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Hack Your Ignition (Before Someone Else Does)

timothy posted more than 12 years ago | from the no-one-would-and-they-wouldn't-want-to dept.

Technology 439

guanxi writes: "IEEE Spectrum has an interesting article about hacking and specifically, the "hacker's nirvana on wheels", all the way from hot-rodding to reprogramming your digital ignition. Of course, I neither endorse nor recommend any of the procedures mentioned, any of which may be inherently dangerous to your life and your warranty. "

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I am the master of the first post! (-1)

Pr0n K1ng (160688) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288677)

Get it in you!

Re:I am the master of the first post! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3288739)

Wow, I'm really impressed that you have zero life except to post a "first post" on /.

Don't bother flaming me, you'll only look dumber (if that is possible)

30 seconds of my life gone flaming the mental equivalent of a snail... sigh.

Re:I am the master of the first post! (-1)

Pr0n K1ng (160688) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288880)

30 seconds of your life. Wasted replying to one of my (many) first posts. If you don't care (it seems that you do), why did you respond?

You are a complete fuckwit.

Re:I am the master of the first post! (-1)

YourMissionForToday (556292) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288922)

You win!

Man, this topic sucks! The joke's on anyone who posts a legit comment.

Bicycle. (1, Funny)

0xB (568582) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288678)

That's why I cycle. Nothing to hack into.

Re:Bicycle. (5, Funny)

ktakki (64573) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288703)

Nothing to hack into.


Nothing to hack? Hah!

It starts with the baseball cards taped to the frame that make the BRRRRRRR sound in the spokes.

Next thing you know you've got an oxy-acetalyne torch in your hand and you're welding a sissy bar to the frame and extending the front forks for that low-rent low-rider look.

Ask the people at Fat City or Rivendell how they got started.

k.

Re:Bicycle. (2)

bonzoesc (155812) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288936)

That's why I walk. Nothing to hack into.

Re:Bicycle. (2, Funny)

errxn (108621) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288963)

Nothing to hack? Hah!

It starts with those beers that you drank at the bar that you're walking home from....

Re:Bicycle. (-1)

Original AIDS Monkey (315494) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288973)

Oh yeah? Bend over, cutie.

Re:Bicycle. (2, Funny)

tartanboy (262669) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288705)

Except your bike lock...

Re:Bicycle. (1)

Anne_Nonymous (313852) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288846)

You are kidding right?

It starts out simple with a lightweight gearset and you end up with a $600 bike with $2500 of mods on it. Arrrrgggg!!!

Digital Odometers (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3288691)

How about hacking digital odometers?
I'd imaging it is just stored in memory somewhere. Set'er back to 0 and no one would be the wiser!

Re:Digital Odometers (3, Informative)

BeerSlurpy (185482) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288797)

There are devices for hacking odometers of various cars. The "all makes and models" variety routinely sell for 2500-3000 on ebay. I imagine there are quite a few cars out there with dialed back mileage.

I personally think that digital odometers were a mistake, but I also think that once you get past the 150k mile mark, mileage is pretty irrelavant, since most of the car has been replaced with newer parts at that point. My old car was in better shape at 140k miles than at 118k. Ive gone through numerous body panels, a radiator, a cylinder head, a few sets of tires, shocks, brakes etc etc. I think I would rather have a rebuilt car with 200k on the clock than an original parts car with 115k.

Re:Digital Odometers (-1)

Roto-Rooter Man (520267) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288980)

Women are very similar. Porn star Houston got a labia reduction, and it's like she has a whole new pussy to stretch out and ruin.

Re:Digital Odometers (2)

dodald (195775) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288807)

The problem with this is in some (if not most) newer cars not only store the odometer reading digitally but also mechanically somewhere else. (Usually its the other way around the odometer is mechanical, but the milage is also stored in the computer to turn the "change oil" lights and the service engine (on those annoying prissy cars :)). And I have even heard of some with the odometer reading stored twice digitally, one in the dashboard unit and then a separate on in the cars computer. (I believe the lincoln towncar ~94 did this). Its much easier (speaking from real experience) to avoid adding the miles by turning the dashboard off and using a separate circuit to the computer. The DMV (at least in NY) checks for odometer fruad anyway so if you rolled it back you most likly get caught, but if it just stopped or significantly slowed you'd probably get away with it

Re:Digital Odometers (1)

ralfp (519069) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288817)

The problem with messing with a digital odometer is that it would be illegal, and with good reason. ---- No, I don't support the DMCA :-)

Hacking an old fashioned analog odometer is easy (at least I imagine it to be), and people do it frequently. It is also possible to detect odometer rollbacks through DMV records in many states.

One possible advantage of digital odometers is that you could make it impossible (ie really hard) to mess with them. It would not be too hard to make an IC with EPROM that counts only upwards (such things probably exist already).

Of course it would still be possible to make an odometer count more slowly (just like my analog one does for some reason, by about 1%. Of course I will drive the car until it dies, so who cares).

Re:Digital Odometers (2)

ncc74656 (45571) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288915)

Hacking an old fashioned analog odometer is easy (at least I imagine it to be), and people do it frequently.

A while back, I replaced the speedometer in my '77 Cutlass Supreme with an older model...the replacement (swiped from a '73 Cutlass in the junkyard) is a 120-mph speedometer with a nicer-looking scale than the 85-mph speedometer that was in my car. I wanted to retain the odometer reading, though. It turned out to be fairly easy to unclip the odometer mechanism from the "old" speedometer and stick it into the "new" speedo. If I had been so inclined, a few minutes with an electric drill would've let me dial in whatever mileage I wanted. (FWIW, it's old enough that it rolls over at 100k miles. It's probably rolled over once, but it very well could've rolled over twice—or not at all—before I bought the car. As for odometer checks, it was exempt on account of (1) age and (2) the probability that it had exceeded its mechanical limits.)

Re:Digital Odometers (1)

Swaffs (470184) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288820)

I work for a company with many high-mileage Ford full-size vans. The ones made around 95 have a digital odometer. This odometer, when it hits 400,000 clicks, resets to 300,000. We've got at least 2 vans that have done it twice.

Another interesting point, is that on one of them, the ignition was sticking a bit at one time. Now, most ignitions, when you crank them, kill all the electronics in the vehicle to get as much power to the starter as possible.

But this particular van, after you released the ignition once the engine fired, the ignition wouldn't come fully back to the "On" position from the "Start" position. The starter would seem to disengage, but the power to the rest of the electronics wouldn't come back unless you manually brought the switch back to the On position. This meant no headlights, turn signals, radios, and no guages. Nothing. Which meant that the odometer didn't rack up miles. Perfect if you plan on selling the thing.

I imagine though that it would probably be just as easy to disconnect the cable in a normal odometer if you wanted to deceive. I'm not positive though.

Re:Digital Odometers (1)

dodald (195775) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288957)

its easier then that, there is a fuse that is just for the dash, if you take it out, it stops. I've seen cars that the cruise, and all internal gauges still work after the fuse blows (or the switch is flipped ;) )

Next on 69 Minutes... (-1, Offtopic)

Linuxthess (529239) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288695)

How your neighbors are spying on you, and how to tell if your local water has been laced with the mind-bending chemical bromide by the local shadow government agents.

Re:Next on 69 Minutes... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3288755)

Next on conspiracy theory 101- how to tell if some jackass is being, well, a jackass.

Step 1- See parent post.
Step 2- Graduate.

The average IQ on /. is dropping like a brick from a plane. Too bad it didn't hit Linuxthess in the head on the way down...

Re:Next on 69 Minutes... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3288917)

Planes usually drop shitcicles [poopreport.com] , not bricks, but otherwise your comment is spot on.

Other avenues of hot-rodding? (-1, Offtopic)

dev_alac (536560) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288697)

But the real question is, can the Sweedish Chef utilize any of these techniques to hot-rod his hat?

Bork bork bork bork...

car mods (5, Informative)

flynt (248848) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288699)

here is a sweet page about modding cars [teammatrix.com.my] . It can turn you into a ricer real quick. Car mods are pretty popular these days in my town, from big fins to stickers, to large exhaust pipes, there's just no end to the mods.

Re:car mods (1)

hatter3bdev (533135) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288779)

to large exhaust pipes

They prefer you call them fart-tips ;-)

Re:car mods (1)

ncc74656 (45571) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288987)

to large exhaust pipes

They prefer you call them fart-tips ;-)

On the mailing lists to which I subscribe, "coffee-can exhaust" is the usual phrase I hear. (IIRC, this page [angelfire.com] has a funny take on coffee-can exhausts. I think I've seen it before, but I can't verify it because Angelfire says the site exceeded its bandwidth limit.)

Re:car mods (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3288823)

The same people who 'mod' their cars with big fins and stickers are the same people who 'mod' their boxes with windows and lights. They just want to make their pansy little box or car look faster. Those of us with real machines are quite content with our beige cases (in my case, a older, but still fast as all hell compaq proliant 8000 which was picked up dirt cheap from a dot com gone bust) and sleeper cars (also in my case, an Alpina).

Re:car mods (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3288844)

i know my post was joking, that's why i called them ricers.

Re:car mods (2)

i_am_nitrogen (524475) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288843)

Rice boys.... Heh. The most amusing modification I saw was a Honda Accord or some other non-fast car with a very (very) large stainless steel "wing" on the back. It didn't even make the car look faster or better. Definitely furious, but far from fast.

The modifications that really make a difference almost always take place under the hood, invisible to the rice eye.

Re:car mods (2, Informative)

Anne_Nonymous (313852) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288860)

http://www.goingfaster.com/spo/you_might_be_a_rice r_if.html

Re:car mods (1)

rubicon7 (51782) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288864)

Hey, why don't PC case modding sites have a "Babe of the Week?"

Took me under an hour.. (4, Interesting)

bollocks (80650) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288706)

to crash the on systems on my current car. It was the first thing I tried, even before finding a deserted country road to find out how fast it could go.

What I also learnt while I was at it is that since they don't seem to expect anyone to try they don't bother making them tolerant of tampering and after a little playing even a hard reset didn't get it responding, I ended up having to disconnect the battery.

Re:Took me under an hour.. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3288811)

u sooo leet... i haxored my gear box. i just drove around in first all day then it started pissing tranny fluid.... now i'm as leet as u.

Oh no! (1)

BSDGeek (528577) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288709)

I hope no one tries to hack the digital ignition in my scooter!!

Re:Oh no! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3288734)

I'm gay too.

segway... (1)

bje2 (533276) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288736)

or in my segway...oh wait, they're stupid anyway...

Tune with care (5, Insightful)

klui (457783) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288716)

One of the problems with tuners is that they add more power without accounting for aging of components. This isn't usually a problem in racing since you're rebuilding your components after every or a number of races. But for "hackers," they often tune it and forget it--or tune it and increase the mods. Sometime down the road, they'll blow a piston or apex seal without warning. Not to mention several thousand dollars' down the drain.

I personally prefer more conservative tuning, but then when some guy beats you during an ad-hoc "race," your first instinct is "gotta get mo' power."

Re:Tune with care (2, Insightful)

KernelHappy (517524) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288780)

Very good point. The author also mentions how physical hacking on a car is more expensive because sometimes you have to test things to the point of destruction. He fails to recognize that hacking away at inginition timing and/or the air/fuel mixture through software can cause lots of damage (modified RX7's are great for this).

I'm all for hacking cars. I personally dislike the way manufacturers today make it nearly impossible to replace a factory stereo without major work. Look at newer Mercedes and BMW's (especially the new 745 with iDrive). There have been plenty of times I wished I could change the way the Mercedes navigation system takes user input (scroll left and right to select letters, I'd much prefer using the numbers on the keypad). I'd also like to fix a bug where the integrated telephone only lets you dial the first number associated with a particular name (Timeports allow multiple number per location/name) but I'm stuck until they get enough complaints and do it themselves.

How do you... (3, Funny)

IronTek (153138) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288718)

So how do you think you explain this to your car company if you screw it up?

Honda: "what's the problem, sir"

You: "well, I was wiring an internal network into my car and fused my hand to the cable and the glove box. Is this covered?"

The Aritcle in a Nutshell... (5, Funny)

cscx (541332) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288721)

Man invents automobile.

Man builds automobile.

Man adds digital data bus to automobile.

Man discovers that you can snoop on automobile's digital data busses.

Man succeeds.

Man discovers no useful information from snooping automobile's digital data bus.

Logical conclusion: Man has too much time on his hands.

A question (4, Insightful)

sllort (442574) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288723)

Reverse-engineering is fun. Reverse-engineering embedded systems is even more fun, because it's hard. Reverse-engineering safety-critical embedded systems is really challenging, and not for the stupid.

Now, what the author is talking about is reverse-engineering the systems that control AntiLock braking, ignition, and transmission control, among other things. It's a really cheap way to improve performance on a car.

Car companies (well, at least Ford [fordreallysucks.com] ) have a bad history when it comes to electronic civil liberties. At what point in reverse-engineering a throttle control system would you be "bypassing an access protection device"? Probably never. But consider that Adobe got someone jailed for breaking ROT13; Cuecat was XOR. If people start selling hot-rod software (and they are), how long will it be till auto manufacturers start answering Yes to the author's "is it encrypted" question. It might only be ROT13, but it would be enough to bust anyone who was selling firmware upgrades for a Mustang and put them out of business for good.

Anyone remember the 60 minutes Audi 5000 scandal? Where the car's fuel injection system was said to, in rare cases, cause the car to accelerate out of control, causing injury or death? Let your subconcious do the dreaming about the accidents that could come from improperly debugged ABS code or throttle control. Now imagine that someone hacks their car's firmware, crashes in a fireball, and their family sues the automaker. The automaker can't prove that the car was modified... at all.

My prediction: this stuff will scare automakers shitless, and they will fall all overthemselves to find a way to apply the DMCA to stopping the dissemination of reverse-engineering information.

Of course, I could be wrong.

Re:A question (1)

DuncanMurray (448670) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288763)

I'm no expert when it comes to forensic science, but surely they would be able to tell if the original ROM had been removed and replaced with an EPROM chip - sure the datas gone because its all a pile of plastic goo, but there must be other ways.

Re:A question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3288967)

well, but if the original already are eeprom? ask your mercedes-benz dealer. he has a nifty cd in his bag to update your sl's (2002 model) electronics. the same is for the new e-class (W211)

Hacking the Odometer (5, Interesting)

atheos (192468) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288724)

I've got a nice hack for ya.
New Ford F-150's, Expeditions, ect.
Unplug the main harness going to the digital display, and locate a gray wire, with a black stripe. (your VSS wire) Place a small strip of tape over the metal pin, and
VOLIA
no mo miles

Re:Hacking the Odometer (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3288814)

Usually there is a big sticker back there that will tell you if that has been tampered with.

I would say if you are buying a car that looks like it was way too few miles, then maybe have this checked.

Another way is to check the tires. Is there too much wear for the number of miles are on it? If not, have they been replaced? If you are getting a car that doesn't have original tires after 15,000 miles, its a good sign its been tampered with.

Also, check the ball joints on the stearing in front. I know its silly, but those will show wear pretty well. Struts and shocks are another good indicator.

Re:Hacking the Odometer (1)

Skuld-Chan (302449) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288905)

Actually one of the easiest ways to tell how many miles is on a car is to check the wear of the brake, clutch and throttle control - the actual rubber grips on the pedals.

I've driven at least two cars that had over 100,000 miles on them (my 95 sentra 117,500+ miles on it) and all the pedals are nice and smooth on the corners (like they have been pressed on a lot). Plus its a component that is rarely replaced - even on really well used cars.

Anyhoo - how is the above hack any different then taking the cable off the odometer? Its still a felony.

Linux (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3288731)

Imagine a Beowulf cluster of digital ignitions!

The GM LTx cars are already capable of this (2, Informative)

LT4Ryan (178006) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288733)

I have used this software on my LT1 Camaro with excellent results. This software allows you to pretty much hack every aspect that the PCM controls easily.

LT1 Edit [lt1.net]

That's been going on for a while (3, Informative)

strlen (117515) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288737)

There's replacement EEPROMS for various cars with digital ignition (as opposed to a distributor) available on the market, some of them may even be installed by your dealership (depends on the dealership of course). They've also been on the market for quite a while and aren't a novelty. If I'm correct, on non-digital-ignition automobiles, you can use MSD's system to retard or advance your ignition timing. Also, this is not a very safe way to increase your engine's power, as advancing ignition, raises the cylinder pressure far more than any other modification, in propotion to the gain (usually no more than 15 hp).

Re:That's been going on for a while (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3288819)

not to pick but .....

Retarding or advancing ignition (on distributer equipped cars) is only turning the distributer (not just the cap) forward or back. that's it.

MSD on the other hand are MultiSparkDevices. As the name implies, They spark (and hot) many times per ignition stroke. they also fire longer and have programmable rev limiters built in (as the engine can actually find the redline at will :-). They are extremely good for fuel consumption (full burn, no waste) and emissions (same reason) and performance (see last two bracketed items :-). An MSD on an older car is a godsend.

This digital ignition stuff? It's a feeble attempt at hack proofing something that has always been hackable (timing, and fuel)

Just an old hotrodder (and /. lurker)

My warranty? (2, Funny)

teslatug (543527) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288743)

"dangerous to your life and your warranty"

Yeah I would hate to expire :)

new uses for outlook virii (1)

wboatman (126052) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288746)

When you can check email from your car (you know Microsoft will get a piece of this), can you also send email to the slow f*ck in front of you with a virus to disable their brakes, or make them steer to the side of the road and then crash (non-lethal) their car?

odb2 (1)

Jaeger- (63372) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288747)

my brother has an odb2 module and likes to play with the various settings etc in his engine directly from his laptop. the hardware is relatively cheap and is usually purchased along with software. its all windoze based of course. he spent around $1500 i believe for everything.

this *is not* for people who don't know what they're doing! you can adjust things like when your engine shifts, and really screw up your engine if you do something bad/wrong...

--w

Re:odb2 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3288856)

you can adjust things like when your engine shifts, and really screw up your engine if you do something bad/wrong...

Ahh the proveribal shifting engine. I juked to the left, then to the right, finally I got it settled down. Thank God for ODB2

This is way cool stuff, been around for a long time though. It's be nice if it were cheaper, D/L towing package, or economy package to the car is fine!

ALDL (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3288750)

Do a search on that term...

If you have an American car, that is. ALDL is Assembly Line Data Link and it gives you a lot of information on your car.

I'm still wondering if I should tool around with it, I'm not eager to be a human guinea pig, unless it's for sexual experiments with a muscular fitness chick.

Wanna see a REALLY cool car? (4, Informative)

Rampant Atrocity (559341) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288762)

Here's a car that's been pre-hacked and souped up for ultimate geek driving: the MegaCar [megacar.com] ! I mean, just look at this picture [megacar.com] . LCDs everywhere, 150k/sec mobile connectivity...The flash site is annoying, but damn, that car is sweet....

Re:Wanna see a REALLY cool car? (3, Informative)

xmalenko (127203) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288786)

And you'll probably be able to get it pretty cheap soon, too, since the owner has landed in prison. Here's more about it: http://www.kimble.org/message20020220.htm

No pity for him here though. Goes along with what I think of people with toys like expensive pimped-out cars and gaudy flash sites. Give me my '87 Nissan and plain text web page any day!

Back to adding neon lights into my computer...

Re:Wanna see a REALLY cool car? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3288824)

wow, an undersized limo

nothing to see here, move along

Re:Wanna see a REALLY cool car? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3288896)

You mean this MegaCar [kimble.org] ?

Re:Wanna see a REALLY cool car? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3288970)

Here's a car that's been pre-hacked and souped up for ultimate geek driving:

Dude, screw the car. Check out the chick [megacar.com] selling the car!

Hype (1)

theseum (165950) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288764)

I think that this is probably an overblown hype piece, like so many others [hackingexposed.com] . What the article is talking about is simply a way to download information on the car's systems (much like what is already done in ,a href="http://www.formula1.com/news/home.html">F ormula One racing. This would not allow a hacker to gain control of your car in any way. Of course the threat of crashing the system is always there... The easiest solution to all these problems is to have manual backup systems. I don't like trusting my life to a computer, anyway.

Re:Hype (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3288857)

hype, ype pe e
going going gone.
I don't want my car to be any more computerized than my bicycle. Lets hope its hype.

Microsoft Automobile Business Unit.

Let that roll around in your head all night.

Keep the Warrenty (3, Interesting)

guamman (527778) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288765)

In most cases, the manufacturer of most sports cars (corvette, etc.) has a liscensed third party like shelby for Ford. These suppliers and aftermarket manufacturers have certin chips that can be installed without ruining you entire warrenty. Sometimes, the warrenty is just modified to take out the changed part of the car.

Formula 1 (3, Informative)

BigBir3d (454486) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288766)

Not only have they thought of everything that he was talking about, but they actually are doing it. This season, today, right now! Everything is adjustable, although some of it is not legal ;-) The best part, it is all adjustable, on the fly, literally. That's right boys and girls, wireless! Ferrari and Williams BMW are at the forefront, of course. There has been much effort into making sure that each of the teams are not vulnerable to hacking or jamming by the other teams. (The budget for these top-flight teams is supposedly nearly $200,000,000US)

Re:Formula 1 (2)

inburito (89603) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288865)

In F1 everything's been remotely adjustable for a while. It's just that FIA doesn't allow it so they settle for data collection. Otherwise you could technically adjust the wing angles on-the-fly for curves and straights. Heck, they even outlawed traction control (one of the contributions of F1 to regular drivers) quite a few years back..

Re:Formula 1 (1)

muffel (42979) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288923)

Heck, they even outlawed traction control (one of the contributions of F1 to regular drivers) quite a few years back..
Actually, they "inlawed" traction control during last season. IIRC Spain was the first race with (official) traction control---about half the field didn't even get off the starting grid because their launch controls failed.

OK - Free beer offer (5, Funny)

bunyip (17018) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288771)

Yep, you got it. I'll buy a beer for the first true hack on a Segway.

Suppose you had one, what would a cool hacker (such as you, dear reader) make it do?

Oh, BTW, I guess I'd have to buy you a Ginger Beer.

Alan.

Re:OK - Free beer offer (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3288789)

make money

Re:OK - Free beer offer (3, Funny)

boopus (100890) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288898)

Obviously you'd teach it to be "posessed" so that it would wander around the room and bump into things... Of course, it should map things out and only bump into them once. Reproducing old hacks with new hardware is a tradition.

Very common already (4, Informative)

milkmandan9 (190569) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288782)

This is really very common in the automotive tuning world already. Many companies have piggyback-style computers that intercept the signals entering and leaving the stock engine computer and modify them accordingly. Products like the A'PEXi S-AFC [apexi-usa.com] (among many many others) use relatively simple mathematical formulae (think...mx+b) or look-up tables to modify the signals that the engine computer sees from the sensors or the signals that the actuators see from the computer.

For the more advanced racer, there are entire standalong engine management systems that entirely the engine computer itself (think Haltech E6k and others).

The point here is that the signals used between sensors and microprocessors onboard a vehicle aren't difficult to decode. Most relate to measuring the resistance across a sensor or sending out a pulse to run a fuel injector at a given interval. Granted, the signals sent between the various computers are a bit more complex, but it's by no means impossible to decode. The only reason that 3rd-party aftermarket manufacturers are really the only people building these things is that there isn't a whole lot of return for the average home-mechanic. By the time Joe Six-Pack builds his engine management system, he's spent so much time that he could have enhanced the performance of his vehicle with all sorts of non-electronic devices that are cheaper and better understood in the automotive community.

Are there very cool things that can be done by the individual with a personally-designed engine (and transmission, and A/C, etc) management system? Sure! Loads of cool stuff!

Now how many people out there can spare the time, effort, and money to have a system that really only performs marginally better than anything that can be bought off the shelf? Not many people, that's for sure.

But luckily, that's what universities are for...which explains why I'm still in school.

Re:Very common already (3, Insightful)

bunyip (17018) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288810)

Now how many people out there can spare the time, effort, and money to have a system that really only performs marginally better than anything that can be bought off the shelf? Not many people, that's for sure.

Hmmm - what about overclockers? Submerge your MB in liquid nitrogen to gain a couple o' hundred MHz? I've seen some pretty cool hacks on /. over the last couple of years.

How about spending nights and weekends hacking the Linux kernel to reduce interrupt latency? Would the "average" computer user care or notice?

I would think that many people would do this. We nerds have a kindred spirit in hot-rodders. To them, a generic four-banger is the M$ of the automotive world.

I would like to add that I'm both a computer hacker and car hacker (Subaru WRX). I also brew my own beer (beer hacker?).

Re:Very common already (3, Insightful)

milkmandan9 (190569) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288837)

Hmmm - what about overclockers? Submerge your MB in liquid nitrogen to gain a couple o' hundred MHz? I've seen some pretty cool hacks on /. over the last couple of years.

Very true. They're the same in spirit, and the only difference is in implementation.

You usally (usually!) don't have to worry about getting stuck in the middle of nowhere if your overclocked MB bites the dust, and when it does, it doesn't always (always!) mean that it will make a $4000 engine turn itself into scrap.

The skill sets are different, too. With overclocking, you need good computer skills and some common-sense mechanical and electrical skills. Beyond that, all you need is the cash to buy it all. When deciphering a modern engine management system you need a good background in CS, some workable knowledge of EE, and enough mechanical skills to get the damned thing running.

Or, in the case of some (some!) of the vinyl-sticker-emblazoned, wake-the-neighborhood-up-at-3am types, all you need is a good instruction manual or a mechanic worth his price.

But I definitely agree with you. The spirit is the same.

You don't recomend it???? (0, Troll)

kastard (564294) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288788)

Of course, I neither endorse nor recommend any of the procedures mentioned, any of which may be inherently dangerous to your life and your warranty.

Why did you send this story here then?

Re:You don't recomend it???? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3288853)

Ummmm... It's called hacking. ie, "non-goal oriented play and exploration of hardware (or software)". Almost all hacking violates warranties. Some even risks equipment and lives. Hacking is nerdy. Deal with it or stop reading News for Nerds.

Nothing like having a computer controlled car (2, Informative)

Johannes (33283) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288790)

On my car, I've replaced the engine computer with one that allows me to change the software [goapr.com] on the fly depending on the octane of the gas (91/93 pump gas, 100 octane race gas).

People have also hacked my instrument cluster computer to display a radar detector and boost gauge [tripcomp.com] .

It only gets more fun from here :)

True story... (5, Funny)

Leven Valera (127099) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288794)

I was out driving one day in my TransAm (screwed with to the tune of ~400hp) and the car started to drive funny, so I pulled over, took out out the AutoTap [autotap.com] started my laptop, plugged it into the car, and figured out I had a bad throttle position sensor, so I was blipping the pedal and looking at the screen to test it, and a cop pulled in behind me.

Cop did the whole license, registration, et cetera bit, and asked why I was revving so high at a stop, and told me people were complaining about the noise. I showed him the software, explained what was going on, showed him the throttle readout, and so on. The cop shook his head, said "Kids nowadays", got in his car, and left. :)

LV

AoA already does that (2)

Leven Valera (127099) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288801)

Audi of America will void the warranty on your turbo car if they catch or suspect you've been screwing with the computer. It's real easy to get a $400 chip and kick your 300hp S4 up to 400+ just by turning up the boost.

LV

Re:AoA already does that (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3288870)

Kind of like the ntswitch for NT workstation to NT server hack.

Pssst , Hey you.
-- me?
Yeah you.
-- what do you want.
No the question is what do you want.
--- I don't want anything.
Ah there's your problem. How about this? You give me $100 bucks and I will give you a chip that will turn your Accord into a Lexus.
-- WTF !!!
No really.

Re:AoA already does that (2, Insightful)

tjb (226873) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288891)

Good lord dude. What the hell do you need with 400 HP on something as small as an S4? Like changing tires much? How about cylinder heads? I heard those were real cheap now...

sigh

The high HP mainstream luxury sports cars (S4, M3/M5, 911, Corvette, etc), in general are limited at the power that they get because a) Its damn fast as is and b) its actually reliable at those HP/Torque numbers.

There's a very good reason why $150,000 Ferraris are in the shop for serious engine maintenance every 3000 miles: namely that there are physical limits with what can be done with internal combustion engines without sacrificing reliability. Hell, you'd think if they could make one that didn't require massive maintenance on a short schedule, they could sell it for twice as much.

Boosting an S4 to run with Ferraris is counter-productive in the sense that you're likely gonna end up paying the cost of a ferrari in maintenance anyway (well, not quite, but it will be damn expensive and unreliable).

Tim

Re:AoA already does that (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3288953)

> Like changing tires much?

Obviously you're unaware that the S4 is all wheel drive.

AWD vehicles, when aligned properly, wear tires darn close to even.

Re:AoA already does that (-1)

Lord Hugh Toppingham (319381) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288984)

Good lord dude. What the hell do you need with 400 HP on something as small as an S4? Like changing tires much? How about cylinder heads? I heard those were real cheap now...


What do you mean the S4 is small ? In Europe it is considered to be a standard sized vehicle. 400BHP is high but not unusual in European luxury sedans. (Something to do with the fact that the Autobahns have no speed limits).



The high HP mainstream luxury sports cars (S4, M3/M5, 911, Corvette, etc), in general are limited at the power that they get because a) Its damn fast as is and b) its actually reliable at those HP/Torque numbers.

Reliability has nothing to do with it. The German vehicles are limited by an agreement with the german govt that all cars be restricted to 155MPH.
Given that this limit is not expected to be exceeded, they tune the vehicle to produce maximum torque and power below this speed.

There's a very good reason why $150,000 Ferraris are in the shop for serious engine maintenance every 3000 miles: namely that there are physical limits with what can be done with internal combustion engines without sacrificing reliability. Hell, you'd think if they could make one that didn't require massive maintenance on a short schedule, they could sell it for twice as much.


Not quite. Ferrari engines are release in 'race tune' and are commonly V12s. There is a lot of complexity in there, and complex race-tuned cars that do low commuter milages tend to need more servicing than non race-tuned cars.


A better example than the Ferrari would be the Porsche 911/996 Carrera S4 or the BMW M5. Both these vehicles have respectable service intervals and are about as reliable as any car you can buy.


Finally I have to laugh that you consider the Corvette to be in the same league as the M5 and the 911. Maybe in a straight line :-)

Re:AoA already does that (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3288960)

> Audi of America will void the warranty on your
>turbo car if they catch or suspect you've been
>screwing with the computer. It's real easy to get
>a $400 chip and kick your 300hp S4 up to 400+ just
>by turning up the boost.

Except that a)the S4 is 250hp stock, not 300, and b)the limit on an S4 engine with no other mods save a chip is 310hp. 400hp would require boost levels that would blow both turbos in a matter of a few days driving(if you were that lucky.)

And you, sir, (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3288815)

Are a malodorus pervert!

And you, sir, (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3288822)

Are a 100% Kentucky-fried flaming faggot

Hmm.. (1)

kafka93 (243640) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288835)

Am I alone in thinging that this might be a bad idea:

(In the context of recent Japanese motorcycles:)

The next step will be to port the PC software to handheld computers so as to make on-the-road modifications that much easier.

Of course, while you're doing that, you might as well use your PDA as an auxiliary instrument and control panel.

Re:Hmm.. (2)

kafka93 (243640) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288858)

That would be "thinking". On a more serious note - I found it interesting that the real core of the story - the purported rationale behind a customer not hacking the car, that they "just wouldn't" - doesn't really ring all that true. Certainly, these are mechanics arguably more accustomed with modifications of hardware than of software, but surely these people use software routinely at every level of the manufacture process? I find it difficult to believe that they wouldn't appreciate the appeal of hacking the software, and it struck me as I read the article that just maybe the author had grabbed hold of the wrong end of the stick.

That "you wouldn't be able to hack the car" doesn't strike me as a statement that comes from someone who doesn't understand the notion, but rather that it is the reasoned comment of someone who probably doesn't want to a) risk liability should a user do something stupid with the software (IANAL so I couldn't say how likely this might be); b) have Joe Shmoe messing around with their work; or c) risk precisely the situation that J.D. King describes: 'hacking the car directly' instead of buying a new model.

Although the article makes the point that hardware mods are big business for auto manufacturers, I can't see them going for the idea of having the end user flash upgrading their rom and thus having at their hands new software and options that might otherwise have lured them to buying new models. No, I kinda suspect that the real reasons things are taking so long to move forward is that the car designers know only too well what they're up to and what the customer might have in mind, and aren't going to be rushing towards that future any time soon.

Re:Hmm.. (4, Insightful)

John_Booty (149925) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288884)

The car manufacturers have another very good reason for keeping the electonics systems relatively simple- so they WORK BETTER. Each flaw costs them millions of dollars in recalls or warrantied repairs. The less extraneous shit they cram into the electronics, the less is likely to go wrong.

Maybe commerical software engineers will realize this, some day? ;-)

LINK UPDATE REQUESTED: (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3288839)

It is inappropriate to link to the Jargon File's main corpus....It is several megabytes, and costs the site maintainer mucho bandwidth so you can browse one entry.

Use this: http://www.tuxedo.org/~esr/jargon/html/entry/hack. html [tuxedo.org]

software mods aren't risk free (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3288841)

My impression was that the article writer doesn't have much experience in the tuning market, or he'd have mentioned chipping turbocharged engines, and he'd also demonstrate a better understanding of what goes on. Most chips(even for normally aspirated engines) don't just alter timing; they alter the fuel ratio to be perfect for power, which is different from the ideal air/fuel ratio for emissions. Yes, ignition timing does affect power/emissions too, but it's silly to ignore the other half of the equation. Also, among the european/asian car makes, programmable systems are pretty rare; most simply buy a preprogrammed chip from a company that's done the testing/setup for you. Makes a lot of sense considering how expensive some of these engines can be. Even just altering fuel mixture can cause substantial damage; too rich(ie too much fuel) and you'll cause the catalytic converters to overheat and melt($$$$$$.) Too lean, and you can raise the exhaust gas temperature to the point that you actually destroy the exhaust valves and they start leaking.

As for turbo chips...bear with me here. My car('91 Audi 200 quattro 20v turbo) makes 217hp stock. With new ROM chips for fuel/timing maps and a new pressure sensor supplied by an Audi tuner who has been in business since the early 80's...it makes almost 280, by allowing higher pressure from the turbo(aka "boost".) It yields sub 6 second 0-60 times for a full size luxury sedan(not to brag, but few cars, new or old, can beat me off the line, including any of Audi's current model lineup, unmodified.)

This particular chip pretty much stresses the limit of the k26 turbo; as with any turbo, spin it too fast and it'll disintegrate. These things operate at -very- high speeds...50,000 rpms is not uncommon...very high temps(several hundred degrees or more)...and very close tolerances. If a piece flies off or something, it can cause an enormous amount of damage; little pieces of the turbo can end up getting inhaled by the engine. If you're lucky, it doesn't take the engine with it. If you're not so lucky, the metal shards scratch the cylinder walls, or the oil causes so much crap to build up inside the cylinder that the compression ratio skyrockets and the engine starts to "knock"(ie when the mixture ignites before it should.) When the piston's still going up and the mixture ignites, you can break things. FAST. Look on almost all engines these days and you'll see a small sensor bolted to the block...it's a microphone, basically, and it listens for knocking(the ECU knows when it fired a spark plug, so if it gets a noise when it hasn't...tada, knocking.)

Particularly with a chip, there are a lot of things that can push the turbo over the edge...for example, a clogged air filter will make the turbo work harder to pressurize the same amount of air(ie, it'll need to spin faster.) While the engine control unit(ECU) takes into account high elevation via an external barometric sensor, it can't tell if your air filter is clogged! Another danger is that the intake air temperature can be too high; as you compress air, it heats up, and if it's too hot, the further compression in the cylinder will heat it beyond the flash point of the gas/air mixture, and you get knocking(see above.) You can also exceed the limits of the mechanical strength of the connecting rods(ie what connects the piston to the crankshaft, transferring the force of the explosion into mechanical rotation), the head bolts(what holds the "head" of the engine up against the block; it forms the top of the cylinder, and the more powerful the explosion in the cylinder, the more stress on the head bolts), the transmission, even the driveshafts sometimes

Some early chip designs for A4/S4 models pushed the turbos just a tad too much(the vendor in question had a bad reputation in the first place) and turbos were getting overspun left+right(expensive, considering the S4 has -two- turbos.)

Audi of America got wise to it, and unfortunately, is now -extremely- aggressive about going after owners who have installed aftermarket chips, despite the fact that they're quite safe now that more reputable tuners(who do better QA testing) have forced the crappy chips off the market.

So, dealers started checking ECUs for signs of removal, modification, etc. Owners countered by buying spare ECUs and installing the unmodified ECUs back into the car before having it serviced.

Amusingly, AoA caught on to this too...because their Client Relations staff were reading the webboards these guys belonged to. They were dumb enough to brag about it after "fooling the dealer".

VW and Audi have already started introducing encryption+verification that keys the ECU to all sorts of other things in the car so that it can't be easily swapped. VW/Audi's "real" reason is that it is for antitheft reasons.

It took all but a month or two for someone to figure out how to get around the keying. Same debate as publishing security exploits...except that cars generally don't get stolen unless they can be stolen in a few minutes, and keying the ECU doesn't prevent theft(it just makes the ECU useless in any other car until its been re-keyed.)

Re:software mods aren't risk free (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3288974)

oops...few corrections(same poster here.) First off, I have a k24 turbo. Second, I should have said "or the seals on the turbo go and the leaking oil causes so much crap to build up inside the cylinder that the compression ratio skyrockets"...

Duh. I think I should start proofreading before I start posting non-anonmyously :-)

People have been doing this for quite a while. (3, Interesting)

td (46763) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288848)

The first time I heard of aftermarket ROMs (for the fuel injection computer) the car in question was the 1984 Pontiac Fiero, GM's short-lived (1984-1988, I think) mid-engined sports car.

Actually, this car hacking stuff is old hat. (5, Informative)

BeerSlurpy (185482) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288876)

Two points: ONE: most cars do NOT benefit from performance computers. TWO: most performance computers are added on to cars that are normally naturally aspirated and converted to turbo form. (a lot of cars that dont have turbos from the factory judge the amount of air with a vaccuum sensor instead of a mass air sensor) Often the relevant sensors dont even exist for the stock computer to talk to.

To make an example, the average honda civic computer settings are pretty much already maxxed out in stock form. You add an intake and an exhaust and youre still in the range that the stock computer can adjust for. You can actually add about half an atmosphere of boost (from turbo or supercharger) and still not need a custom computer. This applies to a most other non-turbo cars as well. Factory turbo cars have even higher limits.

Remember, modern cars have to be able to operate at 10,000 feet above and below sea level in a wide range of temperatures. Most cars have injectors that can take about 150% to 200% of stock duty before they begin to max out. Up to this point the car will still not even pollute!

Basically the only 2 ways to outpace the stock computer is to

1)bring in too little air at idle or have massively oversized injectors (the computer can't control the injectors to produce less than a certain minimum period of being open) which will cause "lopey idle" or stalling and rich emmissions.

2)bring in so much air at high rpm that the stock injectors can't let in enough fuel. Basically you will start to run "lean" (not enough fuel) which will produce very high temperatures and detonation (and kill your engine).

You basically only need a special computer if you are running massive cams (alternatively you could just raise the idle, which most people do) or if youre running such massive amounts of boost that the only solution is to run massive injectors (here again, you can actually just raise the idle). Now consider this: when youre making over double the stock hp, there is no way a factory computer is going to be able to cope anyway- I dont see the point of making them more hackable. On top of which, the only reason to use an expensive computer is to make the car more emissions friendly. And guess what mods are pretty much illegal under CARB rules? You guessed it! Programmable ECUs!!! The high-boost 323 and miata guys routinely run hacked ECUs with 12-15psi of boost, then turn down the boost and swap injectors for smog every two years. Its pretty sad that you have to break the law to pollute less.

Could be the next DMCA/SSSCA frontier........ (1)

Dr_Marvin_Monroe (550052) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288882)


The auto manufacturers have ALREADY made an attempt at encryption (by obsurity)....ergo, any attempt to plug in that non-factory code reader could be considered a violation, could it not?

I'd hate to have the auto industry start acting like the RIAA or the MPAA, but as soon as they see it "against their corporate interests," it's gonna be just like the Elmcomsoft/Dimitri S. all over again.....only now, they could check for hacking at the shop next time you bring the car in for a de-"tune" at the dealer......

Imagine how messed up things will be if Sen. Hollings get's his way......this would effectivly force all customers to "approved" shops to have their cars worked on.....

Just a thought......

Speaking of HOWTOS (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3288924)

What about this classic

HOW TO ASS RAPE A GOAT
by CmdrTaco

1. Stick your penis (strap-ons work also) into a goat's ass
2. Do it....do it hard

Re:Speaking of HOWTOS (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3288940)

I can't even explain how sick that is

Re:Speaking of HOWTOS (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3288971)

Come on...ass rape a goat...everybody is doing it

Re:Speaking of HOWTOS (-1)

BankofAmerica_ATM (537813) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288966)

No.

Hmmm..... (5, Funny)

The_dev0 (520916) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288928)

Now if I can just hack my car to start somewhere in the first 200 tries...

The one truly open sourced car (3, Interesting)

bandix (184495) | more than 12 years ago | (#3288961)

Why would you waste your time hacking a car that fights you every step of the way (physically, electronically, and financially)? I only own and drive open sourced cars. My daily driver is a 1974 Volkswagen Beetle. There is not a single part for this car I couldn't write a check to replace. I also haven't paid a mechanic since I bought it. There're no computer diagnositics I have to pay some guy with his name on his shirt to run for me. All I need is a good chest full of Craftsman metric tools and my ears. Your stock Beetle not fast enough for you? $2000 worth of NEW parts will build a complete engine to your specifications that will propel that 870kg car to speeds you'd never thought possible. Countless books have been written that detail every system in the Beetle inside and out. Why would you buy a car that tries to keep you out with complex computerized systems? Want to modify the ignition timing? All you need is a 10mm socket. Ferdinand Porsche designed my car. Who designed yours?
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