[FoRK] Robotic cars, software / Internet in cars, and Linux Ksplice, was: Re: > Re: The future of politics. Can, politicians prepare society for the major technology challenges ahead?, With Darren Reynolds.

Stephen D. Williams sdw at lig.net
Thu Feb 11 18:43:09 PST 2010

Sean Conner wrote:
> It was thus said that the Great Stephen D. Williams once stated:
> ...
>> The Prius brake issue _is_ software related.  I was just saying to 
>> (other) friends recently that A) in the next cycle or two every vehicle 
>> will have a wireless Internet connection (for a variety of uses) and B) 
>> (highly verified) software upgrades will just download when the vehicle 
>> is off.  Even with current economics, the car companies are stupid for 
>> not having had the forethought to make an Amazon Kindle-like deal with 
>> Sprint/Verizon for that kind of thing.  Easy to bury the costs in an 
>> already-expensive sector, lots of up sell possibilities, and one severe 
>> recall and everyone easily comes out ahead.
>   Great!  Now I have to worry about my car getting hacked [1].

I learned a long time about that Intel built in the ability to do very 
low level reprogramming of their CPUs.  All you have to do is run an 
instruction that loads a prepackaged configuration blob that permanently 
changes the CPU.  They need this in case a buggy instruction slips out 
into the wild, etc.  Supposedly, there are only a handful of people who 
are capable of signing that blob so that it would accepted.  There are 
plenty of things like that which would have a big impact if hacked, yet 
aren't.  Few of them run Windows.

It is possible to build a trustworthy process for this, you just have to 
work at it.

Similarly, something like a DoD CAC PKI smart card (manufactured by 
several companies) has storage that for ALL practical purposes cannot be 
made to reveal its secrets.  (Usually, your PKI secret key.)  Earlier 
versions were cracked by micromilling, electron microscopes, etc.  There 
are layers and layers of hardware and software countermeasures to 30 
years of exploits build into those $30 cards.
>   True story---a friend of mine worked at a company that made car
> diagnositic computers.  They were testing their software on a BMW when there
> was a power failure and they ended up bricking the car.
>   BMW had to fly an engineer from Germany (to South Florida) to get the car
> unbricked.  

Stupid design...  Make 2 banks, a bootloader / failover init that you 
don't change, and it should be a lot more difficult to break.
>   Then there's this little bit of reassuring news:
> ...
>> How come the autopilot software on this $27 million airplane wasn’t smart
>> enough to fly basically sensible attitudes and airspeeds? Partly because FAA
>> certification requirements make it prohibitively expensive to develop
>> software or electronics that go into certified aircraft. It can literally
>> cost $1 million to make a minor change. Sometimes the government protecting
>> us from small risks exposes us to much bigger ones.

This is what I was explicitly and implicitly referring to as the main 
stumbling block and something that is being loosened up.  The Light 
Sport Aircraft (LSA) category, and the associated LSA liense, was a huge 
change by the FAA.  The requirements on aviation, maintenance (how much 
you can do yourself), amount of training, etc. are far lower.  The 
result is that the cheapest aircraft now have the most modern avionics 
in some cases.  Makes a good farm team for the rest of the industry perhaps.

If you compare a certified GPS unit with a typical car unit or Google 
Maps, etc., you'll see the results of that friction.  Those things are 
not easy to use.
>   -spc (Who's managed to land a simulated Airbus 320 with minimal
> 	instruction [2])

My sense is that the bigger and more powerful planes are much easier to 
fly, as long as you know how to activate and deactivate the right 
things.  I've flown in too much gusty wind in a Cessna 152, and had 
plenty of flying in a 172, plus a little in a Cirrus SR22, and a Pitts 
S2B.  Even just more power at the same size make a huge difference.  A 
commercial jet has wide operating margins plus size that makes most wind 
a non-issue.  It is a lot like waves / swells vs. the size of a boat.
> [1]	In the bad sense of the word.  Yes, I know, I should use "cracked"
> 	but that just sounds odd to me.
> [2]	http://boston.conman.org/2007/12/28.2


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