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Mercedes Can Now Update Car Software Remotely

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the new-context-for-blackmail dept.

Software 228

MatthewVD writes "Our cars run millions of lines of code that need constant and, often, critical updates. Jim Motavalli writes that Mercedes-Benz's new mbrace2 'cloud infotainment system' has a secret capability: it can update software automatically and wirelessly. In a process called 'reflashing,' the Mercedes system turns on the car operating system (CU), downloads the new application, then cuts itself off. With companies like Fisker paying dearly for constant recalls for software problems, automakers will likely rush to embrace this technology. No more USBs in the dashboard!"

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Secret capability? (5, Informative)

commlinx (1068272) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617067)

From the Mercedes site:

Remote Vehicle Diagnostics Beyond allowing you to perform a check of your vehicle's main systems remotely, mbrace2 technology can automatically alert both you and your authorized Mercedes-Benz dealer to potential issues before they become full-fledged problems. In addition, it enables your vehicle to receive software updates wirelessly through the mbrace2 network.

So while maybe undesirable, not sure it's 'secret'.

Re:Secret capability? (-1, Troll)

Sneeka2 (782894) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617163)

Who said it's undesirable?

Oh right, this is KeepYourRemoteFingersAwayDot, sorry.

Re:Secret capability? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39617279)

Ever heard of "hyperlinks" [wikipedia.org] Sherlock?

aka

Citation needed

Re:Secret capability? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39617497)

Ever heard of "hyperlinks" [wikipedia.org] Sherlock?

aka

Citation needed

Ever heard of "getting off your lazy fucking ass" [google.com] , Sherlock?

But since you've already proved yourself to be mentally challenged, I'll save you the "trouble" [mercedesbe...rgblog.com] .

Re:Secret capability? (1)

geekmux (1040042) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617425)

From the Mercedes site:

Remote Vehicle Diagnostics Beyond allowing you to perform a check of your vehicle's main systems remotely, mbrace2 technology can automatically alert both you and your authorized Mercedes-Benz dealer to potential issues before they become full-fledged problems...

Translation:

Beyond allowing you to perform a check of your vehicle's main systems remotely, mbrace2 technology can automatically make shit up about your car that is bad or potentially going bad, and before you even have a chance to think about the cost of the repair, they've already scheduled you for "maintenance" and charged your bank account for the appropriate deposit to order many, many "bad parts"...

Ah, such efficiency...and to think, I used to have to go through all that stress of having to decide about a $2000 "LED-charged photon-phased steering motor" repair to feed the largest profit center of any dealership...

Re:Secret capability? (4, Insightful)

erroneus (253617) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617439)

If this were not the manufacturer of the car doing this, I might have thought the same thing you are thinking. But if people begin to get troubled with too much recommended maintenance, they will start to believe their cars are unreliable and will not buy another one... or at least not one that tells them things they don't want to know.

Re:Secret capability? (3, Insightful)

geekmux (1040042) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617509)

If this were not the manufacturer of the car doing this, I might have thought the same thing you are thinking. But if people begin to get troubled with too much recommended maintenance, they will start to believe their cars are unreliable and will not buy another one... or at least not one that tells them things they don't want to know.

Are you paying for "reliability" or "Government-regulated mandatory safety upgrades"?

"Repairs" can be spun many, many different ways...such as the difference between optional and mandatory types of insurance. People hate paying for either type of insurance, but don't see much of a choice when it's "mandatory". A "cost" turns into a "fee" if EVERY car owner is charged for it, so this is yet another vehicle to mandate mass fees, turning profits through "safety standards"(for both the auto industry and Government). But you somehow feel better about it, because your 37 air bags are all up to date with the latest software patch and ready to protect you (not that they didn't before).

Oh and your insurance company feels better too, because they got a piece of the profits as well by mandating that no car will be insured without an "active maintenance subscription". Oh yeah, you'll need auto anti-virus protection too.

(I mean seriously, what do you think auto and insurance lobbyists do all day?)

Re:Secret capability? (5, Insightful)

pnewhook (788591) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617759)

Given that most new cars have a period of maintenance factored in where the owner does not pay for warranty work (often 5 years), any warranty work performed like software updates simply come right off the companies bottom lin.e It only makes good business sense to make this as inexpensive as possible and if they can do updates remotely without actually going into the dealer then this is a huge cost savings for them and far more convenient to the owner.

Also, given how much of the safety systems on these high end Mercedes are under software control, I wouldn't be surprised if the lawyers are warning the company that if they do not do due diligence in rolling out safety related upgrades, then they may be liable for crashes related to the failing of this software. In such a case making sure the software updates are rolled out to as many people as possible as easily as possible would be a mandate of theirs.

Re:Secret capability? (1)

iamwahoo2 (594922) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617665)

I wish I had your faith in my fellow human beings, but most people do not seem to care about reliablity when they purchase their cars. Mercedes is one of the more unreliable brands on the market and they are still managing to sell plenty of cars. Even worse, look at Dodge/Chrysler, unlike Mercedes, they have always had a reputation for poor reliability and they are still managing to stay alive.

Re:Secret capability? (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617691)

Translation:

Beyond allowing you to perform a check of your vehicle's main systems remotely, mbrace2 technology can automatically make shit up about your car that is bad or potentially going bad, and before you even have a chance to think about the cost of the repair, they've already scheduled you for "maintenance" and charged your bank account for the appropriate deposit to order many, many "bad parts"...

Yep. No BMW mechanic would ever be able to figure out it was all lies and leak his findings to the press.

Re:Secret capability? (1)

alen (225700) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617779)

in the USA we have these things called car warranties, so its the manufacturer paying for all these parts and services to the dealer.

there are two types of MB drivers. those who can really afford the car, and those who can't and just lease. I had a neighbor one time like that. renter, nothing to his name and yet he had enough money to pay $600 a month of a CK500 or whatever it was. until he got his girlfriend preggers and got rid of the car

Secret capability (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39617457)

From the Mercedes site:

Remote Vehicle Diagnostics
Beyond allowing you to perform a check of your vehicle's main systems remotely, mbrace2 technology can automatically alert both you and your authorized Mercedes-Benz dealer to potential issues before they become full-fledged problems. In addition, it enables your vehicle to receive software updates wirelessly through the mbrace2 network.

So while maybe undesirable, not sure it's 'secret'.

really good.
lease takeover [eleaseit.com]

What a revolution (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39617069)

Mercedes is now able to crash cars remotely.

Many possibilities (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39617071)

This also means that hackers and government agencies can update the software automatically and wirelessly. Finally there is no more need for cutting the break cables.

Re:Many possibilities (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39617095)

Not sure if it's a typo or if you meant it that way. Cars usually have brake cables, not break cables.

Re:Many possibilities (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39617253)

The only brake cables are for the parking brake. You both mean brake lines.

Re:Many possibilities (-1, Flamebait)

tibit (1762298) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617347)

It's not a parking brake, never was. It's an emergency brake. I bet most people in the U.S. never bother setting it when the car is parked, heck, many of them I'm sure wouldn't know where it is or how to use it in an emergency. There's a "P" setting on the shifter, that's good enough :/

Re:Many possibilities (1)

sosume (680416) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617393)

My owner's manual says it's a parking brake. And I wouldn't want to rely on a small button saying 'p' as a last resort in case of emergency.

Re:Many possibilities (1, Funny)

19thNervousBreakdown (768619) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617533)

So you'd rather have nothing as a last resort in case of emergency? Because if you discount the emergency/parking brake, that's what you have.

Or maybe you're saying it should be a great big lever painted in yellow and black stripes with rotating red lights, sirens, and steam. If that's the case I agree, that's an emergency brake.

Me? In an emergency, I'll grab whatever the hell is around to slow me down, and I don't give a damn it's called, I'll just be grateful to have a redundant system.

Re:Many possibilities (3, Funny)

geekmux (1040042) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617429)

It's not a parking brake, never was. It's an emergency brake. I bet most people in the U.S. never bother setting it when the car is parked, heck, many of them I'm sure wouldn't know where it is or how to use it in an emergency. There's a "P" setting on the shifter, that's good enough :/

Oddly enough, the laws of inertia still exist in the Western Hemisphere, even including the United States!

(I hear there are hills too...)

Re:Many possibilities (3, Insightful)

erroneus (253617) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617445)

We ignore laws here... especially the government.

Re:Many possibilities (2)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617505)

What P? My car, like most cars over here, has a shifter with settings labeled 1 through 5, and R. So yes, it's a parking brake.

Re:Many possibilities (1)

ickleberry (864871) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617527)

The P for "Prundle"

Re:Many possibilities (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39617531)

It's a parking brake, always was. WIth a manual transmission car the only thing that will prevent it from going to the bottom of any (not very steep) hill it is parked on is the friction and compression in the engine, or the PARKING BRAKE. Automatics with the convienient P didn't come around until much later, the P isn't necessarily reliable, either, and can be quite difficult in some cars to get out of when parked on a hill, unless you use the PARKING BRAKE. Plus, on many, many cars with rear drum brakes applying the parking brake keeps the brake shoes in proper adjustment, so the brakes work when you press the pedal.
Any questions?

Re:Many possibilities (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617703)

It's not a parking brake, never was. It's an emergency brake.

You know how I know you've never tried pulling that handle when the car is moving?

Me? I'd expect an 'emergency brake' to be a bit more effective then that...

Re:Many possibilities (5, Informative)

LoRdTAW (99712) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617819)

I know I'm feeding the trolls but:

It's not a parking brake, never was. It's an emergency brake.

If you have a stick shift (aka manual or standard) transmission, the emergency/parking brake lever is what you use to park your vehicle and as a backup mechanical brake if for some reason your normal hydraulic brakes completely fail. So yes it is a parking brake in addition to being a last resort mechanical brake. They are still present on all(?) automatic cars as a safety feature. Before the parking pawl it was the only way to park your vehicle so it has and always will be an emergency/parking brake. After a while it became commonplace to just call it a parking brake, maybe the word "emergency" made people feel uncomfortable. Who knows.

When automatic transmissions first came around, the "parking pawl" was not always present so a lever or handle was necessary to mechanically lock the vehicles brakes to prevent it from rolling, like a manual. Then the parking pawl was standardized (in the US around 1965) to give drivers a more safe and reliable parking mechanism. It can not be used as a brake mechanism, its a gear like ring on a splined shaft which when engaged, slides into a grooved recess of the transmission case. This locks the output shaft which in turn locks the entire drive line. Engaging that at highway speeds would mean catastrophic transmission and/or drive line failure.

I bet most people in the U.S. never bother setting it when the car is parked, heck, many of them I'm sure wouldn't know where it is or how to use it in an emergency. There's a "P" setting on the shifter, that's good enough :/

What was the point of making that statement? To be a snobby jerk off and put down Americans when ever you can? Is it fashionable where you come from? The parking pawl is more reliable than a mechanical cable activated parking brake. One the ring locks the drive shaft it is not rolling anywhere. A cable actuated emergency/parking brake can come out of adjustment and also suffer from a failed cable. It is not necessary to use on an automatic. I happen to use it on hills as a backup to prevent the weight of the vehicle from binding the parking pawl.

And an example: I purchased a forklift that weighed 8000 lbs. I hauled it on a 3000lb trailer and towed it with a ~6000 lb automatic vehicle. All together it weighed around 17,000 pounds or 7,700 kg. I stopped at a friends house and decided to stay the night, problem was his house was on a hill and I could not fit the rig into his driveway. I set the parking brake and tested to see if it would hold, it didn't. 7700kg on a steep hill was just too much for it, it crept forward little by little. I put the automatic transmission in park and it held perfectly.

Re:Many possibilities (3, Insightful)

supersat (639745) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617107)

I'm willing to bet it's far more likely that they'll need to patch security holes remotely than it is for the update mechanism itself to be exploited. That is, assuming they digitally sign the updates.

Re:Many possibilities (4, Insightful)

arth1 (260657) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617149)

I'm willing to bet it's far more likely that they'll need to patch security holes remotely than it is for the update mechanism itself to be exploited. That is, assuming they digitally sign the updates.

So? Even a 1000:1 ratio would be unacceptable.

And if a lesson were to be learned from Playstation / XBox / DVD / Blu-Ray / iPhone, it's that as long as customers (and thus hackers) have access to the hardware, keeping things secret is a temporary reprieve at best.

Re:Many possibilities (4, Funny)

toastar (573882) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617177)

What, you mean security through obscurity doesn't work?

Re:Many possibilities (3, Funny)

houghi (78078) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617187)

I use security through less security. People are so trained that passwords are at least 6 characters long and often 8 that they will never try my SPACE as password.

Re:Many possibilities (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39617203)

That isn't true in general. GP post referenced the Playstation... Well, the Playstation 3 is still not fully cracked yet and the console has been on the shelves long enough for the security system to pay itself back. So in that case security through obscurity did in fact work, at least from the perspective of Sony. Not that it'll do them much good; I gather Sony is losing money like fratboys their dinner.

Re:Many possibilities (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39617157)

Yo dawg, we heard you like updating software so we're updating your update software...

Re:Many possibilities (1)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617523)

Knowing how little most corporations know or care about security I wouldn't be so sure. Wireless car keys, for example, can already be hacked.

Re:Many possibilities (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39617615)

It will make the gone in 60 seconds remake in a couple of years alot more entertaining as well, the entire twist will be focused around the antique car that still has mechanical locks and needs to be hotwired to get it started, all the others get flashed and will drive themselves into the container ship to transport them from China to America, I can see them butchering the next herby the lovebug remake with this as well.

Re:Many possibilities (3, Insightful)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617685)

I am tired of this standard banal instantly modded up response:

- Something is made easier
- Aha! Government all other evil guys will have easy access too!

Duh!

What could possibly go wrong (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39617081)

I was going to say something, but I can't think of anything clever, because I'm shaking my head in disbelief so fast that I'm getting dizzy. Please tell me that the wireless interface at least has its own fuse that can be pulled.

Re:What could possibly go wrong (4, Funny)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617185)

Please tell me that the wireless interface at least has its own fuse that can be pulled.

On behalf of our R&D dept in East Europe and Russia, I can state that we don't know it ... yet. And, unless you aren't a Mercedes owner, we are not going to inform you.
If, however, you own this model, just tell us where it is parked and we'll let you know (if a fuse can be pulled, it's likely we can replace it with absolutely no troubles for your, while you're asleep).

Raising my black hat, I send you my best wishes and hopes of a successful ...(ummm... how to put it?... ah, yes...) collaboration,

(non-readable signature in 133t-sp34k)

Re:What could possibly go wrong (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617201)

In East Europe or Russia, owning ... ok, having a Mercedes should not be an issue. Europe's full of them, just take one.

what could possibly go wrong (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39617105)

Soon:
- First maleware for cars spotted in the wild. Car manufacturers: "No problem. it only infects the multimedia system"
- Maleware displays a huge kitty on the HUD. First malware caused traffic accident with casualties.
- Anti-Virus Software mandatory for cars
- Kaspersky/McAffee/.. : ~40% of all cars infected with one virus or another....

Re:what could possibly go wrong (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39617153)

On the bright side (for the manufacturer), planned obsolescence is easier once you can update a the car's OS seamlessly.

Re:what could possibly go wrong (1)

geekmux (1040042) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617465)

On the bright side (for the manufacturer), planned obsolescence is easier once you can update a the car's OS seamlessly.

Yes, and as soon as your cars software is "no longer supported", planned obsolescence also kicks in forcing you to buy a new car, most likely prematurely.

Oh, you didn't like the word "forcing"? I'm sorry. New auto insurance law. "No vehicle will be allowed to be licensed or insured that has been deemed obsolete by the manufacturer or [insert next-gen DHS-style Government regulatory agency here]"

Re:what could possibly go wrong (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617205)

Just wait how interesting it can become once cars can also communicate with each other. Think of the possibilities... I could cause a car crash without even leaving the house!

Re:what could possibly go wrong (2)

siddesu (698447) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617575)

I saw it in Terminator 3 already, thank you. The robot chick had pneumatic tits.

Re:what could possibly go wrong (4, Funny)

digitig (1056110) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617215)

Soon: - First maleware for cars spotted in the wild. Car manufacturers: "No problem. it only infects the multimedia system" - Maleware displays a huge kitty on the HUD. First malware caused traffic accident with casualties.

I think auto manufacturers are waking up to the fact that women buy cars too.

Virus scan on Cars (5, Funny)

million_monkeys (2480792) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617303)

Soon: - First maleware for cars spotted in the wild. Car manufacturers: "No problem. it only infects the multimedia system" - Maleware displays a huge kitty on the HUD. First malware caused traffic accident with casualties. - Anti-Virus Software mandatory for cars - Kaspersky/McAffee/.. : ~40% of all cars infected with one virus or another....

Great, so now my car's only gonna go 15 mph because McAffee is using 90% of my engine resources.

Re:what could possibly go wrong (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39617365)

Soon:
- First maleware

Is that like, a strap-on?

That's "malware", you insensitive clod. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39617697)

Insensitive? Sorry, I meant illiterate. Also hysterical and technically ignorant, but we'll leave it there for today.

Incoming exploit in 3..2..1... (2)

Mistakill (965922) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617121)

I can see this will be exploited somewhere along the way...

Version 1.0 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39617127)

Yep, can wait to get buggy version 1.0 delivered with the car and a little note of the "Known issues that will be fixed soon" :-)

Well Mercedes are a favourate of bankers (4, Funny)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617129)

Well Mercedes are a favourate of bankers and corporate "fat cats". I couldn't think of a better challenge to Anonymous. Speed limiter to 20mph? Stuck in the driveway? I wait with eagerness.

Re:Well Mercedes are a favourate of bankers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39617181)

How 'bout the radio always tuned to FixNews... ...oh, wait.

Re:Well Mercedes are a favourate of bankers (4, Funny)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617419)

Set to play Never Gonna Give You Up at random intervals, and disable audio controls for the duration.

Re:Well Mercedes are a favourate of bankers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39617197)

I wait with eagerness.

I don't. I hope to all goodness that this is supremely unhackable.

Why? Because if this is hackable for "fat cats" it means it's hackable for "joe schmos" when this technology moves down to Fords or Toyotas or Hyundais.

Re:Well Mercedes are a favourate of bankers (1)

erroneus (253617) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617467)

It will be "unhackable" when the community gets their hands on it and takes the keys away from the manufacturing overlords. The incentive flows in the other direction otherwise.

Re:Well Mercedes are a favourate of bankers (3, Interesting)

FunPika (1551249) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617199)

20 miles per hour speed limiter? How about limit it to just under the speed limit (since GPS's seem to be able to get that these days). It will effectively piss off people in a lot of areas such as Massachusetts (I have gotten passed on a double yellow there for going slightly over the limit...don't underestimate how much this would piss off Massholes). The 20mph limiter would just make the driver be like "FUCK THIS!", a GPS based limiter could troll the driver and everyone around them in the right areas, at least for a little while.

Re:Well Mercedes are a favourate of bankers (2)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617529)

In many areas of massachusetts, speed limits are not set at the speeds the roads were designed for/are safe to operate at, but at revenue generating levels - speeds at which police officers on speed patrol can spend their whole day writing tickets.

Enforcement is still lax, though, because if enforcement was efficient, people would drive at the lower levels to avoid it. Effectively, mass does not have speed limits. It has a "random road tax."

Re:Well Mercedes are a favourate of bankers (1, Funny)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617207)

Speed limiter to 20mph? Try cruise control stuck at 200mph, now here's funny for you!

Maybe in the US (2)

Any Web Loco (555458) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617325)

Maybe in the US. Here, in the socialist hell that is Europe, they're really fairly common.

Re:Maybe in the US (1)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617511)

Yeah, the guys driving a Mercedes truck are certainly not upper-class.

Re:Well Mercedes are a favourate of bankers (1)

BorgDrone (64343) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617371)

Mostly cabs in europe.

Re:Well Mercedes are a favourate of bankers (1)

tippe (1136385) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617385)

This couldn't work (yet) I'm sure for various reasons (drive by wire has no control over steering), but it's only a matter of time, and once all the pieces are in place, an enterprising hacker should make it their first priority to implement:
1: As each car gets comprimised, randomly assign a "polarity" (+ or -) to the car.
2: Using onboard GPS, RFID, etc, detect when other comprimised cars are nearby
3: Profit! Uh, I mean watch as hilarity ensues as 1600kg magnets either attract or repulse each other at highway speeds...

A disaster waiting to happen (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39617135)

An what happens the first time they send out a bum update and brick thousands of cars? Particularly if some of them happen to be moving on the road at the time.

And then the police got the feature they wanted (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39617171)

How long until all police cars will be fited with programs that uploads a breaks-is-always-on update?

Re:And then the police got the feature they wanted (2)

arth1 (260657) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617191)

How long until all police cars will be fited with programs that uploads a breaks-is-always-on update?

You're about 12 years too late.
http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2010/03/hacker-bricks-cars/ [wired.com]

Re:And then the police got the feature they wanted (1)

erroneus (253617) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617487)

Are you saying this is the year 2022??? Crap! I'm really, really, really late for a lot of stuff!!

Re:And then the police got the feature they wanted (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39617519)

The hacker made use of a system that had been implemented 10 years ago from the article's time, meaning in 2000 or thereabouts.

Re:And then the police got the feature they wanted (1)

arth1 (260657) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617559)

Are you saying this is the year 2022??? Crap! I'm really, really, really late for a lot of stuff!!

Since this is /. and it's too much to hope for someone skimming through AFA, let me quote from it:
"First rolled out about 10 years ago, remote immobilization systems are a controversial answer to delinquent car payments [...]"
So 2010, when the article was written, minus 10 years brings us to 2000, which makes the GGP late by around 12 years.

Who pays? (2)

skovnymfe (1671822) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617175)

I'm assuming the car connects to some sort of 3g or other wireless network to download updates.

Who pays for this?

Re:Who pays? (4, Informative)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617211)

mercedes.
or in other words - the guy who buys the car. if you could hack that data connection to contact whatever else sites though.. I'm assuming it would do it via 3g actually too. it wouldn't be too hard for mercedes to negotiate europe wide contracts for it for fairly cheap(the data amounts will be rather low). so it might be something like 200 bucks for 3 years of updates, which considering the total cost of the car isn't really that much. if it can prevent one recall for a model that would otherwise need the dealer to do "free" work billed to mb then from mb's viewpoint it's a good deal.

Re:Who pays? (2, Funny)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617219)

If money is an issue, you obviously should not own a Mercedes.

Re:Who pays? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39617245)

Mercedes driver doesn't care who pays.

Yeah (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39617229)

TOTALLY a good idea ...
coz nobody will find a way to abuse this
right?

Ok , but what happens if... (1, Interesting)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617231)

... the car decides to download and install new firmware at the exact same time as Mick Mechanic pulls the battery or the main fuse out? A very VERY expensive brick?

Re:Ok , but what happens if... (2)

will_die (586523) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617401)

I would guess they have a information box informing the user there is a patch available that the user has to initiate and requires that the car be parked with the engine off.

Re:Ok , but what happens if... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39617407)

Or the upgrade just didn't succeed and you keep using the old firmware? It IS possible to implement firmware upgrade in a non-stupid way too you know.

Re:Ok , but what happens if... (1)

MachineShedFred (621896) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617521)

You realize that "Mick Mechanic" isn't going to be working on that car, because it comes with an all-encompasing service plan, right?

The only guys turning wrenches on that car are employed at the Benz dealership; and it likely doesn't start any update until after 10 minutes of ECU inactivity - plenty of time to raise the hood and disconnect the negative battery terminal.

Re:Ok , but what happens if... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39617563)

What happens is that Mick gets fired when his boss realizes that he just had to pay to replace all the computer modules in your car, free of charge.

Sometimes, It's Good To Be Old-School (5, Funny)

longbot (789962) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617285)

No automatic updates for me, unless Mercedes wants to install a computer to update in my '84 300TD.

Turn on the CU? (3, Interesting)

sirdude (578412) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617299)

"In a process called ‘reflashing,’ the Mercedes system can turn on the car operating system (CU), download the new application, then cut itself off."

So the car is regularly polling a server and can switch itself on? That sounds decidedly unsettling.

Could somebody elaborate on the diagnostic capabilities of these cars? Do they alert you if your brakes are inefficient or if your tyres are wearing out? I'm too poor to afford one to know :(

Cheers.

Re:Turn on the CU? (3, Insightful)

MachineShedFred (621896) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617541)

If it works like the iDrive system in BMW, the ECU stays active for about 10 minutes after the car is turned off, in order to remember navigation position and the creature comfort stuff like heated seats being turned on. Mercedes is likely putting this update check in after such an interval.

As for the brake and tire wear checking, that's done by a Mark-I eyeball installed in a service technician at the dealership, which is included in the service plan that comes with the car.

Re:Turn on the CU? (1)

arth1 (260657) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617663)

Could somebody elaborate on the diagnostic capabilities of these cars? Do they alert you if your brakes are inefficient or if your tyres are wearing out? I'm too poor to afford one to know :(

I predict that they will, indeed, monitor a lot of variables that, if not warrants, at least suggests maintenance. And that the data will be sold to marketers who can compete for the chance to market new synthetic oil to you starting a thousand miles before the suggested oil change, or new tires when the ones you have approach their life.

The scariest thing is that a lot of consumers would like this, and will think that the discounted offers and presented "options" will save them money and is a useful service.

When I go to buy a new car a few weeks or months from now, I will look for a vehicle that's controlled by me, not others, and that does not allow push of data in either direction without an explicit (not implicit) authorization. And I realize that it does little good - there's no stopping the tide of lemmings rushing for the cliff.

Re:Turn on the CU? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39617701)

Many modern car's are 'always' on. The only way to turn them completely off is to disconnect (all?) batteries. They tend to run down the battery if you don't use them for a month or two, some Benz even come with a trickle charger just to prevent this.

More closely related to this story: we were developing a browser based service for the current C-Class Benz before it was available for sale, and had a prototype car supplied by Mercedes in a garage just outside our office for weeks. When we ran into too may bugs and needed an Update, they couldn't supply an USB stick or anything similar, instead, they had someone drive a new car with updated firmware ~200 Miles to our office.

Transparent upgrades - yeah, right (1)

melonman (608440) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617323)

If Mercedes has cracked the trick of 100% successful upgrades over air, great! If not, I'd prefer to know that the systems controlling almost everything on the Mercedes hurtling towards me is not going to die at some arbitrary moment. Bricked iPhones are inconvenient. Bricked 2-ton vehicles moving at 70mph are very inconvenient!

Re:Transparent upgrades - yeah, right (3, Funny)

Swampash (1131503) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617423)

Remember how you could always spot a Microsoft "Patch Tuesday" when you got to work and found all the desktop machines had rebooted overnight?

Spotting Mercedes Patch Tuesday on the autobahn is going to be epic.

Re:Transparent upgrades - yeah, right (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617605)

If Mercedes has cracked the trick of 100% successful upgrades over air, great! If not, I'd prefer to know that the systems controlling almost everything on the Mercedes hurtling towards me is not going to die at some arbitrary moment. Bricked iPhones are inconvenient. Bricked 2-ton vehicles moving at 70mph are very inconvenient!

No, MB has figured out how to avoid paying dealers to reflash cars for critical updates by bypassing the dealer. The dealer also gets to spend time on out of warranty repairs that actually make them money instead of spending valuable mechanic time own low reimbursement warranty work.

Sounds like a really bad idea. :) (1)

Colven (515018) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617363)

First question that came to mind when I read the article was, "will the update be pushed, or will the driver have to initiate it?" Second question was, "updates can't be done while the engine's running..... can it?" I assume this mbrace2 system is tied into the car' main OS based on what the "secrets" linked article says.

Can't find many details atm, but evidently you get to pay a yearly subscription fee for the updates [dailytech.com] ... sounds nice.

Best scenario... (4, Funny)

DrogMan (708650) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617373)

So you're the getaway driver sitting in the stolen Merc - your partners in crime are runing towards you. You hit the 'start' button... "Please wait while we install the latest software update. This process will take approximately 5 of your finest German minutes." Fantastic!

Tracking ? (2)

Anonymousslashdot (2601035) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617397)

The system is also able to collect any kind of data from the connected sensors and send them automatically and wirelessly to the manufacturer. It's called "automatic updates" these days, but it's just another name for eavesdropping.

Spot the real issue (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39617427)

"Our cars run millions of lines of code that need constant and, often, critical updates."

Spot where the real issue is.

I remember a time where computer games were tested before they were released, because there was simply no way to update them. I would expect a car (where real lives are at stake) to be tested better then a game.

Simultaneous Worldwide GTA ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39617453)

In a period of million-strong protests, imagine an unbroken row of Mercedes lined up parallel to the protest route. Or, say, in front of it, to soak up the water, sound-cannons, rubber bullets, real bullets, beanbags, ... and all the other stuff supposedly democratic 'representative' governments are so willing to employ against their own population's wishes.

I''d better start writing the plot resume - before reality outpaces any further attempt at fiction.

Avi Rubin hacking cars. TED.com (4, Interesting)

Leafwiz (1704388) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617475)

Hacking cars has already been done, and is shown here in this ted.com video. 4:42 is where he explains about it.

http://www.ted.com/talks/avi_rubin_all_your_devices_can_be_hacked.html [ted.com]

Many of the internal systems was hacked, including the system for breaking.

From ted.com:
"Could someone hack your pacemaker? At TEDxMidAtlantic, Avi Rubin explains how hackers are compromising cars, smartphones and medical devices, and warns us about the dangers of an increasingly hack-able world.

  Avi Rubin is a professor of computer science and director of Health and Medical Security Lab at Johns Hopkins University. His current research is focused on the security of electronic medical records"

No thanks (1)

shoehornjob (1632387) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617495)

I'll take the dumb car that doesn't spy on my every move and report that information to the highest bidder.

Re:No thanks (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617601)

A Trabant in other words.

Re:No thanks (1)

shoehornjob (1632387) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617749)

Well maybe not quite that extreme. I was thinking more in terms of dumb as in not connected to the internet or gps.

Now there's a good idea...NOT! (1)

Targon (17348) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617515)

There are a lot of people out there looking to do something malicious to others, so here's the perfect way to open the door to secretly messing with Mercedes owners. Just get a small transmitter used to emulate the official server, get it close to a Mercedes, and now push an update that KILLS the car. No fix until it gets back to a dealership where the chip can be replaced with one that isn't borked.

What is this "reflashing" you speak of? (1)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617553)

Why quote the word? It's a common English word these days, especially amongst nerds reading slashdot.

What about modded cars? (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617567)

Many cars today have flash able computer systems that basically keep track of everything on the car such as bluetooth, headlights etc. With DIY mods, it's often necessary to reflect the software yourself or pay a dealer to do it. Unfortunately, it's often not as easy as pulling a part and reinstalling the upgraded one; for example a component pulled from a salvage vehicle may not properly register with the software, causing much grief as you troubleshot; even for a factory trained mechanic at the dealer who has all the equipment and manufacturer tech support on call.

I can image the grief a wireless flash might cause on a factory car with mods, potentially rendering it undrivable; and leaving the owner fighting the factory over whose fault it is.

Re:What about modded cars? (1)

guisar (69737) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617787)

All the more reason to go open source ECU. I used to own Mercedes- for twenty years in fact but no more- they have become unreliable POS. I now drive a Subaru which in fact has a fully-flashed open source ECU. Both the car and the tools are under the communities control- not MBs or Subarus.

Constant and critical updates (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39617569)

Am I the only one who finds this statement disturbing regarding the firmware of a car which potentially can have all aspects of driving controlled by wire?

"Our cars run millions of lines of code that need CONSTANT and, OFTEN, CRITICAL updates" (Emphasis added by me)

I hope it only updates while the car is stationary (1)

rossdee (243626) | more than 2 years ago | (#39617871)

The las thibg Michael Shumacher needs is to be approaching a corner at 150mph and the car decides to update the brake control software.

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