Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Linux in your car*

The auto manufactures are competing to put the most computer into your car. The merging of digital devices and personal transportation is progressing with alacrity. We know this. The fact that there has been “chips” in our cars for a decade or so is also well known. OnStar™ GPS tracking of our

Knight Rider dashboard ("Kitt")

Knight Rider dashboard ("Kitt")

movements has been successfully marketed as a benefit to us, and we pay extra for the privilege. And our car has a microphone, to listen for ‘our calls for help’ (but, only when we push the button… Right??).

I read that the Vehicle Infrastructure Integration Consortium, a government “safety and efficiency” program, (there is a detailed description on Wikipedia, I suggest you scroll down to the paragraph titled “public concerns”) has developed a prototype for an on-board vehicle computer designed to interact with the Internet that will use Linux.
(These are the folks who want to put radars in cars, “to detect proximity to the vehicle ahead and automatically apply the brakes to avoid rear-end collisions”)
And they want to use the Web so the cars can, “provide a direct link between a vehicle on the road and all vehicles within a defined vicinity. The vehicles would be able to communicate with each other (and the cops), exchanging data on speed, orientation, perhaps even on driver awareness and intent.” This, to “improve traffic flow.”
Hmmm…. Driver intent?!?

Of course, this is being touted as a boon to us dumb citizens. We are told, “this will improve the driving experience” (not to mention, make us safer). How could our car accessing the Web be a benefit? The VII-C says, “by alerting cars about approaching emergency vehicles, collecting data to map weather patterns with high precision, and allowing for ‘over the air’ upgrades of vehicle firmware.”

Hmmm… Let me think about that…
1) Don’t approaching emergency vehicles have flashing lights and loud sirens?
2) Weather??? Like, I’m not going to go where I need to go because there’s a cold front developing..?
3) Automatic updates (aka “patches”)? What does this imply? That there’s concern about viruses and hackers, maybe? (You bet there’s concern!)

Of course the key words here are ‘traffic flow’, and ‘transmit its location’. By publishing its onboard data via the Web, some person in some government office will be able to see where every car is, its speed and direction of travel, and by activating the microphone, will be able to listen to the conversations taking place inside.
Think about that. Frankly, it scares the pants off of me.

I want you readers to know that the government already has this ability to some extent. We are rapidly approaching the point where every car being produced has some type of GPS built into it. They track us through the cellular phone signals (but these are “unreliable”). To “get better gas mileage”, we have all kinds of mini-computers on board that record our speed and braking, and store that info for later perusal — this aids in “accident reconstruction”. But these are not enough. They want more and better tracking technology installed. They don’t want “recorded”, they want “reported”.

Do NOT violate the speed limit in a rental car. The onboard computers will snitch, and when you go to return it, you will be hit with a stiff fine. I kid you not. Joyriding is out, too: excessive acceleration, hard braking, and high lateral G’s are recorded and reported too, even if you never top out above 65. Yes, your car is a snitch. Divorce attorneys and Law Enforcement love the GPS recorder.

Let’s tout the boon to mankind: parents can benefit from these automatic recorders too. Want to know how your kid treated the family car? Where they went? If they braked too hard or accelerated too hard? If they parked at Lover’s Lookout? Just buy an adapter and plug in your laptop. You can play Big Brother and see everything the car did. (I’m still working on how you can send the signal that activates the car’s microphone, and listen in on your kid… That will be a money-maker!)

The miracle of technology is in our cars. We are being told it’s for our benefit and we believe it. OnStar is something we all think is great, and we’re convinced it’s a status symbol (remember when only top-end cars offered it?).

I, for one, don’t want a single recorder, chip, microphone, GPS locator, or transmitter on my person or on my car. It’s nobody’s business where I am, where I’ve been, or… my speed and direction of travel. (Did you miss my article, “It’s time to write your Representative”? Click here.)
They are going to do this, folks, and they’re not giving us citizens much say (”not much” = none).

Today’s free download: Today I’m putting out the call for your input in this section. Is there a free program or tool that you think is fantastic, but you haven’t seen me post it here? Send me your recommendation — the name, not the link — and I’ll run it through my testing. Those that pass will appear here, with accreditation.

Today’s free link(s): For those of you who aren’t at all bothered by this, and have quite the opposite view; in that you want access to your car’s info (perhaps you are the parents of a beginning driver), devices are available now. If your vehicle is newer and GPS equipped, all you need is a special plug (adapter), if your vehicle [or, the one you’re letting the kid drive] is older, you may want to take a look at this Wall Street Journal article: A Back-Seat Driver For Your Teen’s Car

And from the day’s headlines, Online Porn – Conservative States Biggest Users…

* Original posting– 8/17/07

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved. post to jaanix

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February 28, 2009 - Posted by | computers, Internet, privacy, tech | , , , , , , , ,


  1. You have painted a rather frightening scenario; at least for someone of my older generation, in your very informative article.

    Younger people on the other hand, are well versed in the lack of privacy, and so for them this will not be intrusive technology. They will see only the benefits, and none of the dangers. Funny how societal conditioning works!

    Older people, on the other hand, will constantly be aware that this type of technology will be misused. Technology always is.

    Gloomy, but true never-the-less.


    Comment by Bill Mullins | February 28, 2009 | Reply

    • Oh.. I’m just reporting certain technologies. I’ll leave it to the sci-fi writers (and perhaps to George Orwell) to paint the pictures.

      As long as we do exactly as our masters want, we have nothing to fear from “Big Brother”. If you don’t run red lights, the cameras don’t worry you. If you’re not a terrorist, airport security doesn’t worry you. If you never type any words that might embarrass you, or visit embarrassing websites, e-mail and browsing-history archiving won’t bother you…

      Where security is concerned, I am whole-heartedly in agreement with Bruce Schneier and his views on striking a balance.
      And I’m whole-heartedly in agreement with your earlier comments on privacy, cilvil liberties, and the current public attitude.. as well as your statement that the topic is a “non-starter”.

      Folks, more light-hearted fare is on the way.


      Comment by techpaul | February 28, 2009 | Reply

  2. […] See the rest here: Linux in your car* […]


    Pingback by Linux in your car* | Computer Hardware | February 28, 2009 | Reply

  3. TechPaul,

    I totally agree with you…

    High Tech “Behavioral Monitoring”… Misbehave and “Big Brother” will come get you!



    Comment by whatsonmypc | February 28, 2009 | Reply

  4. we, that is the best technology that I ever know… and I think that is a good Idea..


    Comment by sports car | October 25, 2010 | Reply

    • sports car,
      I would be curious to know why you think your car transmitting its speed and direction of travel “to other vehicles”/computers over-riding the driver and applying brakes/etc., is/are a good idea(s).

      Oh! I know! You work in Traffic Fines collections, and you want the ability to remote-control lock someone out of their car, kill the ignition, and lock up the brakes should your records show they didn’t pay a parking ticket. And you want the GPS to show you right where to send the Impound yard’s tow truck.
      Just too bad that that someone actually did pay.. but the data entry clerk made a “typo”..

      (We already have that technology folks. And that scene has already happened.)


      Comment by techpaul | October 25, 2010 | Reply

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