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Open Source Electric Cars — Good Idea Or Not?

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the do-you-beat-your-electric-car dept.

Open Source 178

thecarchik submits this interesting bit of flame: "Many are keen on the concept of open source electric cars — that is, electric cars where the built-in software can be tweaked, parameters can be changed, and in theory, the cars can be improved. Only it's a really, really bad idea. ... Even carmakers themselves have trouble with software — Fisker has issued a recall and apology recently with its Karma — so allowing average Joe to tweak the car's inner workings seems like a bad idea. Changing the characteristics of an electric car isn't as simple as re-jetting the carbs or swopping out the air filter." Whether software is controlling electric cars or not seems to me beside the point; access to the underlying software doesn't guarantee improvements, but blocking access to it doesn't stop car makers from making software mistakes — it only ensures that those few interested hackers who might be able to work around them have a harder time of it. (Not that tweaking car software is new, or going away.)

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178 comments

Open Source is good because YOU can fix bugs (5, Funny)

ProfessionalTech (2620889) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733129)

But just remember to submit patch or post on bug tracking system from the hospital or grave!

Re:Open Source is good because YOU can fix bugs (1)

Darfeld (1147131) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733375)

The point I think isn't that any Joe Nobody can make change and fix bug, but that constructors can produce the derivative product, cuting cost of developpement, and that independent car's repairman can do their job without paying what-thousand dollars to a car constructor for certification.

As for private tinkering, It shouldn't be autorised for vehicules on the public roads, but it can still be interresting for stock-car amateurs...

Re:Open Source is good because YOU can fix bugs (1)

ProfessionalTech (2620889) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733477)

You know, there's a very good reason those certifications exist and why they cost a lot, especially in industries where things can get dangerous if managed by persons who don't know what they're doing. The high cost is not about making lots of money, it's about only having people who are seriously committed. That's also why Cisco and Microsoft certifications cost so much.

Re:Open Source is good because YOU can fix bugs (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733901)

Since when do those certs cost a lot?
Those certs are only about making money. I think we have all seen the folks who hold them, but know nothing.

Re:Open Source is good because YOU can fix bugs (4, Insightful)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733795)

As for private tinkering, It shouldn't be autorised for vehicules on the public roads...

Why not?

It is perfectly legal today to 'tinker' with the software running your car today. You can mess with engine management, fuel/air ratios...etc.

Why would you want it illegal just when changing from internal combustion engine, to battery powered electric engine?

People often project their inadequacies on others. (4, Interesting)

Medievalist (16032) | more than 2 years ago | (#39734139)

Many people want to make the things they aren't competent to do, or don't trust themselves to do, illegal for YOU to do - unless you hold special license. These people may well believe that they are inherently better than you, but they also have an instinctive willingness to obey authority figures such as Milgram's white-coated doctors [wikipedia.org] and government-sponsored certification authorities.

In reality, you should be able to tinker however you will with anything you own, and simply held responsible for any harm that you do in the process. Full stop.

WHO TAGGED THIS HARDHACK? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39733415)

Seriously? User-end software development now counts as hardware hacking? SERIOUSLY?
 
Let me spell it out. Hardhacks are hacks which require changes in HARDWARE. Like adding a pull-down resistor to a flash ROM to keep your expired satellite service from deleting its own keys.
 

Even carmakers themselves have trouble with software--Fisker has issued a recall and apology recently with its Karma — so allowing average Joe to tweak the car's inner workings seems like a bad idea

I don't know any average Joe who can write enough software to make a light off an MCU blink. And who said that Fisker ever hired competent or experienced programmers?
 
What has this world come to.

Mod parent up! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39733513)

This needs to be seen

Re:Open Source is good because YOU can fix bugs (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733587)

were YOU can create bugs.

Re:Open Source is good because YOU can fix bugs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39733937)

Yes. Why NOT open the door for an evil hacker/mechanic/terrorist to rootkit your car and set it to blow up on a particular time & day?

Re:Open Source is good because YOU can fix bugs (2)

Idbar (1034346) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733961)

This is great news, so can I submit a patch to make the backseat roomier for my passengers? or making the sedan a coupe?

Ah... I forgot to ask. What do they want to make open source? The entertainment systems, the engine/injection CPU, the hardware?

Some things should probably be left alone (4, Insightful)

crazyjj (2598719) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733139)

I'd hate to die in a huge interstate pileup because some dipshit decided to push the overclocking on his car too far and it blue-screened on him at 80 mph.

Of course, many will point out that people have been tinkering with cars since they were invented, and that's true. But generally in the past, it took at least a modicum of skill to work on a car. Letting any douchebag with a computer plug in and play with any aspect of his car's functions is a little more scaring than a grease monkey putting in new headers on his 66 Mustang.

Re:Some things should probably be left alone (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39733193)

> I'd hate to die in a huge interstate pileup because some dipshit decided to push the overclocking on his car too far and it blue-screened on him at 80 mph.

That would happen with closed source as well, only instead of fixing the problem with transparency, you'd be fighting with lawyers!

Re:Some things should probably be left alone (-1, Troll)

ProfessionalTech (2620889) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733247)

Usually commercial companies have thoughtful testing and QA process. They need to because they would be held liable for things like this, and it would also be devastating to their image. That's a huge difference to some open source project which is coded by some guy in his parents basement who probably doesn't even have a car but tests it in a simulator.

Re:Some things should probably be left alone (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39733311)

Probably haven't heard of these projects/companies have you?

* The linux kernel
* RHEL / Red Hat

Believe it or now, (I know its hard to swallow), but the world runs on open-source/free-software

Re:Some things should probably be left alone (0)

PRMan (959735) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733627)

Yeah. I've heard of them. My Ubuntu servers at home crashed so often, I went back to Windows servers, which I believe is the point of this thread.

Re:Some things should probably be left alone (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733799)

You did something wrong. I have ubuntu boxes that have been up for years. No they are not connected to any public network.

Re:Some things should probably be left alone (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39734061)

Isn't that exactly the point? Any idiot with a keyboard can fool around with Ubuntu and crash it. That's fine when it's a computer in your house. It's not fine when it's a killing machine on a road.

Re:Some things should probably be left alone (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#39734263)

Any idiot with a wrench can fool with a car and kill people on the road. Ever seen the results when a tire rotation monkey forgets to put the nuts back on?

You can drive a surprising distance without them. Then suddenly end up in an accident when one or more wheels just falls right off. I am sure people have died that way.

Re:Some things should probably be left alone (3, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733639)

"Usually commercial companies have thoughtful testing and QA process"
HAHAHAHAHAhahhahaa.. oh man. 'thoughtful testing'. You crack me up sir.

" They need to because they would be held liable for things like this, "
It's far cheaper to put a clause in the EULA that says they aren't responsible for damages.

". That's a huge difference to some open source project which is coded by some guy in his parents basement who probably doesn't even have a car but tests it in a simulator."
Strawman AND an Ad Hom attack.

Re:Some things should probably be left alone (1)

Brian Feldman (350) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733669)

Usually, either COTS or open-source hardware has an OFF SWITCH.

Re:Some things should probably be left alone (4, Insightful)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733195)

All the chavs of the world already know a guy who can install an illegal nitrous kit or whatever.

Hardware upgrades scare me more than software upgrades. You're not going to get a massive increase in power through software alone. If they want to make their suspension more 'sporty' then it's their own spines that will suffer more than anything else.

Re:Some things should probably be left alone (1)

crashumbc (1221174) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733373)

Exactly, the hardware "mods" done to cars today already FAR exceed anything that could possibly be done on the software side as far as risk.

Re:Some things should probably be left alone (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733685)

Not true.
There are a great many thing that software can control. There are cars out there where you can get 150 more horsepower with a software mod.

Also consider this:
If some installed a blinking light into their car, it's annoying. If someone screws with software to make a light blink, a bug could cause run away acceleration.
A bug in software can allow that sort of thing to happen.

The unintended consequences from physically changing the car are a lot less likely then from a bug in the software.

Re:Some things should probably be left alone (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#39734289)

"There are cars out there where you can get 150 more horsepower with a software mod."

No there are not. NO car on the streets can give you 150hp with a chip, stop believing the chip sellers marketing.

Re:Some things should probably be left alone (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39733863)

Hardware upgrades scare me more than software upgrades. You're not going to get a massive increase in power through software alone.

Yes, you are. (disclosure: I work in the industry, specifically on motors and inverters for electric and hybrid cars). Not to generalize, but there are a number of requirements that go into these things. Safety, Reliability, Durability, Power, etc... The thing is in many cases an inverter can deliver more power than you're going to be getting in a production vehicle because they want everything to last for the life of the vehicle. The IPM motors most use can in fact produce torque almost linearly with current, so yes, tweaking the software can deliver more acceleration, but you may damage it (probably will). It's also very hard to calibrate these things properly - we tune electric motors on a dyno - not in the vehicle - so you will lose efficiency doing it any other way. Also, some manufacturers want the car to feel the same regardless of the battery state of charge, so they design for the lowest battery voltage you'll be getting - this means at full battery, there may well be more capability than you get (in some cases) and someone could conceivable tweak to get that - but then you'll be stressing other things that may not be made for the increased power levels (drive train and battery come to mind). If the control code is written in fixed-point you may also overflow a calculation at the worst possible time. Anyway, there is often more power or torque available but if you tweak to get it you're taking a risk - and taking unknown (to you) risks on public roads should probably be avoided. The same way nitrous can get you more power at the expense of blowing up an engine, software can often get more out of an electric car with comparable risks.

Re:Some things should probably be left alone (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#39734271)

They dont scare me. a idiot that drops a 300 shot NO2 kit on his honda civic will not b e a problem, as the idiot will blow up the engine in the first 2 blocks.

Adding a turbo is also a skill thing, the honda forums are full of morons that slap on a random turbo and blow up their engines.

Hardware mods have a wonderful thing of destroying the motor if you dont know what you are doing. 99% of the time they dont even get out of their driveway.

Re:Some things should probably be left alone (1)

AngryDeuce (2205124) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733229)

But generally in the past, it took at least a modicum of skill to work on a car.

I bet there are a lot of mechanics out there that would beg to differ. I'm sure any one of them could tell you stories of people fucking their cars up thinking they're Mr. Goodwrench (although probably not as much as there used to be).

Re:Some things should probably be left alone (3, Insightful)

virg_mattes (230616) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733285)

This doesn't make a lot of sense, because most of the things that software could do will only be minor tuning of specific systems, and anything that's likely to cause a catastrophic failure will usually stop the car before it starts. Even a blue screen will usually just cause the car to stall, which is unlikely to cause a pileup.

Without hardware modifications, changing the performance of the car to any real degree (other than making it unable to run at all) is unlikely.

Virg

Re:Some things should probably be left alone (1)

isopropanol (1936936) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733421)

This is perhaps not as true of electric drive cars with regenerative braking... Take out the regenerative braking (or worse, power during it) and stopping distances on hydraulic only could be substantially longer. Also, if the controller thinks it should be applying power there is no option to "put it in neutral" since there is probably no clutch or gearbox to disengage.

Re:Some things should probably be left alone (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733475)

Without hardware modifications, changing the performance of the car to any real degree (other than making it unable to run at all) is unlikely.

I don't think you understand just how much electronics is controlling your direction and speed these days. With all sorts of anti-spin, electronic stabilization, adaptive cruise control, collision detection and whatnot the computer can and will gas, brake and steer on its own and disregard what you do if it's programmed to. Trigger the auto-emergency braking system because you mucked with it and your car will suddenly break at maximum ability without any warning. Or how about refusing to follow the turn because you mucked with the electronic stabilization so the car thinks you have no grip to steer with? And unless there's hardwired safety limits you can probably do things that would make the car catch on fire, which could easily be a death trap in a tunnel. Don't mess with a ton of metal travelling at 50-100 mph unless you know exactly what you're doing.

Re:Some things should probably be left alone (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733657)

How is that worse than, eg., forgetting to put the wheel nuts back on after you rotated the tires?

(And yes, you can get quite a distance with no wheel nuts before the wheel falls off - I've seen it done...)

nonsense (1, Insightful)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733303)

interested people already modify the car's computer(s). if your car won't stop when its blue-screened you bought a poorly designd (and perhaps overpriced) piece of shit. all good cars can steer and stop when "blue-screened". and by the way, if you can't steer your car without power steering assist you're a pussy who should stay in the basement. parallel parking with a broken power steering belt is merely annoying

Re:nonsense (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39733437)

having driven cars with broken power steering, you're talking out your ass. Broken PS is MUCH more difficult then a manual steering car(yes they made cars without PS). Parallel parking a car of any size with broken PS is difficult to impossible.

Re:nonsense (1)

Brian Feldman (350) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733697)

Having spent plenty of time driving a 1985 RX-7 with broken power steering, I have to say that you're a real weakling.

Re:nonsense (2)

Scarred Intellect (1648867) | more than 2 years ago | (#39734157)

and by the way, if you can't steer your car without power steering assist you're a pussy who should stay in the basement. parallel parking with a broken power steering belt is merely annoying

...saith the guy who obviously doesn't drive a diesel pickup.

Seriously though, dead power steering is worse than no power steering...but with a heavier vehicle, it become exceedingly difficult. It takes all 180 pounds of me to turn the wheel of a HMMWV with dead power steering, and that can only be done when it's moving, and I'm far from a pussy, though some days it would be nice to stay in a basement. My Dodge Ram, on the other hand...well, I'm sure that's just as difficult, but I haven't had my power steering pump die. But in a simple passenger car, yes, you are entirely correct.

Re:nonsense (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#39734323)

" you bought a poorly designd (and perhaps overpriced) piece of shit."

Like all BMW's and AUDI's with adaptive steering. if you command it to engage BOTH solenoids at once you lock gearing and lose steering. there have been reports of this happening on BMW's

Let me guess ,You think your chevy camaro is the perfect car. Think again when you can disable brakes by engaging the Anti Lock system motors non stop.

Re:Some things should probably be left alone (2)

PSargent (188923) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733337)

But generally in the past, it took at least a modicum of skill to work on a car. Letting any douchebag with a computer plug in and play with any aspect of his car's functions is a little more scaring than a grease monkey putting in new headers on his 66 Mustang.

I don't see a difference. The modicum of skill has just moved disciplines.

A Chimpanzee with a torque wrench could render a car unsafe to drive, but I'd like to see him upload a new firmware.

Regardless, I don't see why it's felt that people employed by the car company are infallible. As a freelance engineer I move from company to company. There's a large proportion of engineers out there that have their hands tied because of office politics, are buried under red tape, are brow-beaten because of unrealistic deadlines or just aren't very good. These guys make mistakes, and often have to live with the bugs because the cost to fix them (financial or political, as deemed by their boss) is too great.

Customers are trusting their lives to this code. They should be allowed to see how good it is. Open it up and let people review and improve the code.

Re:Some things should probably be left alone (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733771)

Yo mean click on a file?
I suspect a monkey can click on a file. Cause, that's all you really need to do to load firmware.

Car companies aren't infallible, but the will be liable, and they will be forced to recall and notify owners. There is a long and entrenched history of that.

The vast majority of people 'improving the code' will have some sort of myopic vision of what 'improvement' means. IT is highly unlikely that they will be able to understand the totality of what the car does. What changing something by a milliseconds can do. You see people doing this all the time in software. What is this person using a class? they suck I'm going to put it into a class" then the extra level of indirection start throwing some other timing off.

And that example is a real world example. It was also a lesson that just because someone does very well at MIT doesn't mean they aren't a dip shit.
And then there is the issue of resale.

Re:Some things should probably be left alone (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733605)

"modicum of skill to work on a car."
and by modicum, you mean 'Use a screw driver'

Re:Some things should probably be left alone (1)

SecurityGuy (217807) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733699)

Of course, many will point out that people have been tinkering with cars since they were invented, and that's true. But generally in the past, it took at least a modicum of skill to work on a car.

Does it really? My mother got into an accident because some dbag for some reason took his wheel off, as in removed the lug nuts, pulled off the tire, for some reason also pulled the nut off the end of the axle, then put the tire back on and tightened up the lug nuts. You miss the important omission? No nut holding the wheel to the axle. Just grease adhesion and the lateral friction of the bearings. Guy made it about a mile before the tire, rim, and hub came off. His car came to an immediate stop, as you might imagine. The wheel kept on going at about 40mph into the side of my mother's car.

It doesn't take skill to work on a car. It takes a ratchet and a socket.

Re:Some things should probably be left alone (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39733789)

It's also easy for people to stab themselves in the face with a knife... but they generally don't. Why? Because it would be incredibly painful, and that is only a small sample of what its like to die in a fiery car crash.

Most people will put their lives just a hair above their desire to tinker with their car.

This would be more likely to lead to improvements across the board rather than imminent death and destruction.

Re:Some things should probably be left alone (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733881)

Letting any douchebag with a computer plug in and play with any aspect of his car's functions is a little more scaring than a grease monkey putting in new headers on his 66 Mustang.

People already can alter their car computers [chevyhiperformance.com] to mess with engine performance and other things.

Hell, there are apps out right now for Android and Apple tablets that let you monitor your ECU in real time....for tuning purposes.

You want to make that illegal now?

Re:Some things should probably be left alone (1)

Scarred Intellect (1648867) | more than 2 years ago | (#39734103)

I'd hate to die in a huge interstate pileup because some dipshit decided to push the overclocking on his car too far and it blue-screened on him at 80 mph.

Of course, many will point out that people have been tinkering with cars since they were invented, and that's true. But generally in the past, it took at least a modicum of skill to work on a car. Letting any douchebag with a computer plug in and play with any aspect of his car's functions is a little more scaring than a grease monkey putting in new headers on his 66 Mustang.

I'd hate to die in a huge interstate pileup because some dipshit decided to change the tires on his car and didn't tighten the lug nuts properly and the wheel fell off at 80 mph.

True story: My dad's wheel fell off his car doing 75mph north on I-25 outside of Colorado Springs in rush hour traffic. The reason: a cotter pin wasn't placed through the axle nut BY A PROFESSIONAL MECHANIC. These things happen every day, even those we trust fuck stuff up, we know this.

Your analogy of tweaking a car's computer to replacing headers is bogus. Headers are simple. Tweaking the computer takes much more technical savvy than does replacing headers, even factoring in the more technical aspect of a computer. People tweak their computers every day, ever see ads for a performance chip?

Yes there's a danger, but that's easily mitigated by using specialized connectors and interfacing to the system. The amount of people with the ability to fuck up changing wheels on a car compared to the amount that actually do is very minimal, and still most that can still have a professional do it.

There would undoubtedly be options to flash the car back to its original state, possibly requiring a dealership to do so. And other safeguards would be put in to ensure that a catastrophic failure does not occur: Oops, your software tweaks destroyed your valves, this isn't going to affect your brakes. Trying to make your brakes more efficient by turning up the generator that does your regenerative braking and fuck it up? I'm sure that particular safeguard is already in place. Some other unforeseen problem that could escalate to a catastrophic failure? Firmware kicks in and puts the car into limp mode

Overall, I say go for it. It might not be the best idea, but since when has the auto industry worked on best ideas?

Re:Some things should probably be left alone (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#39734227)

There is a higher chance of a brake line failing on all cars made, than bad code causing a car to explode. Mostly because all cars are built with crap quality soft steel lines instead of stainless steel that is corrosion proof.

Almost all cars that are more than 10 years old have heavy corrosion on the brake lines and have a significantly elevated risk of total brake failure. Because the car makers wanted to save $200.00 and dont care about your safety.

Easy Solution (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39733167)

Have it open source, but the car only accept signed code from the manufacturer. People can find bug and patch them, submit back to central place to commit approved changes.

Re:Easy Solution (1)

azalin (67640) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733297)

That might even work. Not that it would happen in this wonderful world, but work it might

Review Board (2)

MacGyver2210 (1053110) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733557)

I would like to see it take an open-source model with a review board to make sure the changes are safe. I propose the review board is half computer engineers and half automobile engineers, and they will judge and pass/fail the additions with sufficient documentation on their decision so the proposer/person adding the code or feature can modify it to suit their approval.

Re:Review Board (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733791)

I propose it's the QA team at the auto company that designed that car.

Re:Easy Solution (1)

sckeener (137243) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733603)

Someday a war will happen just like it did on BSG. The enemy will flip a switch and turn off all the vehicles.

Already exists. (4, Insightful)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733183)

People have been building electric cars for decades. The internet is FULL of open source electric car projects.

Did anyone even try google before asking?

https://www.google.com/search?source=ig&hl=en&rlz=&q=build+an+electric+car&oq=build+an+electric+car&aq=f&aqi=g4g-v6&aql=&gs_nf=1&gs_l=igoogle.3..0l4j0i15l6.66739.69666.0.69806.21.21.0.3.3.0.188.1920.5j13.18.0 [google.com] .

It's the best idea to have open source everything. Building your own car, electric or gas is a wonderful thing and where real innovation comes from.

Someones back yard shed or garage is the best place to come up with better ideas.

Re:Already exists. (0)

azalin (67640) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733353)

And how many of those open source cars are allowed to drive legally on public roads? Around here they are awfully strict on ANY kind of modification/design that is remotely relevant to safety.

Re:Already exists. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39733523)

All of them. Maybe if you took a look you would have saw that.

WikiSpeed (3, Interesting)

ka9dgx (72702) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733615)

The WikiSpeed [wikispeed.com] project is aimed at producing street legal cars that get 100 MPG, have 5 Star crash ratings and would be priced at $25,000. They've won an X prize already.

They are applying the principles of agile development to every aspect of the process possible. Everything is modular so that you can work on an engine system separately from other parts of the machine. You could do a hybrid, or straight electric system if you wanted to.

Re:Already exists. (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733803)

"Someones back yard shed or garage is the best place to come up with better ideas."
no, not really.

Arent mechanical cars already open source? (2)

mehrotra.akash (1539473) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733201)

So, why shouldnt the same extend to electronic cars (including safeties to ensure only modifications that the owner approves are allowed)

I don't see a problem... (1)

AngryDeuce (2205124) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733203)

Provided there are safeguards to prevent someone from doing something really stupid with their car's software, especially as concerns safety.

We're never going to eliminate tinkering; no matter how closed a system is, people find ways around it whether they like it or not. With safety concerns, I don't see why they can't have core safety software be read only (to prevent people from blowing up their batteries or something stupid) while still allowing people to poke around in less crucial areas to customize their car's operation.

Not on public roads without some level of QA! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39733219)

They should be open source. And, just like homebuilt airplanes, not allowed out in public until they've been inspected and passed the same level of rigor.

Re:Not on public roads without some level of QA! (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733339)

people already modding cars including computer systems and that is NOT one of leading cause of accidents, not even on list. impatience, carelessness are the two biggies, drunken driving..... a non-issue, you're more likely to get struck by lightning than hurt or killed by someone who made unsafe car mod. not a credible threat.

Re:Not on public roads without some level of QA! (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733867)

not yet. But as systems are pout into place to mitigate carelessness and drunk driving, then there is a risk of making them faulty.

Comparing people modding there software now and saying it won't be a problem is like looking at hackers in 1970 and saying : See, hackers aren't a threat to computers, and we don't have to worry about people getting into computers.

As this expands, a time will come were ANYONE can download some mod off the internet and easily install it into their car.
They won't have the skill to look at what it does.

All it will take is an app that says 'Improve your gas mileage buy 10%!'. Followed by a bunch of pop cultures pseudo science.

Re:Not on public roads without some level of QA! (1)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733363)

They should be open source. And, just like homebuilt airplanes, not allowed out in public until they've been inspected and passed the same level of rigor.

Why not like homebuilt cars, which have to be tested but not nearly as rigorously? I wouldn't mind betting that this is what you should do legally after modding a car anyway

Liability can-o-worms (1)

Matt_Bennett (79107) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733277)

Most open source makes it clear "no guarantee" "you are responsible" etc. When you're fiddling around with your computer, not a problem, you are pretty limited in the scope what you can really mess up (and your ISP has a pretty easy switch to cut you off). But, when we start looking at cars- most places have liability insurance requirements, because when things go bad, they can really go bad- far faster than most people have cash reserves to cover (in the case of someone else's injuries). How do we extend this to cars? It must be in place to some extent, since people have been modifying cars since there were cars.

Re:Liability can-o-worms (1)

AngryDeuce (2205124) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733377)

I'm sure that any insurance investigation would involve investigating the car's software if there was a question of driver liability. We're already not far off from every car being required to have a "black box" for the purposes of accident reconstruction and assigning fault. [infowars.com]

Either we're going to be signing EULAs and ToS documentation when we take possession of a new car in the future that specifically states that any modifications are at the owners risk....or there is going to be regulation in place prohibiting 3rd parties from editing the car's software. Either way, it's really going to depend on the first few legal cases to set some sort of precedent one way or the other.

Re:Liability can-o-worms (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733913)

assuming it survives.
"Black boxes in cars loose their data when they loose power. An actual black box would raise the price of the car several 1000 dollars. And of course, if the software is modifiable, the Black box can be fooled.

hmmm. Now that I think about it, the black box would probably be made a lot cheaper by uploading a short state histiry whenever it has access to the internet...
I don't like that because that means there would be a wireless attack vector,.

In anycase, it could still be fooled with a software mod.

Also, what happens when someone mods there car, the sells the car?

"simple as re-jetting the carbs"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39733283)

Good grief, you're STILL USING CARBURETTERS when the rest of the world has moved onto fuel injection. America, this is what's wrong with your car industry and why nobody wants to buy them.

Re:"simple as re-jetting the carbs"? (1)

Matt_Bennett (79107) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733347)

I don't think there has been a new car with carbs in the US market (American Marque or not) in at least 20 years- excluding limited production cars, at least. Meeting new car emissions requirements with carbs is virtually impossible.

All software is complex (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39733307)

All software is complex. Allowing users to modify it is a REALLY BAD IDEA!!! They might make a mistake! Kitchen knives should be illegal too. Someone might stab their neighbor or a fuzzy animal! And hairspray is flammable! People should be limited to 3oz of this explosive substance!

wrong (4, Interesting)

miknix (1047580) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733309)

Many are keen on the concept of open source electric cars — that is, electric cars where the built-in software can be tweaked, parameters can be changed, and in theory, the cars can be improved.

Operating systems can also be tweaked, parameters can be changed, and they have indeed been improved. Do you see average Joe tweaking the swappiness of his kernel? Also, opensource isn't just about tweaking but also contributing back to the community the improvements found.

so allowing average Joe to tweak the car's inner workings seems like a bad idea.

So what? Average Joe can also play with the inner workings of his phone, router, TV, etc.. does he do that? No, if he wants to mess with his router he asks to the geek living next door.

lame

They need to be more open (1)

negativeduck (2510256) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733319)

Personally I'm often annoyed that I can't //easily// get access to car systems and that I'm forced to use the system in a very specific way. I'd love it if the systems on a car are far more user settable via more simple means. Yes you can get into it but I think that auto manufactures are to (and I hate to admit it rightfully) concerned about people making mistakes and causing major fatalities and the ensuing lawsuit. Enough so that access for people who have a reasonable understanding just isn't available.

Although at the same time you start to think about people defeating aspects of the cars.
http://www.ted.com/talks/avi_rubin_all_your_devices_can_be_hacked.html [ted.com]

He references some of the experiments that have been done on security in cars and the papers issued by a few universities in different tests. Obviously it's different and yes nothing is secure but I think automakes have simpler concerns around this same problem with opensource cars that are user configurable.

Read Jailbroken iphone with default root pw worms.

Open source cars: fine. Driving them: not so much (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39733321)

I have no problem with people coding the software in their car. I have a problem with people driving them on the public road before a certification process.

People doing experimental stuff in linux does not bother me. People doing experimental stuff on a machine I have stored my credit card info on does bother me.

Re:Open source cars: fine. Driving them: not so mu (1)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733383)

I have no problem with people coding the software in their car. I have a problem with people driving them on the public road before a certification process.

People doing experimental stuff in linux does not bother me. People doing experimental stuff on a machine I have stored my credit card info on does bother me.

I hate to tell you this but with many financial institutions the machine your credit card info is stored on is running Linux. In the case of my employer Red Hat Enterprise running Oracle RAC.

Re:Open source cars: fine. Driving them: not so mu (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733429)

Why?
People modify their cars all the time and drive them on the open road with no such certification process. Should I no longer be allowed to replace the braking system or swap out injectors or add a turbo to my cars? That machine that stores your credit card info might well be running linux. Many Point Of Sale systems are running it.

Re:Open source cars: fine. Driving them: not so mu (1)

AngryDeuce (2205124) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733497)

And how the hell do you propose we do that? Mandatory roadside checks so the police can make sure your custom firmware is sound?

Everyone keeps saying "as long as they're inspected/regulated" but how in the hell would you enforce something like that? If the system is open to user modification at all than there is simply no way to stop people from doing so whether it's regulated or not. People are going to do it anyway.

This is why I feel that certain safety related features be set to "read only" by the factory, while allowing code monkeys to get in there and play around with non-essential stuff would be the way to go. There will always be grumbling from people looking for deeper access (and lord knows they'll hack their way in whether you like it or not, so even that isn't 100%) but it will at least prevent the "script kiddies" from downloading malicious code and blowing up their car's batteries or have their braking system BSoD on the freeway.

This is a war that's been raging for years on other fronts...the automobile is just the newest battlefield.

Security! (1)

Ken_g6 (775014) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733357)

What if somebody else hacks your car? E.g. so that it won't drive slower than 80MPH, and if you try the batteries explode? Yeah, that particular scenario is probably impossible, but the point is that the electric car version of cutting the brake lines or making the throttle sticky, though harder to do, could also be harder to detect, and harder to stop.

Re:Security! (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733397)

it's 50MPH no 80MPH Pop quiz, hotshot What do you do? What do you do?

Re:Security! (1)

AngryDeuce (2205124) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733409)

Shoot the hostage!!!

Re:Security! (1)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733683)

Security is exactly why cars should be opensourced. Today's cars have crappy security, at least with opensource owners would have a chance of fixing it. If you are afraid of an attacker replacing the entire code, that doesn't require the software to be opensource, the attacker could write his own from scratch.

Author has no idea of the open source model (2)

davydagger (2566757) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733361)

I am supprised this article made it on slashdot, it is almost downright slander against open source. It takes a single case, and uses it against all open source code. This is classic FUD. this is a SINGLE bug in a SINGLE product. How many recalls, errors, and bugs do more mainstream and closed source car companies have. Many are FATAL. Toyota runaway acceleration bug of two years ago anyone?

After all the shit Big Auto has done over the years, and suddenly the open source model is under attack because of merely two recalls of a new type of product thats never really been done on a mass scale before?

Anyone has actually used software knows there are FAR less bugs in open source software than closed. Think about it or a second. You have more people looking over the code in error checking, far more man/hours going into the project than would be feasible for a for-profit closed source project, where you'd have to pay everyone who even came close to the code.(not cheap either).

Then we have quality of individual. People who program closed source don't give a shit so long as their job doesn't go away. Open Source Programmers CARE. Next your going to tell me some guy in a cubicle with a bachleors, or even associates in computer science is going to match

Back to the topic, Open Source cars are STILL a great idea. We just need some people who are better at it.

Rootability. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39733371)

Yes to open source. Vehicular software needs improvement, especially for electric and other alt fuels. Auto manufacturers and their software vendors will just drag everything down with patent and copyright nonsense. Actually, Federal funding should mandate open source status so development can "accelerate."

However, rooting/jailbreaking should cause 100% liability falling in the lap of the rooting party. If they want to develop the software, they should have to take responsibility for whatever disasters occur. This includes automatically notifying the insurance company vultures so premiums can be adjusted out in the open.

This probably will discourage quick-buck artists, but make little or no difference hacker hot rodders.

Ask yourself a few questions: (1)

Covalent (1001277) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733385)

Which kind of software gets hacked more, open source or closed source?
Which kind of software has flaws that are corrected more quickly, open source or closed source?
Which kind of software is more flexible under unanticipated new situations, open source or closed source?
Which kind of software should run your car? Easy answer.

Re:Ask yourself a few questions: (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733801)

Another arguments are:
"Which kind of software is easier to maintain, open source or closed source?"
"Which kind of software is cheaper to maintain, open source or closed source?"
"Which kind of software is easier to enhance, open source or closed source?"
"Which kind of software is cheaper to enhance, open source or closed source?"

"I've always enjoyed, 'sticking it to the man.'" -- Unknown

Hi-Tech Compromise (1)

StoneyMahoney (1488261) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733399)

The Nissan GT-R has a limiter that disengages when the GPS registers it's at a race track. How about the same technology controls whether or not the car can run only manufacturer-signed code?

Race tracks will need to be registered with the manufacturer, track location data will need to be distributed some how (and promptly updated when street tracks are in session, like Targa Tasmania etc.) but hey, that stuff is easy by comparison with convincing people user-adjustable cars are a safe idea (no matter how out-of-date this idea actually is).

Re:Hi-Tech Compromise (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733887)

I thought that was only the japanese model?
Otherwise who would buy one? How would you register the local tracks and closed airports?

Re:Hi-Tech Compromise (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733977)

The Nissan GT-R has a limiter that disengages when the GPS registers it's at a race track. How about the same technology controls whether or not the car can run only manufacturer-signed code?

Hmm...I wonder if they've come up with a way to disable that safety 'feature' yet?

I know I sure would want to if I owned a car like that....

No (1)

binkless (131541) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733419)

Electric Cars have all been commercial flops

Therefore Electric Cars are not a good idea

Therefore Open Source Electric Cars are not a good idea

Q.E.D.

Re:No (1)

youn (1516637) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733463)

it is not because something is a commercial flop that the idea is bad... apple worked on a tablet a while back, the newton and it was a flop... microsoft has been working on windows mobile for a while (ok bad example, please don't hit me :p )

Re:No (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733689)

Actually, wind blows semimobile shows what optimizing the bottom line for tomorrow morning can accomplish. Such experts did great things to HP, now they've moved on to some other accomplishment waiting to happen; that we'll find out about after the market closes.

Re:No (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733723)

Your Tensor has a flaw; golf carts? Also, a close runner up is the Toyota Prius. I wish more cars used Toyota's solution. I know, in good time.

I'm sorry I am late, had 2 cvs update my wheels :) (1)

youn (1516637) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733441)

no, not the whole car, the actual wheels micro code... that does not sound right :)

Proprietary Electric Cars - Good Idea Or Not? (3, Informative)

gQuigs (913879) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733511)

"Carmakers themselves have trouble with software--Fisker has issued a recall and apology recently with its Karma". Perhaps they should not be allowed to use proprietary software code. Opening up the code allows for more control by the people who actually own the cars.

Furthermore, in many incidents like the Toyota acceleration issue, having open code/data is essential for proper investigations and accident reconstruction.

I for one, really do want to buy a car running on a RMS style of software freedom. I'm trusting my life to this car, I want to increase the chances a bug will be caught. I don't even necessarily want to make any modifications without the car companies blessing. At the end of the day, I'm spending >$20,000 on this thing, I want and should have control of it.

So.. which car companies/cars are the most easy to modify by the owners? Have any car companies embraced this? If not for underlying systems, how about at least for the GPS/Infotainment systems?

Re:Proprietary Electric Cars - Good Idea Or Not? (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733775)

Toyota acceleration issues?
You mean people who can't drive?

Re:Proprietary Electric Cars - Good Idea Or Not? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39733985)

I for one, really do want to buy a car running on a RMS style of software freedom. I'm trusting my life to this car, I want to increase the chances a bug will be caught. I don't even necessarily want to make any modifications without the car companies blessing. At the end of the day, I'm spending >$20,000 on this thing, I want and should have control of it.

And the other people on the road are also trusting their lives the the software in YOUR car. Do you think they want you fucking with it and not testing? I appreciate all the techies in California, but I wish you guys would stop thinking you can do better than Detroit because software and electrons are moving the vehicles. * Tesla, Fisker, Aptera, etc... Testing consists of fleets of vehicles driven cumulatively hundreds of thousands (or even millions) of miles in many conditions before they are made available to the public and a ton of that is on non-public roads. This is one area Google is being incredibly irresponsible AFAICT with thier autonomous vehicles being tested in the Bay area.

Virtual open source car (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39733527)

If tweaking real car is too dangerous then you could build simulator that runs open source software and then real car builders could make a real car after rigorous testing using some ideas from open source car.

Mother Fisker Knows Best (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733599)

...Only it's a really, really bad idea...

But it's an OK idea to work on petroleum product based transportation?

This is about Open Hardware, not Open Source. (1)

Egdiroh (1086111) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733637)

Ever since RMS conceived his scheme to get open hardware by giving away free software, the difference between hardware and software, with regard to being open or free is just a mess.

An open source car, would have it's specs and software available for the public to look at, but not necessarily allow for the running of unapproved code variants, because the source is open no the hardware.

A Car that was open hardware, would let you run your own code and modify components, without necessarily letting you see all the details of the running code or factory parts.

Open source cars, could be safer because of external review.

I think that cars with open hardware might be a bad idea because cars a potentially a large public menace (and might be domestically the most lethal type of machine) and verifying the relative safety of any modifications would be very hard. Car makers have large budgets for that and they don't always get it right.

FUD (1)

lwriemen (763666) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733853)

One writer, with no discernible software background, using another writer, with no discernible software background, as a source. Both make assumptions that open source somehow attracts a lower skill level of software developer than than large corporations (who have been known to source based on cost rather than skill). It's funny that their supporting data comes from a closed environment.

Why use Software at all? example the 1912 e-car (1)

Wingfat (911988) | more than 2 years ago | (#39733975)

in 1912 they made an electric car.. marketed it towards women. it had no software. no PC running things. just simple levers and pullys and there you go. My HPI E-Firestorm Brushless truck has no PC or Software and it is Remote Controlled.. why oh why are the car makers not using the current RC car tech? my truck with a 3c lipo will wheelie and take off to go up to 70MPH, granted i couldnt ride it to work 30miles away, but if all the parts were full scale I would bet it could.

Real Engineers (1)

medcalf (68293) | more than 2 years ago | (#39734001)

At GM at least, the car software is written by real engineers, the kind that hve passed certification tests and are responsible for life and death choices. The people who do web sites and apps and call themselves engineers (ie, people like me) aren't allowed near that stuff. And for good reason: it's an utterly different skill set.

Thiis is a pointless rant... Hackers will hack ... (1)

King_TJ (85913) | more than 2 years ago | (#39734013)

Some of the commenters I see here are asking whether this is one of those things you just don't want people fooling around with, since accidents caused by someone tinkering could cost human lives.

To that, all I can say is, "Huh?" There's an inherent danger in driving or even just riding in a motor vehicle on a public road. We've all accepted that, since the positives seem to outweigh the negatives -- even though MANY, MANY people are killed in vehicle accidents each year. So how does one make the logical conclusion that although all of THAT is acceptable, it's suddenly NOT acceptable to allow end users to edit software on their electric vehicle?

It seems to me that most "bad" modifications one could do would only lead to such things as premature wear or failure of parts, meaning more expense for the owner due to breakdowns (not covered by a warranty). That's not really any different than it's ALWAYS been, with people deciding to upgrade or swap out parts of their gasoline powered vehicles. You do it the right way and you might gain a few HP or foot/lbs. of torque. You do it the WRONG way, and you wind up breaking your driveshaft or causing check engine lights, or create a "flat spot" where your car lacks power in one part of the powerband, or ?? You *might* even do something so wrong, your car catches on fire and explodes (like introducing a fuel rail leak while trying to upgrade to larger injectors?).

Anyway, even with no "open source" available for most current engine and transmission computers in cars, people manage to hack them. All open source does is make the job easier for people inclined to make such changes, and gives them a better shot at doing a thorough/proper job of it too.

Electric cars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39734177)

Great idea, because the electricity comes from the power supply, there is no energy loss over landlines, and giant batteries are extremely eco-friendly.

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