Actually, this is a really good article, although it is probably fatally too
for the average person to go through. It fairly portrays both sides of the
argument I think, although it does gloss over the deactivation issue with
"there's little he or she can do to prevent the device from recording data
of shorting out the car's airbags and other safety systems."
This really isn't true. Right now the black boxes included with the Onstar
are ones that people are paying for so of course there's no market for
black box defeaters.
But once black boxes are mandatory, a market will exist for black box
defeaters. A simple, crude but effective device would be wiring a
small circuit and coil into the system with a button under the dash the
driver could push. If a driver gets into an accident that they know is
their fault, a push of the button would kick over the relay to cut out
the computer from the rest of the vehicle electrical system, then pump
several thousand or so volts into the sensor inputs, destroying the
I particularly liked the quote:
"It all seems to be going toward the idea of tracking people as much as
so companies can wring as much money as possible out of people"
The OnStar example was a hoot. I don't have OnStar and I cannot imagine why
people that have OnStar-capabable vehicles pay the monthly fee for it, it
to me to be one of the most obnoxious and useless services imaginable. They
duplicate 911 and charge you for it. Hell, even my cell phone today has a
it that is activated when you dial 911.
I do have one beef with the article though. It stated:
"Oregon is working on a toll-road system that downloads global positioning s
and odometer readings at the gasoline pump to collect fuel taxes on each
gallon based on the
amount a motorist drives"
This isn't really true. Oregon is working on a system like this but only
for trucks - because
we are one of the few states with the weight mile tax on large (semi)
trucks. There are
NO toll roads in the state. And the weight-mile tax was almost repealed a
ago through initative petition. If the state ever did try slapping a system
like this on
general motorists, there would be an initative petition that would probably
entire large truck tax and would definitely scrap this system, so I don't
think the politicians
in the state here would take the risk of losing the truck tax revenue.
Practically? It will be some time. Why?
Don't most Ford or GM vehicles now come with data recorders? For at
least a year now? If so, are we seeing black-box de-activators for
Only until those cars with data recorders start entering the used-car
market will you see people who
(a) are more likely to "customize" their vehicle in such a drastic
(b) are more likely to be of the age demographic to benefit from
de-activating the data recording mechanism
New car buyers are the LEAST likely to tinker with their new car's
computer. Remember, unless they paid cash for their new car, they
won't do anything to it (like fry the computer) that would put them on
the hook with the dealership (or the bank). But once the car is old
enough to be a used car, then people do all sorts of shit to it.
You won't see generic black-box deactivators until the year 2010. You
will probably see custom de-activators for the Mustang or Corvette
within a year from now.
Insurance companies could also write in a provision that intensionally
defeating the data-recording capability could render your insurance
null and void. I bet Geico will be the first to do that.
I've often wondered why, on toll roads like the Penn turn pike, that
they don't fine you for speeding since it would be very easy to do by
knowing when you picked up your entry ticket and when you feed it to
the machine on the exit ramp that they know when (and where) you got
on (and off) the toll road that they could easily calculate your
The next big market for spammers - how to get free cable TV *AND* kill
your black box - all in one e-mail. Their postage costs will be cut in
half: 1/2 X $0.00. 8^)
(To reply by e-mail, replace the last letter of the alphabet in my
adddress with the letter 'x')
The GM stuff according to the article has it built into the OnStar system,
as people pay a fee for that they hardly represent a market for a defeater.
Frankly though, IMHO anyone paying for OnStar is in the category of
the group that we all have an interest in seeing saddled with black boxes.
I know what your saying here, the high-risk, younger crowd. But, I
think your missing something - the very highest incidents of crashing
where the driver in the demographic is at fault are in the 16-20 year old.
I know the insurance companies claim the
actual high risk demographic is 16-25 but we all know this is just a
lie, the 21-25 year olds don't get into nearly the accidents the younger
crowd do, the insurance companies are just doing it to scam more
money out of the populace.
I think in vehicle ownership your going to find most of the 16-20 year old
driving mommie and daddie's cars, who are not going to let them put a
defeater on the vehicle.
And as for the 21-25 year old crowd if you pull any of them aside and
ask them if they are at a higher risk of accident then the older geezers,
they will all tell you your full of crap, that it's everyone else out there
is a worse driver then they are, and who is causing the accidents.
So I don't think that (b) will be much of a motivator. I think that it's
pretty obvious that defeaters are going to be sold using the "anti-spying"
scare marketing, rather than "if you disable this and smash someone
else's car up you might get away with it"
I don't think this is really much of an issue. Consider it this way. A
defeater MUST be designed so that it's presense isn't legally provable.
In short, an investigating cop can find evidence that a defeater might have
been used in the car, but not proof. In a criminal prosecution it isn't
enough to say "Judge, we found some wires that we think could have been
used in a defeater, but we didn't find a defeater"
And this is true whether in an accident the driver is at fault or not.
If the cops find a defeater they are going to assume that the driver
is at fault regardless of the circumstances and charge him with
manslaughter or whatever they can that is applicable to the crash.
Finding a fried computer in a crashed car isn't proof a defeater was
used. In a crash wires can short, frying the computer.
So, the defeater electronics must be designed so that after a crash
in the 5-10 minutes that the driver is sitting behind the wheel, the
driver can remove the defeater electronics after either using them or
not, then put it in his pocket. Then, get out of the car to lay some
flares, pull out the defeater, which is disguised to look like the stub
of a road flare, and of which the components are about
90% plastic, and the case has a good solid slug of thermite in it,
and in 5 minutes the defeater is just another flare that burns really
fast, down to ash.
A defeater like I described that burns out the
computer could be built to be installed so that it's installation and
removal would be undetectible. All you need to do is find the connector
on the side of the computer, unplug it, and insert a harness with a male
and female plug on it going to the defeater, that goes to a self-shorting
defeater socket in the dashboard. If the defeater is pulled out, the
computer is connected to the car electronics, and the car operates
normally. If the defeater is inserted, the car computer still operates
normally, unless the driver presses the button on the defeater, which
instantly isolates the computer and dumps 500 volts into it in
short duration which destroys only the computer, leaving the
rest of the car electronics alone.
Of course, the cops in an accident investigation are going to find the
defeater socket. But if the driver takes the defeater with him there
is no proof that after the accident the defeater was in the socket.
It didn't need to be there for the car to work. And a spike of that
duration will not heat up chips or otherwise cause visible charring
or such on the circuit board.
It is best if your going to defeat the recorder, that you make it
so that the authorities don't have proof that you defeated the
recorder. And you also have to make it so that it's user-selectible,
because if the driver knows for a fact that he wasn't speeding,
he wasn't crossing the line, and so on, then he doesen't want the
recorder data to be defeated.
In short, the driver doesen't know if he wants the recorder
defeated until after an accident. After an accident, the driver
then will decide if he wants the data destroyed. If the accident
was his fault then he's going to destroy the data, if not, he doesen't.
I don't think your going to see defeaters be anything more
than a one-shot one-use blowup-computer type of thing. If
you manufactured a car computer that didn't data-record, that
isn't something that can easily be removed after an accident, and
it would show proof of intent to defeat the recorder which would
hold up in court, and probably work against you.
Because in order to do that they would have to stop you to get
because they cannot assume that the owner of the vehicle is driving it.
And while you were sitting there providing your identification the next
behind you would be waiting to provide HIS indentification, and so on and
so forth. It would back up the toll road unbelievably.
Anyway, why are you thinking small potatos? Instead of looking for
speeders, it would be a lot more lucrative to just check license plate
numbers looking for stolen cars, or looking for cars that didn't have
valid registrations, or check drivers to see if their licenses wern't
Females (of any age) that buy a new or used car will have zero
interest in adding a device or modifying their car's computer to turn
off the data-recording capability.
Young males (20 to 30 but particularly 20 to 25) who are driving their
own vehicle (their first car) - let's say it's used - will be the most
motivated to de-activate data recording if their car has it. Most
probably it will be a 2006 model, and they will be buying it used no
earlier than 2010.
Males aged 20 to 25 that buy a new car (2006 model or later) may have
a sufficient lack of fear to risk dammaging their car's electrical
system / computer and seek out and deploy the data recording
I guess a lot depends on what sort of after-market method arises to
perform the data recording de-activation. It might require changing a
component of the on-board computer (ie "chipping" it), it might
require a dongle that is permanently plugged into the computer access
port, or it could be accomplished by performing an un-documented
ignition sequence. Or it might require a complete swap of the
computer control module for an after market version. Some of these
methods are either very expensive or very technical to perform, and in
any case I predict that the existance of de-activation methods or
products will not become widely known to the general driving public
and will be about as common as sophisticated Radar detector and laser
detector/jammer products currently are.
Nobody is going to spend $$$ to market that sort of message to your
average soccer mom to get her to de-activate the data recording
function of the computer in her mini-van because it simply won't
result in any sales.
You will find ads for these things in the back pages of Road and
Track, right beside the ads for the rocky mountain passive/legal radar
jammer and the chips to add 15 hp to your neon.
Um - I don't think that's an issue.
Data recording capabilities may end up being a standard function in
every new car sold in a few years - WITHOUT the gov't requiring it.
And even if the gov't does, it doesn't mean it would be illegal for
the owner to de-activate it.
After all, stuff relating to the certification of vehicles usually
falls to individual states, and upon testing used vehicles (either
annual or semi-annual) or for re-sale purposed, as long as the
odometer hasn't been screwed with, and as long as the car passes
emmissions and safety tests, it's unlikely that de-activating data
recording capability would either be detectible or a ticket-able
Will never be sold as a commercial product for so many reasons that I
won't go into here.
The "authorities" aren't CSI of TV lore. They do not have star-trek
technology or intelligence. You don't have to go to extreme lengths
to cover-up something like that. But I think that's all a moot
point. It will not be an offence to de-activate the data recording
aspect of the car's computer. And even if it does become an offence -
it will simply be a moving violation (like driving with a burned out
tail light) and would play no role in an accident case from a
prosecution or court point of view.
The driver might be incapacitated and have no ability to either kill
the computer or clear it's memory after an accident.
This could all be a red herring.
The real reason for these data recorders could very well turn out to
be a way that the car companies are protecting their own ass against
accident law suits. Someone gets into an accident - they claim the
car was at fault and the maker was negligent - the car becomes
evidence - car maker somehow gets access to the data in the computer -
and data shows that the driver error was the cause of the accident.
I think they will just pay someone to do it for them.
All of that I think is a good line of thinking...
No, but if your the owner of a vehicle and your being sued in a civil
suit by the heirs of some other driver that you smashed into and killed,
even if the legal test for getting you convicted for manslaughter wasn't
met, the fact that you tampered with the data recorder is going to
sway a jury against you. The plantiff's lawyer will merely argue that
you intended to speed, and in a civil suit that kind of thing is allowed.
And there is a difference also between getting charged and getting
convicted. If a prosecutor finds you have tampered with the data
recorder he is going to automatically assume your a habitual
speeder and he's going to charge you. Even if a court later tosses
it based on "it's my right to disable the data recorder" you still
have the expense of mounting a defense.
Your best shot is to not even get charged in the first place, which
you do by making sure that the prosecutor/investigator doesen't
know that you tampered with the data recorder.
A chip mod like your describing -is- tampering with the odometer.
Ah your thinking of the liabilty angle - some goof presses the button
at highway speeds and his car computer suddenly dies, his engine
loses power and he has to pull over.
How is this any different than if the computer fails normally?
And a defeater that burns out the computer is going to be much
cheaper than a chip modification to the body computer or some
I kind of agree with this.
I disagree with this. It's going to make a difference in determining
to charge you and it's going to make a difference in any civil suit.
Plus since so much of this is handled pretrial anyway, a prosecutor that
sees a deactivated data recorder is going to have an incentive to
pile on the charges, to get you to plea it down.
He's going to charge you with manslaughter and with reckless driving and
he's going to tell you that they know damn well you were speeding because
you took the trouble to cover up the evidence, so if you try fighting them
they are going to fuck you over royally, then they are going to offer a
plea bargain, strike the manslaughter if you accept reckless driving.
Once you accept reckless driving then your going to lose everything
in the following civil suit.
Well yes that is true, and I knew about that as well. But you have to
really choose the point of view that your going to look at the
If your looking at it from the POV that this is a tool for concealing
evidence that you committed a crime, your going to opt for what
I described. And while you might think that is a strange viewpoint,
consider this. I myself regularly speed on the highways. I don't
drive 55. I don't drive 85 either, but I drive 60-65, which is what
everyone else on the highway drives.
I have to assume, to protect myself, that if I were to ever smash into
another car at that speed and kill the driver, that the driver's heirs
are going to try to take me for whatever I am worth. And I have to
assume that this will be the case even if it's not really my fault - ie:
there was oil on the road, the driver in front of me hit ice and spun
out, etc. And I have to assume that if those heirs get a copy of my
data recorder and see I was driving above the speed limit that they
are going to put enormous pressure on the DA to charge and
convict me with speeding, because once convicted they are going
to have a lot easier time going before a civil judge and claiming
that the accident was my fault, and they deserve a wrongful death
settlement. Or, if they find out I disabled the data recorder the
same thing will happen. In this case, I have to assume that a data recorder
for me is a liability every day for me on the highway.
BUT, if your looking at it from the paranoid-survivalist POV and
your just against it on moral grounds as being a privacy invasion,
well then your probably going to opt for a solution like what you
describe, ie: chipping it, etc.
This is actually more a restatement of why the NHTSA wants them. I don't
know about your feelings on them but in my opinion, the NHTSA is much
more sympathetic to the automakers than they are to the consumers who are
killed in accidents. There are lots of really minor safety issues - such as
the projecting seat belt button (www.unsafebelts.com) -
that the NHTSA has the grounds and political power to pressure the
automakers to fix, yet they ignore it. And whenever they do bestir
to push for recalls - such as the recall for the busted clockspring,
NHTSA # 04V480000 they allow the automakers to get away with murder.
There's lots of people with busted clocksprings in 2001 vans that it's
the problem is that Chrysler had some leftover 2000 clocksprings they used
in 2001 production - but those owners got stuck with the bill with no help
from the NHTSA. And, only replacing it in under 70K vans?
I think the NHTSA is the one that wants to protect the automakers from
accident lawsuits. I suspect that the automakers have been pretty free with
the cash and by now, own the NHTSA.
Of the many 19-24 yr old "young male" friends I occasionally meet that hang
with my kids, it is a rare one today that has even a clue or interest in
learning about how to do the simplest car repair or even maintenance.
Most say, "Wow, I wish I knew how to do that!" when they see me changing out
a thermostat or belt. But then they walk away with no further interest. So,
unless a they pay a store to install such a device for them, it wont get
Why is that?
"Ted Mittelstaedt" < email@example.com> wrote in message
Because mommy and daddy have enough cash to pay for most of the costs
for junior to drive a car around.
When your kid turns 16, 17 do you want to be driving him around all day long
to his firends, band practice, dates, football practice, etc. etc. etc.?
When you and
spouse are both working? He can't do half of the activities he wants to do
he has to rely on the bus system.
What happens is with any "good kid" ie; teenager who is getting B's in
mommy and daddy go through a process of convincing themselves that the
kid "deserves" the car when the reality is mommy and daddy just don't want
be bothered acting as driver. So they go find a car for junior, and pay for
car, pay for insurance, pay for major repairs - and the kid gets a
view of the costs of actually running a vehicle.
3-4 years later the tone has been set and it's a lost cause.
What you want to do is start in with them when they are 14-15 years old.
You teach them to do all the maintainence crap, changing fluids, changing
wiper blades, tires, etc. You start teaching them on the theory of the
combustion engine. When they hit driving age you tell them they can get a
but they have to pay everything for it. Including insurance. You tell them
you will buy any tool they need to fix their car - but they have to buy all
do all labor - or pay someone to do it - with thier own money.
When the kid realizes that if they do the work themselves it means the
between being able to afford the car or not afford the car - they are going
the work. Even if they dislike doing it. And of course, once they do the
it gets easier and easier to do, and their stock of tools is built up more
and eventually its second nature to them.
Though I agree with you Ted, that today is considered, to quote Radar
O'Reilly, horse and buggy thinking. It's almost to the point that if
you did that, social services would take the kid away from you for abuse.
Bill Putney, father of three daughters
(To reply by e-mail, replace the last letter of the alphabet in my
address with the letter 'x')
Sigh. I know. Somehow in the 60's I think the idea took place that
spring from the womb possessing a complete sense of empathy, a strong
sense of responsibility, and the desire to practice delayed gratification,
parents fuck that up by interfering in the kids normal development.
like water, they will always choose the easiest thing to do at the time,
if a succession of such choices leads to them being a 300 pound couch
potato that sits in front of a Sony Playstation all day long and flunks out
of High School.
Maturing is the process of developing motivation and responsibility, and
there are a great number of adults walking around today whose parents
have never forced them to mature.
I suppose it's a bit much to ask the MasterCard generation to teach
fiscal responsibility to their children.
Come on, chaps. Cars are much more reliable than they used to be and car
repair skills are just not that important any more. Plus some parts of cars
are much harder to repair yourself.
Get over it... ;-)
AND: it's "black boxes" with NO apostrophe.
For direct contact replace nospam with schmetterling
"Ted Mittelstaedt" < firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote in message
I have calculated the Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF) for Electronic
Assemblies using the MIL-STD-217E.
I can tell you definitively that todays cars are NOT more relaible
than those of yesterday! The more plumbing and electronic modules
incorporated into the car, the LESS reliable it is.
Just because the systems have self-diagnostics which can detect and
advise of a problem BEFORE the system fails does not make it more
The main problem with cars of old was that regular maintenance was
required, and people FAILED to do that maintenance! So those cars
would break down, and could well leave you stranded if they were not
Cars of today are less likely to leave you stranded, but they still
will require the replacement of a defective part or module. And those
electronic modules are NOT CHEAP! Not to mention the $100+ per hour
"special electronic diagnostic" charge to determine what the problem
is in the first place!
North American Auto Makers are in business to make money. This is done
in two ways: 1) Sell you a car, and 2) Make damn good and sure that
you will either have to buy a new car within 5 years OR make darn good
and sure you will be shelling out for maintenance should you not
decide to buy a new car!
The more complicated a system is, the more difficult and expensive it
is to fix.
In the summer I camped next to a couple who had a 1948 Chevrolet. This
car was equiped with a "straight six" of around 230 CID. That car,
even as heavy as it was, got comparable (or better) gas mileage than
my 2002 Grand Caravan. So there has been little or NO improvement in
the figures that COUNT - M.P.G. Safety has improved. Creature comforts
have improved. However, cost of lomg-term ownership has been
deliberately made prohibative by overcomplicated designs which are
designed with one thing in mind - obsolescense! Evenif you decide to
keep your new car "forever", you may not be able to! All that has to
happen is that a critical electronic module gets discontinured (even
in the aftermarket), and then that "module" fails. Voila! You WILL be
buying a new car.
The difference is that their 1948 Chevrolet still has the original
steering gear! I cannot say the same for my GC as mine was just
replaced at 98,000 kms. Shameful.
I used to have a 1968 Nova with a 250 CID engine. Regular Oil Changes,
Annual Tune Ups, and VERY INEXPENSIVE and very simple mechanical
repairs - many of which I could do myself! That car NEVER - and I mean
NEVER left me stranded. And it did NOT cast me a small fortune to
Newer cars are harder to repair yourself because they have been
DESIGNED that way - deliberately! The big 3 want your $$$$!
On Mon, 8 Jan 2007 13:10:51 -0000, "Dori A Schmetterling"
Exactly. The reliability of each component may have increased, but the
number of parts (not just the black boxes, but the number of integrated
circuits, resisotrs, diodes, transistors, etc., etc.) has probably gone
up by over two orders of magnitude. When you do the statistical
calulation of so-many-parts-per-million failures (multiplying that times
the number of parts that there are to fail), you have to improve that
more than you increase the number of parts that there are to fail.
Probably the net effect is that both factors have increased neck and
neck, possibly the overall reliability is ahead - BUT, the cost of the
repair when something does fail has increased an order of magnitude (and
so has the complexity and cost of the diagnosis process if it is
something that doesn't specifically get identified by a plug-in
(To reply by e-mail, replace the last letter of the alphabet in my
address with the letter 'x')
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