Monthly Archives: November 2016

Tesla Model S While Driving

Car hacking has been a big concern lately. After a Wired article demonstrated how security researchers could remotely disable a new Jeep Cherokee by worming into the car’s infotainment system, automakers are under increased scrutiny over their digital security. Now, security researchers have reportedly figured out how to take control of one of the most tech-heavy vehicles on the road today: The Tesla Model S.

According to a Financial Times report (which can only be accessed through a subscription), researchers Kevin Mahaffey and Marc Rogers were able to completely disable a Model S as it drove along at low speed. Reuters quotes the researchers: “We shut the car down when it was driving initially at a low speed of five miles per hour [. . .] All the screens go black, the music turns off and the handbrake comes on, lurching it to a stop.” Mahaffey and Rogers will present their findings at the Def Con cybersecurity conference on Friday.

Wired goes into greater detail, explaining how the hackers were able to gain control of the vehicle. First off, unlike the Jeep hacking event, Mahaffey and Rogers’ exploit required physically plugging a laptop into the Model S dashboard. Once their computer was connected to the vehicle, they were able to start and drive the Tesla through laptop commands. The researchers say that they were also able to plant a remote-access Trojan into the car’s software while the laptop was connected, allowing them to remotely cut the car’s motor at a later time.

Wired also reports that the duo found that the Tesla’s large center dash touchscreen uses an out-of-date browser that, theoretically, could allow an attacker to gain wireless control of the car if the owner navigated the dashboard touchscreen to a malicious web page. The researchers did not specifically test this vulnerability.

In all, the researchers found six vulnerabilities in the Model S’s software, and worked hand-in-hand with Tesla to develop fixes. Wired reports that an over-the-air patch was distributed on Wednesday to every Model S to close the loopholes discovered by the researchers.

The researchers say they chose to hack the Tesla because of the electric carmaker’s reputation for understanding software. A Tesla spokeswoman emailed us the following statement:

“Our security team works closely with the security research community to ensure that we continue to protect our systems against vulnerabilities by constantly stress-testing, validating, and updating our safeguards. Lookout’s research was a result of physically being in Model S to test for vulnerabilities. We’ve already developed an update for the vulnerabilities they surfaced which was made available to all Model S customers through an OTA update that has been to deployed to all vehicles. “

Cars at the University of Arizona

Google may be winning the race to self-driving cars, but Uber isn’t giving up. The University of Arizona has announced that it will be partnering with the ride-sharing behemoth to help with the development of optical systems for its self-driving car.

Thanks to the deal, the University of Arizona will be the new test-bed for Uber’s prototype mapping vehicles and Uber will donate $25,000 to the university’s College of Optical Sciences. On top of all that, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey has signed an executive order “supporting the testing and operation of self-driving vehicles in Arizona,” according to a release from the Arizona Governors Office,

As part of the intense, all-encompassing Star Wars: The Force Awakens marketing event known as Force Friday, Uber has partnered with Hot Wheels to offer rides around Manhattan in Stormtrooper cars.

How does it work? Well, if you’re looking for a ride in one of these shiny buggies until 5 p.m. today in Manhattan (specifically below 59th Street), you need to open up Uber and enter in the special “HOTWHEELSFF” promotional code, select the HOT WHEELS option, and pray. Supply’s limited, and it’s unclear just how high demand might be.

Previously Uber had been rumored to be partnering with Carnegie Mellon University to open a robotics lab in Pittsburg, where Uber’s prototype cars have been spotted already. It’s unclear if this deal is instead of that one, or in addition to it. After all, self-driving cars require optics research and robotics research. It may not be long before Uber can get rid of those pesky humans it needs to drive the cars around. 

Inspired Stormtrooper Cars

As part of the intense, all-encompassing Star Wars: The Force Awakens marketing event known as Force Friday, Uber has partnered with Hot Wheels to offer rides around Manhattan in Stormtrooper cars.

How does it work? Well, if you’re looking for a ride in one of these shiny buggies until 5 p.m. today in Manhattan (specifically below 59th Street), you need to open up Uber and enter in the special “HOTWHEELSFF” promotional code, select the HOT WHEELS option, and pray. Supply’s limited, and it’s unclear just how high demand might be.

Technically, they’re Dodge Chargers made up to look like First Order Stormtrooper Cars, which is one of Hot Wheels’ many newStar Wars toy offerings. In addition to any ride in one of the special vehicles being free, folks that manage to score a ride will also get a Star Wars: The Force Awakens Hot Wheels car.

If you reeeeeeeally like Star Wars, and you live in NYC, today is your day.

Thanks to the deal, the University of Arizona will be the new test-bed for Uber’s prototype mapping vehicles and Uber will donate $25,000 to the university’s College of Optical Sciences. On top of all that, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey has signed an executive order “supporting the testing and operation of self-driving vehicles in Arizona,” according to a release from the Arizona Governors Office.