Bonum Certa Men Certa

The Car Drives You -- Part I -- You Own Nothing

Car after crash
Steered by the car, which does not accept instructions from its driver and owner

Summary: With all the media hype about things getting "smart" (and various buzzwords to accompany this hype so as to sell useless gimmicks and gadgets that spy/manipulate) it's important to understand what gradually happens to automobiles that are nowadays being sold

THE question may seem pointless and banal. Who truly owns today's cars? It's a perfectly legitimate question? Who drives it? Who can bypass or override the driver? Again, nowadays the question isn't so simple to answer.

We already published (this past evening) a timely new video about cars becoming increasingly hostile towards their owner/driver, assuming that the owner is the person who paid for it (not the manufacturer) and driving is about more the pressing down a pedal. When we wrote about privacy issues and safety issues we pointed out that today's mechanical/physical pedals are connected to a computer, not the engine/throttling parts.

"'s mechanical/physical pedals are connected to a computer, not the engine/throttling parts."Where is this going? Where do governments steer us? Why is media debate so scarce?

In last night's Daily Links we included this new link, cautioning about creeping oppression. To quote:

When a government decides to take a look at your particular field of experimentation, it’s never necessarily a cause for rejoicing, as British motor vehicle enthusiasts are finding out through a UK Government consultation. Titled “Future of transport regulatory review: modernising vehicle standards“, the document explains that it is part of the process of re-adopting under UK law areas which have previously been governed by the European Union. Of particular interest is the section “Tackling tampering”, which promises a new set of offences for “tampering with a system, part or component of a vehicle intended or adapted to be used on a road“.

They go into detail as to the nature of the offences, which seem to relate to the production of devices designed to negate the safety or environmental features of the car. They’re at pains to say that they have no wish to target the legitimate car modification world, for example in motorsport or restoration, but it’s easy to see how a car hacker might inadvertently fall foul of any new rules. It’s worried the enthusiasts enough that a petition has been launched on the UK parliamentary petition site, making the point that the existing yearly MOT roadworthiness test should fulfill the function of taking any illegal vehicles off the road.

It's probably too late to weigh in; this official page says: "The consultation period began on 28 September 2021 and will run until 11:45pm on 22 November 2021. Ensure that your response reaches us before the closing date."

There's also this EU page for those outside the UK.

"With all those cars nowadays, at least the newly-sold ones, there's not just a computer onboard but several computers and they not only contain software; it's no longer immutable, it's network-connected, and sometimes remote updates modify the behaviour of the car."This runs parallel to the war on general-purpose computing, including software. This whole subject is closely connected to software freedom.

"Well, Apple and Microsoft are chumming the waters with Right to Repair," an associate told us yesterday.

"They're focusing on hardware only, which is an improvement," Ryan noted. "But without knowing how the software works or how to replace their operating system, you still don't control the device. They want to be in control of when the last software update goes out."

Our associate said that "Apple, Microsoft, and the others are trying to saturate the news on that topic, diffuse and unfocus the work, and confuse the public and, especially, the politicians. This has to be slammed through as legislation or else Apple will continue on the path it has been going down since Steve Jobs got sick, and where most other vendors are deciding to follow. Nothing other than a legal smackdon will suffice, the PR efforts to the contrary are no more than PR efforts to stall and weaken the effort. and take away the existing rights. There has always been the right to repair stuff one owns. However, Apple and the others are trying to spin that into not applying to computers. Apple is even looking like it is aiming to ban general-purpose computing. Notice that the trade press and other lapdogs are now grovelling about "sideloading" and insinuating how it is bad, rather than pointing out that the real name is "installation" and it is a normal activity on device and tools one own and controls. Microsoft, Apple, and the car and farm equipment companies see that it could go either way. Right now the US is leaning towards keeping the rights that are in place, but with enough lobbyist money the vendors could tip it the other way. Here is an FTC position statement on the topic [1, 2]." [PDF]

"Microsoft is trying to retcon "installing software on Windows" as sideloading if you don't get one of the five apps that's not fake from their store," Ryan said. The associate responded: "A key aspect is that Microsoft cultists have trained the public and the politicians to be completely docile when "computers" are mentioned and to roll over when "software" is mentioned. In the latter, they have help from the copyright cartel."

With all those cars nowadays, at least the newly-sold ones, there's not just a computer onboard but several computers and they not only contain software; it's no longer immutable, it's network-connected, and sometimes remote updates modify the behaviour of the car. Unlike some phone or PC, cars put you in life-threatening situations, so it certainly does matter.

"We've been hearing similar stories lately; smart people reject the "new" and "smart" cars.""I wish they'd just go back to what cars in the 1980s came with," Ryan said. "If you can find a 1985 Honda or GMC pickup or anything really and the body is in good shape... You'd be financially better off to wheel it down to a good mechanic and dump $10,000 or more into having him fix everything that needs attention than you would buying a new car. And you can find some cars that old that never rusted, that look like they came straight out of the 80s. If they were in California or Nevada or even Florida. Obviously, for safety you should take it down and have it inspected and repaired as needed. Expect to replace all of the brake lines, belts, and rubber hoses. They dry rot. But once you get out ahead of that, the car might be perfectly usable for many years."

We've been hearing similar stories lately; smart people reject the "new" and "smart" cars. "I hope to get at least a few more years out of the Impala," Ryan said, "but I won't be replacing it with anything very new. I'll probably go looking for about a 2010 Crown Victoria or something that was fleet owned. They just don't break down nearly as often as newer cars do. They were pretty much designed in the 70s-90s and then tweaked along the way. Ford never invested anything in a total redesign after that. The mentality, right, was different then. Back then, people were smarter and they knew, hey, this is a major purchase and it should last a while. Now it's "If my brand new $50,000 Toyota can't ping a web server to verify I paid my $8 a month remote starter fee, they start disabling my shit!". "Wow, so amazing! $850 a month car payments for 7 years, you say? Oh boy!". "Plus the $8 a month for the remote starter of course!" Like, when did Toyota get so greedy that they have to tack on $8 a month to an $850 a month car? Remember Henry Ford? His philosophy was that mass production should make cars so cheap and so easy to repair that anyone could own one? Henry Ford was obviously a shrewd Capitalist, and these modern car companies could not be more diametrically opposed to his viewpoint. They want to tack on surprise fees that you won't even consider, to a car that's got you bleeding out like a deer that's been hung on a rack. They control the government safety agencies. They ask for all of these new "safety" features to be mandatory. That way their competitors can't produce an affordable car either. When you wreck it, it's totaled because it costs $1,000 for the body damage and $10,000 to realign some sensors. When those idiots ran into my Impala, you know what I did? I pulled off the bumper cover and put on an aftermarket one that was on ebay for $150. It's held on by standard bolts that you can just unscrew and screw back in. It took out my fog lamps, but the plastic was so yellowed anyway that I just unplugged them and tossed them in the dumpster."

In the next part we shall revisit the issue from another angle. Stay tuned.

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