By on April 5, 2014

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What runs NFS, X11, and a thirteen-second quarter-mile?

In the past decade, there’s been a quiet but significant shift in the way most electronic devices work. The explosion in available computing power means that a lot of things that used to have embedded, proprietary operating systems now use less efficient but more flexible choices, like Windows CE, QNX, or some variant of the GNU/Linux/Android framework. Inevitably, therefore, this leads to people “jailbraking” or “rooting” these devices to have full control of them beyond the parameters envisioned by the developers. Sometimes the entire operating system is replaced, as with the old Linux On The Linksys hack.

As you might imagine, Tesla owners have been eager to take a shot at meeting the operating system behind the curtain, and now they are closer to making that goal happen. It’s now possible to connect to three different servers within a Tesla Model S via Ethernet. Will this eventually lead to all sorts of changes in the way people use Teslas, from unlocking additional power delivery and reserve capacity to “theme-ing the desktop”? Probably. Will it lead to people “bricking” their Teslas? Without a doubt. Is the next generation of electric-car pioneers curled up in the passenger seat of his mom’s Model S right now, hoping he doesn’t get caught as he reconfigures it to flash “takedown lights” whenever it hits 88mph or above? We’ll have to wait and see.

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22 Comments on “Hack The Planet! By “The Planet”, We Mean The Tesla Model S...”


  • avatar
    JimC2

    How about a nice game of chess?

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Surely Tesla has hackers who can beat the hackers… for a while.

  • avatar

    I personally feel that no vehicle should have any two way communication that in any way involves its engine computer or any other system that can affect its mobility. It’s just begging for trouble.

    I don’t want a hacker or the law having any access to my car whatsoever. It’s bad enough having to dodge Radar guns.

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      Exactly. quis programmiet ipsos programmes? (Who hacks the hackers?)

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      All cars made in 1996 or after have two way communication with their engine control computer. That is why you can use a tuner to change the programing to up the performance adjust for changes in axle ratios, tire sizes, remove the rpm or speed limiters.

      • 0 avatar

        “All cars made in 1996 or after have two way communication with their engine control computer. That is why you can use a tuner to change the programing to up the performance adjust for changes in axle ratios, tire sizes, remove the rpm or speed limiters.”

        I love it when people intentionally misquote or misread my comments.

        Having to physically get inside my car and plug a tuning device (like my PREDATOR) into the car’s computer, is totally different than being able to do it over-the-air from a desk at Chrysler headquarters.

        “HEY – Bigtruckseriesreview needs 30 more HP in his car so I’m gonna put in a few keystrokes and “upgrade” his car when it downloads to him later today”.

        That’s NOT how cars work, but that’s exactly how newer cars with Onstar do work. I don’t want the police being able to “shut down” my stolen Corvette C7 by calling up Onstar. If I steal a C7, you’re gonna just have to chase me – and keep up…

        • 0 avatar
          darkwing

          Um, it’s hard to misread the word “any”, intentionally or otherwise.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          You did NOT say that you personally feel that no car should have remote communication with the engine control computer, you said ANY communication with the engine control computer.

          What does Onstar have to do with this discussion anyway, the article is about Tesla not a GM product.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      >> I don’t want a hacker or the law having any access to my car whatsoever. It’s bad enough having to dodge Radar guns.

      Worry more about your cell phone. If you have android, check out this:
      https://maps.google.com/locationhistory

      • 0 avatar

        I’m not worried about my cellphone or the car’s GPS. As far as I know there’s no state that allows you to be served a speeding ticket based on the car’s GPS or a smartphone simply because there’s no way to prove who actually had the device, or that the tracking systems are accurate. As far as I know the police have to “directly observe” you using cameras, radar, speed traps, etc.

        I was coming back from TUNE TIME PERFORMANCE CAR SHOW yesterday (videos on my page – with great C7 videos!!!) and I was doing no less than 80 back trying to get through Staten Island. It occured to me that the cops set up radar traps heading towards NYC to catch New Jerseyites who are used to doing higher speeds. I slowed down and sure enough, a porker with a radar right around a corner was shining in my direction. I passed behind another vehicle to avoid line-of-sight. Some poor schlub right behind me got caught before I even got 1000 feet away.

    • 0 avatar
      fredtal

      As a Linux user I believe in open access. I should be free to modfiy my car how ever I see fit, and that means access to the computer.

      • 0 avatar
        darkwing

        It’s easy to misunderstand the hacker ethos, now that so much software has been open sourced. But here’s what it boils down to — you’re not entitled to anything for free, but you have the tools to build it yourself.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    //“bricking” their Teslas

    Heh… more like briquette.

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    “bricking” already happens with everyday cars when some tunerZ mess with the ECU and they don’t know what they’re doing.

  • avatar
    mcs

    The most interesting and useful area of vehicle hacking is to fake out the radar on other vehicles active cruise control and collision avoidance systems. Doing little things like slowing down other vehicles to facilitate last minute merges or to assist in getting around left lane bandits. Want to leave a 911 behind with a beat-up B segment Toyota – no problem if you convince the 911’s PAS system that there’s a brick wall in front of it.

    Radar jamming isn’t difficult and I suspect the designers of these systems didn’t take precautions against it.

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      I like where your mind is going with this.

      “Radar jamming isn’t difficult…” Barrage jamming (make enough noise to drown out the real radar signal) isn’t difficult. Technique jamming (receive the signal and create a fake return to trick the radar), however, is more challenging- although with the computing power available to consumers nowadays it may not be so difficult.

      Road rage might get very interesting. How might the next left-lane-hog SUV lady vs angry-redneck pickup truck gentleman confrontation turn out?? :)

  • avatar
    The Heisenberg Cartel

    1) hack a Tesla
    2) Install Android or iOS
    3) Play Flappy Bird and Clash of Clans
    4) ?????
    5) PROFIT!!


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