Tag: Automobile


I was driving to pick up the kids from a graduation party, and I got rear ended on the Outer Loop of the Baltimore Beltway.

I could drive home, and the EMTs took a look at me and took vitals, but this is a royal pain in the ass.

The rear bumper and lower rear window (It’s a Prius) is trashed, and I was pushed into the truck in front of me.

On the bright side, the car was driveable, and I took it home over local streets.

Right now, I have a sore neck, a headache, and a bruise on my arm, and I am on hold with the insurance company.  (The last one is most painful).

I will need to stay awake for the next few hours just to be safe.

This Business Will Get out of Control. It Will Get out of Control and We’ll Be Lucky to Live through It.

A Tennessee woman hated that her congressman voted for the controversial Republican health-care bill in the House of Representatives, authorities said.

So Wendi L. Wright tried to run Rep. David Kustoff (R-Tenn.) off the road after he visited the University of Tennessee at Martin, they said.

The Weakley County Sheriff’s Department said Wright tailed the car carrying Kustoff. At some point, the congressman and his aide became afraid and worried that Wright wanted to force them off the road.

They then turned into a driveway and stopped. That’s where Wright got out, screamed at the congressman and struck the windows of his vehicle, even reaching inside the car, the sheriff’s department said.

Authorities said Wright then stood in front of the vehicle to try to keep Kustoff from leaving. At some point, someone called 911, but Wright left before authorities arrived.

The incident happened on May 8, four days after House Republicans narrowly passed a bill to overhaul the country’s health-care system.

Wright, 35, has been charged with felony reckless endangerment and was released after posting a $1,000 bond. Authorities say they found her after she posted details of the encounter with Kustoff on Facebook.

I think that characterizing this as an attempt to run the Congressman off the road is a bit much. It’s more of a stalking and a rant.

Still, this is major league crazy sh%$, and it is a profoundly unproductive course of action.

Good News in Florids ……… Wait ……… What? Florida?

Actually it is good news, not another Florida Man story.

A court in Florida has ruled that, unlike a physical examination of brakes and tires of a vehicle, authorities need a warrant to extract data from vehicle black boxes:

An interesting decision has been reached by the Florida Appeals Court as to Fourth Amendment protections for vehicle “black boxes.” The black boxes — which are a mandatory requirement in new vehicles — record a variety of data in the event of a crash. (h/t FourthAmendment.com)

Charles Worsham Jr. was the driver in a crash in which his passenger was killed. His vehicle was seized and impounded by police. Twelve days later, police accessed the data in the black box without obtaining a warrant. Worsham challenged the lawfulness of the warrantless search. The police maintained the black box was full of third-party records which required no warrant or consent from the vehicle’s owner.

The court sees the issue differently. In a relative rarity, the state Appeals Court decides [PDF] to get out ahead of the issue, rather than wait for precedential decisions to trickle down from the federal courts. It looks at the data harvested by the black box and suggests the amount gathered will only increase in the coming years. Rather than wait until then to make a call on the Fourth Amendment merits, it draws the line now.

Citing the Supreme Court’s Riley decision (which introduced a warrant requirement for cell phone searches), the court concludes the crash data contained in the black box has an expectation of privacy.

A car’s black box is analogous to other electronic storage devices for which courts have recognized a reasonable expectation of privacy. Modern technology facilitates the storage of large quantities of information on small, portable devices. The emerging trend is to require a warrant to search these devices.
Although electronic data recorders do not yet store the same quantity of information as a cell phone, nor is it of the same personal nature, the rationale for requiring a warrant to search a cell phone is informative in determining whether a warrant is necessary to search an immobilized vehicle’s data recorder. These recorders document more than what is voluntarily conveyed to the public and the information is inherently different from the tangible “mechanical” parts of a vehicle. Just as cell phones evolved to contain more and more personal information, as the electronic systems in cars have gotten more complex, the data recorders are able to record more information.

Also of importance is the difficulty of extracting the information from the black boxes.

Extracting and interpreting the information from a car’s black box is not like putting a car on a lift and examining the brakes or tires. Because the recorded data is not exposed to the public, and because the stored data is so difficult to extract and interpret, we hold there is a reasonable expectation of privacy in that information, protected by the Fourth Amendment, which required law enforcement in the absence of exigent circumstances to obtain a warrant before extracting the information from an impounded vehicle.

Not only that, but recent legislation (the Driver Privacy Act of 2015) specifically states that the contents of data recorders belong to the vehicle’s owner, not the manufacturer or any other third party.


Our IP System in One Profoundly Dysfunctional Nutshell

It turns out that American farmers are being forced to use software from Ukrainian hackers to repair their own tractors:

To avoid the draconian locks that John Deere puts on the tractors they buy, farmers throughout America’s heartland have started hacking their equipment with firmware that’s cracked in Eastern Europe and traded on invite-only, paid online forums.

Tractor hacking is growing increasingly popular because John Deere and other manufacturers have made it impossible to perform “unauthorized” repair on farm equipment, which farmers see as an attack on their sovereignty and quite possibly an existential threat to their livelihood if their tractor breaks at an inopportune time.

“When crunch time comes and we break down, chances are we don’t have time to wait for a dealership employee to show up and fix it,” Danny Kluthe, a hog farmer in Nebraska, told his state legislature earlier this month. “Most all the new equipment [requires] a download [to fix].”

The nightmare scenario, and a fear I heard expressed over and over again in talking with farmers, is that John Deere could remotely shut down a tractor and there wouldn’t be anything a farmer could do about it.

A license agreement John Deere required farmers to sign in October forbids nearly all repair and modification to farming equipment, and prevents farmers from suing for “crop loss, lost profits, loss of goodwill, loss of use of equipment … arising from the performance or non-performance of any aspect of the software.” The agreement applies to anyone who turns the key or otherwise uses a John Deere tractor with embedded software. It means that only John Deere dealerships and “authorized” repair shops can work on newer tractors.

“If a farmer bought the tractor, he should be able to do whatever he wants with it,” Kevin Kenney, a farmer and right-to-repair advocate in Nebraska, told me. “You want to replace a transmission and you take it to an independent mechanic—he can put in the new transmission but the tractor can’t drive out of the shop. Deere charges $230, plus $130 an hour for a technician to drive out and plug a connector into their USB port to authorize the part.”

“What you’ve got is technicians running around here with cracked Ukrainian John Deere software that they bought off the black market,” he added.

The affection we have in our society for rent seeking through things like the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act), and it serves no one but parasites.

In fact, it creates a society based on this parasitism, which crowds out productive activities, and leads to inequality,

We have created a society of Martin Shkrelis, and this is not a good way to be.

Scary Tweet of the Day

DJI did a firmware update on a drone… while mid-flight 😬 pic.twitter.com/YDexjEViFc

— Internet of 💩 (@internetofshit) February 8, 2017

Of course, who cares about a lightweight relatively cheap drone.

Then again, what if this was a self driving car, or even the car that you are driving now? While you are driving it?

Tesla has already done over the air (OTA) updates on their cars, and while you may trust them, (I don’t) would you trust the creators of the Chevy Vega?

H/t Naked Capitalism

This is F%$#ing Inspired

Self-driving cars are all the rage right now, though I really don’t see the tech taking off for a very long time.

The problem is how to make an AI play nice with people on the road, who are inattentive, stupid, violent, vindictive, and frequently malicious.

And once you do, how do you test it?

Rolling it out on the road, with an operator in the drivers seat, is expensive.

Just the liability insurance would be insane.

Obviously, one solution, for the software at least, is to test it in a virtual environment, but this raises an important question: Where can one find a virtual reality that even comes close to mimicking the insanity that is humans driving cars?

Three Words: Grand Theft Auto:

Developers building self-driving cars can now take their AI agents for a spin in the simulated open world of Grand Theft Auto V – via OpenAI’s machine-learning playground, Universe.

The open-source MIT-licensed code gluing GTA V to Universe is maintained by Craig Quiter, who works for Otto – the Uber-owned startup that delivered 51,744 cans of Budweiser over 193km (120 miles) using a self-driving truck.

The software comes with a trained driving agent; all developers need is a copy of the game to get cracking. After that, programmers can swap out the demo AI model with their own agents to test their code and neural networks. Universe and Quiter’s integration code takes care of the fiddly interfacing with the game.

Video games new and old provide great training grounds for developing reinforcement learning agents, which learn through trial and error – or rather, trial and reward when things go right. OpenAI’s Universe was released in December, and is a wedge of open-source middleware that connects game controls and video displays to machine-learning agents so they can be trained in the virtual arenas.

Admittedly, GTA, with its hot rods, weapons, and rampant crime is only a pale shadow of commuting in Boston,* but putting self driving automobile software through its paces in the fictional burg of San Andreas, is a truly inspired reuse of code.

*No joke: I knew that it was time for me to leave New England when I screamed at someone for NOT cutting me off in a parking lot.

My Life is Effectively Over

Such is the nature of my doing contract work that I need to find a new job on a fairly regular basis.

My new position is not transit accessible, so I had to get a car for commuting.

It’s a used Prius, so now we own both a minivan and a Prius.

I am now suffering from terminal automotive dullness.

As an aside, the Prius is a pleasant car to drive, though I find it disconcertingly quiet, and the animated displays take some getting used to.

The outside visibility is excellent, which is a surprise given the spoiler midway up the rear windows.

Also, I am not sure why, but it feels huge, more like a full size car than the midsize that it is technically listed as.

This is not a handling thing, it’s just the sense I get sitting in it.  It feels really big.

It’s handling is rather crisp though.