because mechanical people aren't software people, and inevitably some firware flashings will brick the firmware, and you need someone who is an electronics guy to fix it.

Unplug "brain", put in pre-flashed "brain", send old one in to be repaired/refurbished. Nobody's going to troubleshoot a failed flash... they'd assume the part was broken and replace it.

Re:Wi-Fi? (1)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 2 years ago | (#39294907)

Basically, combine the two things I said and you get what nschubach is telling you.

In short: pop out the chip and toss it in the RMA pile. Slap a fresh one in and reflash.

The only reason it might be complicated enough to require special training or technicians is that the designers were idiots and made it so.

Re:Wi-Fi? (2)

lgw (121541) | more than 2 years ago | (#39294349)

Firmware updates are already routine in dealership stops. If you have a recently-built car that you take to the dealership for service, and you look closely at the invoice, you'll often see a handful of "recalls" that were done for free, and that the service advisor didn't even mention. Most of these are firmware fixes.

My brand new luxury car has an annoying problem with the transmission not wanting to downshift occasionally (you can see other threads about such problems, apparantly a common problem these days). My service advisor told me "Yeah, we know about this, the service manager has the same problem on his car. Sorry, we don't have a firmware update from the manufacturer yet." Brave new world.

REAL Microsoft? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39294119)

What could possibly go wrong with a capability to wirelessly update your car's firmware?

I guess they're afraid that you'll get a bootlegged Microsoft entertainment system and will want you to put the "Real Deal" or whatever they call it.

Then after several years of usage of your legitimate version without out a hitch, you'll get an update that then puts up a window that says that you appear to not a have legitimate version of the entertainment system.

Has happened to me with my MS Office XP.

If only Libre or Open Office supported VB macros.

Re:Wi-Fi? (1)

bobbomo (877614) | more than 2 years ago | (#39294229)

One would home this is just the entertainment dashboard and not the system firmware.

In the spirit of can it run linux, how long before they upgrade Sync to Windows 8?!

Re:Wi-Fi? (2)

TraumaHound (30184) | more than 2 years ago | (#39293767)

The vehicles do have wi-fi and Bluetooth. I can, for example, tether my phone to my vehicle which will, in turn, create a hotspot that other wi-fi devices can connect to (in the days of mobile iPhone and Android hot spots, this seems like a pretty unnecessary feature).

I would imagine that Ford is already sweating the self-server USB updates enough that they wouldn't want to risk over-the-air updates on the first go-round.

Give it a few years.

Re:Wi-Fi? (2)

Curate (783077) | more than 2 years ago | (#39293969)

They should have put Wi-Fi onboard. Park the car in your garage or driveway, hope on your home network, voila.
I enjoyed this typo. It is eerily appropriate.

Poorly written summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39293695)

"Image taking Patch Tuesday"? Come on. And "Infotainment" twice?

And of course no downgrades possible... (1)

skids (119237) | more than 2 years ago | (#39293709)

...well if they follow the "Web 2.0" model, then if their upgrade breaks your car, you won't be able to downgrade, and you'll just have to wait until the issue is fixed in the next upgrade.

Re:And of course no downgrades possible... (1)

value_added (719364) | more than 2 years ago | (#39293989)

In that case, you'd be better off with the Microsoft model. Providing, of course, you follow the time-honed tradition of postponing things until the release of the first service pack. Will it still fit on a USB stick, I wonder.

Snarky comments aside, it would be interesting to see whether other manufacturers adopt anything similar for their products. If they don't, well, I don't have to get annoyed until 2:00 a.m some time this November.

*digs out cell* (3, Funny)

AuralityKev (1356747) | more than 2 years ago | (#39293713)

"Yeah, boss? I can't come into work today. My Ford Focus just BSOD'd in my driveway."

Re:*digs out cell* (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39293933)

You joke, but the Ford Fusion at least has a "limp home mode" that recently required a visit to the stealership. The diagnosis: throttle body for $900. Had them just clear the code and the car has gone thousands of miles since. The actual cause? A dead battery. A dead battery is a common failure mode and should not throw spurious diagnostic codes that disable the vehicle until reset by the dealership.

Wireless updates (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39293725)

Or, if they could be updated like the Kindle (3G or WiFi), Ford could handle them all without the owner getting involved. And they wouldn't need to mail out 30,000 USB sticks or CDs.

Plus, Ford could then get real feedback from how the car is performing.

Re:Wireless updates (2)

MMAfrk19BB (2029982) | more than 2 years ago | (#39293839)

Or, if they could be updated like the Kindle (3G or WiFi), Ford could handle them all without the owner getting involved. And they wouldn't need to mail out 30,000 USB sticks or CDs.

Plus, Ford could then get real feedback from how the car is performing.

Because no one ever took advantage of short-sighted manufacturers that aren't security-conscious to do anything malicious to a car. Oh, wait... [itworld.com] Also, awesome insurance scam in the works if you can do a hostile takeover of a rich guy's car (the ones that will probably have cars with Wi-Fi) and make him get into a rear-end accident. BAM! Sweet-ass cash truck from his rich guy insurance agency. No cop will believe "My car got hacked."

Re:Wireless updates (2)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 2 years ago | (#39294009)

Or, if they could be updated like the Kindle (3G or WiFi), Ford could handle them all without the owner getting involved. And they wouldn't need to mail out 30,000 USB sticks or CDs.

Plus, Ford could then get real feedback from how the car is performing.

Because no one ever took advantage of short-sighted manufacturers that aren't security-conscious to do anything malicious to a car. Oh, wait... [itworld.com]
Also, awesome insurance scam in the works if you can do a hostile takeover of a rich guy's car (the ones that will probably have cars with Wi-Fi) and make him get into a rear-end accident. BAM! Sweet-ass cash truck from his rich guy insurance agency. No cop will believe "My car got hacked."

A USB stick that arrives through the mail is hardly more secure than a Wifi update. It could even be less secure since an attacker could drop 10,000 of them in the mail anonymously without having to risk physical proximity to the car he's trying to hack.

Hopefully Ford uses digital signatures to validate the integrity of an update before the car will accept it, but signature validation works equally well (or poorly) whether its a USB Flash update or Wifi update.

Re:Wireless updates (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 2 years ago | (#39294313)

They might not have enough space for 3x the install (previous working copy, current copy, downloaded copy) and streaming a firmware update over wifi is just asking for trouble.

Re:Wireless updates (1)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 2 years ago | (#39294457)

They might not have enough space for 3x the install (previous working copy, current copy, downloaded copy) and streaming a firmware update over wifi is just asking for trouble.

That may well be true, but it would be stupid since even a USB transfer can be interrupted or corrupt. And it doesn't change my point that security is not a reason to send customers a USB stick in the mail rather than letting their car download the update via Wifi.

The logical extreme (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39293771)

The logical extreme is that everything will be connected to the Internet.

Magnuson-Moss/bricking your car? (2)

Torodung (31985) | more than 2 years ago | (#39293843)

Goodbye Magnuson-Moss, it was nice knowing you! A service pack for your car. Good luck with that. What if it bricks your car? How much does a replacement dashboard computer cost after warranty, due to a faulty update? Who is liable for that if it happens?

Has anyone seen the EULA for this thing? If it isn't significantly different from normal software EULAs, I'm avoiding this sort of technology like the plague.

But wait: How to drop from 5th to 23rd place... (5, Interesting)

phonewebcam (446772) | more than 2 years ago | (#39293853)

...in the JD Power IQS Customer Satisfaction Rankings [dailytech.com]:
"Ford went from a fifth place ranking in the 2011 J.D. Power Initial Quality Study to a mediocre 23rd place showing this year. Sister-brand Lincoln took a similar nosedive, falling from eighth place all the way down to 17th place this year. ... Not surprisingly, MyFord Touch was the biggest contributor to Ford's fall from grace. "
And who designed the MyFord touch? Give you one guess [wikipedia.org].

Re:But wait: How to drop from 5th to 23rd place... (5, Interesting)

UberOogie (464002) | more than 2 years ago | (#39294109)

Holy crap. I made a joke in my head about rebooting a car, but MS has again found a way to make truth stranger than fiction (from the wiki):

"For new car owners whose MyFord Touch systems crash, both Ford dealerships and Ford-sponsored websites have been recommending that owners disconnect the black (negative) lead to the battery for several minutes, reconnect, then run the car for at least five minutes to reboot the MyFord Touch system. Owners have complained that this is extremely inconvenient, even dangerous in many situations, and should not be required of owners who have paid tens-of-thousands of dollars for their new cars."

Re:But wait: How to drop from 5th to 23rd place... (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39294319)

Holy crap. I made a joke in my head about rebooting a car, but MS has again found a way to make truth stranger than fiction (from the wiki):

"For new car owners whose MyFord Touch systems crash, both Ford dealerships and Ford-sponsored websites have been recommending that owners disconnect the black (negative) lead to the battery for several minutes, reconnect, then run the car for at least five minutes to reboot the MyFord Touch system. Owners have complained that this is extremely inconvenient, even dangerous in many situations, and should not be required of owners who have paid tens-of-thousands of dollars for their new cars."

As mentioned in many other places, the User Interface software (Which is the crappy part) was written in Flash by a company called BSQUARED, and is pretty much unrelated to the Windows CE underpinning supplied by Microsoft, or the rest of the car designed by Ford...

But hey, when has the truth ever stopped any Microsoft bashing around here?

Re:But wait: How to drop from 5th to 23rd place... (2)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | more than 2 years ago | (#39295073)

"For new car owners whose MyFord Touch systems crash, both Ford dealerships and Ford-sponsored websites have been recommending that owners disconnect the black (negative) lead to the battery for several minutes, reconnect, then run the car for at least five minutes to reboot the MyFord Touch system

As much as it chagrins me to jump to the defense of either company, I can tell you from professional experience that pulling the negative cable for 3-5 minutes has been a valid diagnostic tool/repair ever since they started putting computers in cars.

Owners have complained that this is extremely inconvenient, even dangerous in many situations, and should not be required of owners who have paid tens-of-thousands of dollars for their new cars.

No more dangerous than your typical 16-year-old.

Idiot car owners are a lot like idiot users: They don't understand thing 1 about the system they're using, but they won't hesitate to jump your ass and bitch endlessly the first time it does something they don't like.

Re:But wait: How to drop from 5th to 23rd place... (3, Informative)

afidel (530433) | more than 2 years ago | (#39294399)

It's not Microsoft's fault. The OS is fine (Sync never had anywhere near the problems that Touch has had). The problem is the Flash based UI designed by outsourcing firm BSQUARE that was the major problem for Touch.

USB? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39293857)

USB? Really?

Hey, car marketing guys. Put down the YouFace for a second and listen. There is this thing called radio. Mandate that your dealers deploy drive through 'update servers' on their premises. $300 black box should do it. Be sure to charge the dealers $30,000 for it though. Why not, right? :) Anyhow, when your customers need updates they go to the dealerships and get updated using bluetooth or WiFi or something. Meanwhile, they get an up close look at all the new shiny on the lot and read adds for service specials and stuff.

Cha-ching!

Cyanogen mod for Sync (1)

wintercolby (1117427) | more than 2 years ago | (#39293859)

Okay, now I'll just wait for the cyanogen mod to be available for Sync before buying a Ford. I wonder how binary those firmware updates are . . .

Old tags (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39293911)

Remember when stories used to be tagged "whatcouldpossiblygowrong"? If there ever was a story that could use it, it is this one.

Offline gadgets (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39293917)

The future has offline gadgets? Why?

Re:Offline gadgets (1)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | more than 2 years ago | (#39294227)

One word: Montana

There will be lots of places you'll be offline...hell I *want* to be offline in many places...

Drivers are now Users. (1)

andydread (758754) | more than 2 years ago | (#39293929)

From TFS: "Ford encourages users to have a...."

Just cant get my mind around that yet. So now car companies will be referring to their customers as users instead of drivers. fun times ahead.

You're so last millenium, you're quaint. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39294183)

So now car companies will be referring to their customers as users instead of drivers

All Automobile Service Providers do that. It's in Line Item 32C-4, Section MCMXVII in your monthly Automobile Convenience Automatic-Debit Invoice, just past the monthly privacy charge itemization (after the section on the royalties charged for Rubber Spare-Tire (TM) retention.

Hey, at least you get Air Miles (TM).

Re:Drivers are now Users. (1)

Fallingcow (213461) | more than 2 years ago | (#39294415)

Just wait until they figure out they can tie use of all advanced features of the entertainment system to an account that they control.

And require a fee to activate a car on your account.

Same kind of bullshit they do with on-disc "DLC" or online play activation codes for the used video game market.

Don't want to pay? Have fun with nothing but AM/FM radio.

"But customers won't accept that!"

Sure they will--just make the awesome entertainment system package free in new cars. Small cost to the manufacturer up front, several years of skimming, say, $300-500 off every used purchase. They just have to make the fee low enough that it's not cheaper to replace the damn thing (with something as featureful as the existing system)

"But people buying new will know this will affect the used price and will look elsewhere."

Maybe, maybe not. If this the buying/selling process were always that rational, house upgrades that pay for themselves in the long term like high-end roofing materials or heat pump climate control systems would always be worth putting in, even if you won't be in the house long enough to personally see the benefit--yet that's generally not the case. Features don't always affect the sale of a whole package the way they, perhaps, ought to.

Dell (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39293955)

Sir/Madam,

The enclosed USB key includes a system update for your Dell laptop/PC. Please plug it in and follow the on-screen prompts at your earliest convenience.

Sincerely,
Dell

No way! (4, Insightful)

miffo.swe (547642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39293981)

There is no friggin way i would let Microsoft anywhere near my car. They have a much too bad track record for that. This is something that makes me take two large steps away from any Ford car. I was entertaining getting a Ford but after having read this, no way in hell.

Re:No way! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39294287)

I was entertaining getting a Ford but after having read this, no way in hell.

(Emphasis added.)
+1 for unintentional irony.

Patch Tuesday? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39293993)

Why does this have to be cumbersome? Is there a reason why a company can't push patches instead of the household having to pull?

Re:Patch Tuesday? (1)

kannibal_klown (531544) | more than 2 years ago | (#39294083)

They didn't embed and data/antenna hookup to it. So while it has GPS... if you want data or cell you have to use your phone.

That all being said, I believe they set stuff up so it can connect to the internet if there's a wifi hotspot nearby (mobile or whatever). In which case they COULD make it so you: park in your garage, connect to the internet, click on something to patch it.

But trying to get Grandma to figure out how to connect to the WiFi with that touch screen... it might be easier to say: Plug this plastic thing in a hole that looks like this, click this button, take out the plastic thing and plug it into the same hole in your arm rest.

Re:Patch Tuesday? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39294651)

"Plug this plastic thing in a hole that looks like this, click this button, take out the plastic thing and plug it into the same hole in your arm rest."

Yep, that's how we did our computer updates in the eighties, they sent us a plastic thingie (floppy) via postal service that we had to put in a hole in our machine.
So IOW the Internets will come to cars in 30 years or so.

Horrible Summary is Horrible (4, Informative)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 2 years ago | (#39294075)

Whoa guys! Ford has been allowing end user firmware upgrades since the SYNC system was rolled out. The salesman even told me how to do it when we bought my wife's car two years ago. I've even done it myself through the Ford website. [ford.com] Also note, that this upgrade does not change the ECU, only the SYNC system. Also note, that this mass USB stick mailing is for MyFordTouch, [ford.com] not SYNC (MyFordTouch is built on top of the SYNC system, but includes a touchscreen, and are commonly confused).

In summary:
User firmware upgrades !new
User firmware upgrades !experimental
Mass USB mailings !SYNC
The only thing experimental is the mass mailing of USB sticks.

The most faulty devices in cars are drivers . . . (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 2 years ago | (#39294085)

. . . can we update and patch them as well?

Mechanic: "I'm sorry, sir, but I need to replace the brick behind the wheel of your car to fix it . . . "

Car Wifi/LTE/3G (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39294145)

As silly as it sounds mailing out USB sticks, it would make more logical sense to have the car recognize it's home WiFi or the owners MiFi/portable access point and download updates when the car is in use, and then apply them when the car is not in use. Or maybe have a sim card slot in the radio for the car to automatically download GPS maps, software updates, stream radio, etc. Given for this to work the mobile networks would have to make an arrangement with the car dealerships to not charge for their software updates, otherwise the cars will never get updated.

So yes that's why USB sticks are being sent out. 10$/GB mobile data ripoff versus 8GB/10$ USB stick. It's cheaper to mail than to use wireless.

OS Exploits Comparison (1)

windcask (1795642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39294175)

When a vulnerability remains unpatched on your desktop or laptop OS, malware and viruses can cripple your computer and prevent you from using it to get online or do work.

When a firmware update remains unpatched on your wireless-enabled car OS, someone breaks into your WAP/router at home, runs an attack on your car's firmware, and the next time you turn the car over the fuel/air mixture is so rich that the vehicle bursts into flames.

Which is worse to you?

Re:OS Exploits Comparison (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39294235)

Good point; and what if the car OS connects to 3G/4G instead of conventional home wireless? Good luck avoiding 0-days with that thing.

30 minutes to 1 hour.... (1)

who_stole_my_kidneys (1956012) | more than 2 years ago | (#39294193)

have you met Americans? we don't have the patience let alone the attention span for this daunting task :-P

Re:30 minutes to 1 hour.... (1)

who_stole_my_kidneys (1956012) | more than 2 years ago | (#39294219)

and how many people are going to die from carbon monoxide poising updating this while running their car in the garage.

Re:30 minutes to 1 hour.... (1)

Cro Magnon (467622) | more than 2 years ago | (#39294405)

I would hope that you could actually USE your car (without the SYNC system) while updating, so you could do it while driving to work.

Re:30 minutes to 1 hour.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39294413)

tl;dr

SYNC... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39294201)

one reason i'll never buy a Ford

alt firmware (1)

meeotch (524339) | more than 2 years ago | (#39294253)

Screw official updates. I installed Cyanogenmod on my 2012 Fiesta, and now it goes ONE MILLION MILES AN HOUR.

Re:alt firmware (1)

nschubach (922175) | more than 2 years ago | (#39295045)

You laugh, but the first thing I looked for when I heard of SYNC was looked to see if someone had created a replacement ROM.

New meaning to computer crash (1)

jweller13 (1148823) | more than 2 years ago | (#39294303)

This gives new meaning to the phrase -- I sure hope this update doesn't crash my...er...car.

Remember the "self-healing software" hype? (1)

dpbsmith (263124) | more than 2 years ago | (#39294345)

Circa the mid-nineties... the media was gushing over the latest trend, how great it was going to be, and how it was going to solve our update problems. One example would be this piece by Brian Livingston [google.com]. In the wondrous world of the future, "the user does little or no work, other than clicking a menu button to start the upgrade process. Sometimes not even that is necessary. The software dials up[sic] the vendor's BBS or the World Wide Web site automatically installs any components that are newer than the than those on the currently installed version.... This level of automation, of course, assumes that the user's PC is equipped with a working modem." But once we get to that point, nirvana is at hand. No more software bugs, all our software constantly and updated to the latest version, effortlessly.

These days, it seems as if I a significant amount of time unproductively waiting while my computer downloads and installs some massive update--most recently over one gigabyte for a recent Mac OS X point update. Sometimes, even after the download, the installation process itself can take ten minutes, during which time everything else the machine is doing typically slows to a crawl. Or involves the machine rebooting itself once or twice. Or involves the update program politely requesting that I shut down every application I'm running.

Not to mention the time wasted checking the forums to find out whether the current update is likely to break my computer, and figuring out how to block my system from automatically installing it until they release the improved patch.

But I'm not worried, I'm sure a car manufacturer would never release buggy update. They have far better SQA departments than all the rest of the software industry... don't they?

Grammar nitpick (0)

mark-t (151149) | more than 2 years ago | (#39294361)

FTA:

Ford will be releasing thirty thousand USB sticks to Ford owners...

This statement, taken literally, implies that each Ford owner will receive 30,000 USB sticks. Although common sense dictates that this is probably not what is meant, the statement is still grammatically ambiguous.

How it should probably read, while conveying the same important bits of information, is:

Ford will be releasing USB sticks to thirty thousand Ford owners

Although this does not state the exact number of sticks they are releasing, it does indicate the number of Ford owners that will receive them, which appeared (to me) to be the important bit of information in the (poorly worded) previous statement.

Not that I'm blaming Slashdot for this... those words were in the original article, anyways. But grammatically sentences like that kind of annoy the heck out of me.

Re:Grammar nitpick (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39294591)

Not that I'm blaming Slashdot for this... those words were in the original article, anyways. But grammatically sentences like that kind of annoy the heck out of me.

1. "anyways" is nonstandard
2. The second sentence should be "But, grammatically, sentences like that kind of annoy the heck out of me."

Wait, now i have to do my own updates to my car? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39294433)

You know, I remember when I could pull into a gas station, and tell the attendant "fill'er up" (admittadly, there wheren't MANY full service stations, but their where a few still). I remember being able to walk into a record store and a games store and get recomendations from clueful staff as to what I might like. Call my ISP and have my problem sorted in short order.

I am SICK of my costs going UP, and my service going DOWN.

Imagine the ONE MILLION CAR +4, Seditious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39294689)

Botnet [wikipedia.org] !

Yours In Detroit,
Kilgore Trout, Automotive Engineer

I've been doing this for months (1)

EmagGeek (574360) | more than 2 years ago | (#39294819)

We bought a new Fusion last year, and we've done a couple of firmware updates to Sync since then. The process is simple and goes off without a hitch.

patch the article... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39295165)

Now all they need to do is patch the article...."Image Patch Tuesday..." lol. Bet you can't do that with a memory stick.

Could be worse, could be Kenwood (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 2 years ago | (#39295183)

Do you know how to update the bluetooth drivers on a high end Kenwood head unit? The only way to do it is via Bluetooth. So if your BT isn't working correctly, you should have it connect to a bluetooth device and do an update. Update not work and your BT is no longer operational? Just update it by connecting to the...oh shit.

I haven't had it fail, but damn it just seems ripe for problems. Of course, it's Kenwood, so nothing really works well.

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