Monday, December 14, 2009

Onstar Scare

You might have seen the new Onstar advertisement on TV.

It goes something like this.

A woman's voice alerts the police that a black Chevy Suburban has been stolen. We then see a cop, lights flashing, pull over a new Chevy. We are told by the woman's voice that Onstar was used to peacefully shut down the vehicle; the driver had no control what so ever.

My first thought upon seeing this went something like, Wow that's an awesome tool that will keep everyone safer.

Then however, I began to ponder its darker implications. The powers that be, (namely the government) have the ability to shut down cars with Onstar. Now at the moment this is probably a wonderful thing, but what happens when this becomes a mandated feature (because it probably will)?

Imagine a world where hackers could access your car's onboard computer and then turn your car off without ever leaving their house.

Granted it sounds far fetched but it's not all that preposterous. Many(if not all)new cars are equipped with features like GPS nav and mp3 player connectivity. These systems function through devices that are built by the same people who make the computer you're reading this on now.

Granted the ability to shut down a car from the outside presents numerous advantages, particularly for law enforcement. However I just find the whole idea a bit frightening.
The thought of someone else being able to control MY vehicle at their discretion is unnerving.

What if it were to become standard practice to shut down a vehicle on which payments where overdue? How would such technology effect the repo industry?
Would irate dealerships begin to shut off you car in much the same way your lights can be cut?

A more theatrical example would be shutting a car down in heavy traffic.
It sounds like from a Jason Bourne film.

In theory it sounds wonderful, yet the power it grants other people over my property is just creepy.

Maybe I'm just overeacting.

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