Cars increasingly resemble a smartphone on wheels, storing personal information such as our location, how we drive, who we talk to and how to reach them. Some even hold a way to join our home WiFi network. If you’ve ever sold an old smartphone or laptop, you probably thought to wipe the hard drive first, to protect your privacy. When we sell a car, or return a rental car, a similar thought may not cross our minds, but cybersecurity experts say it should.
This month a security researcher described buying old Tesla infotainment systems online and finding personal information such as the home addresses and WiFi passwords of the previous owners. The news was first reported by InsideEvs. Searches of eBay reveal that infotainment systems from brands such as BMW, Ford, Cadillac and Mercedes-Benz are currently available for sale.
“This isn’t just a Tesla thing, it’s every single infotainment system,” said Justin Schorr, president of DJS Associates, a vehicle forensics firm that reconstructs crashes using on-board data. “Think of all the vehicles with screens, this is ubiquitous almost.”
Justin P. Schorr, Ph.D., Principal Collision Reconstruction / Transportation Engineer
Multi-vehicle collisions, sometimes involving dozens of vehicles, typically occur during periods of adverse weather conditions such as snow, ice, and/or fog (some may recall the recent 20+ vehicle collision in Pennsylvania). When these collisions occur on high-speed, limited-access highways, there can be severe consequences as a result of the multiple impacts (at the time of this writing it has been reported that there were 2 fatalities and over 35 people sent to the hospital as a result of the aforementioned pile-up in Pennsylvania). However, from a reconstruction standpoint, with so many vehicles involved, how does one define the dynamics of the collision?
So, how much of your personal data is stored by infotainment systems and what is recoverable from them?
The investigators at 7 News Boston asked our engineers Robert Kinder, Jr., MS, and Justin P. Schorr, Ph.D., that same question. See the full story here, or contact Justin and Rob via email at experts@forensicDJS.com or by phone at 215-659-2010, to learn more about our infotainment capabilities.
Justin P. Schorr, Ph.D., President, Principal Collision Reconstruction / Transportation Engineer
There are three parts to every collision: the vehicle, the roadway, and the driver. In honor of my father – and following the conceptual writing prompt he loved the most (“let’s see how far we can stretch this analogy”) – this article will take a look at the “great collision of life” and see how our framework applies. Yes, I could use this space, which we are grateful to have been awarded, to gloat about the recent “cease and desist” letter sent to Tesla (which I have been calling for the past 2 years), or to rewrite the ABC’s of the latest trend in crash reconstruction (another one of my father’s favorites). It may not be conventional – but there is no way I am going to pass up the opportunity to gloat about my father to such a distinguished audience.
The Vehicle. My old man was a machine. The vehicle which he drove on a daily basis was 5 foot 10 and 160 pounds – and this was true from the time he was in graduate school until the day he passed away. He used to tell me that he was under 5 feet tall when he graduated high school and then grew 8 inches between high school and college. I held out hope that the same would happen to me, but unfortunately, I am still waiting for 5’8” to turn into anything taller than 5’8”! Not only did his last moments come just after he dismounted his spin bike – but I will always remember the neon yellow runner’s pullover he had been wearing earlier that day. Dad was an athlete. Scratch that, he couldn’t hit a golf ball over 200 yards, and he had the worst wrist shot and slap shot I’ve ever seen. Dad loved to exercise. Much better. At 61 years old, his aerobic endurance was miles beyond my 33-year-old “vehicle,” and he had even completed a marathon (he had run a few) in under 4 hours.
Justin P. Schorr, Ph.D., Principal Collision / Reconstruction Engineer, President of DJS Associates, Inc.
Heading northbound on a sunny day, a stone mason operating a super duty “work” type truck went to execute a U-turn at a signal-controlled intersection. There were no sight distance limitations and no signs indicating that U-turns were prohibited. He testified that while turning from the left northbound travel lane, he was “rear-ended” by a Toyota passenger vehicle, which was also in the left lane, behind him. Simple rear-end collision… right? [Stealing a line from my father which he stole from Paul Harvey and subsequently beat into the ground] “And now for the rest of the story.”
The dispute is as follows:
While the Toyota operator agreed that she was in the left lane and that the truck was making a U-turn – her claim was that the truck began its turn from the adjacent lane (immediately to her right) and then turned across the left lane, cutting her off. In addition to no measurements being recorded at the scene and the absence of any witnesses, by the time the case reached litigation neither vehicle was available for inspection. However, several photographs were taken which showed damage to the vehicles and the point of rest position of the truck. Through the use of the vehicle specifications along with the damage photographs, to-scale three-dimensional computer models of each vehicle was created which accurately reflected the damage profiles shown in the photographs.
Dr. Justin Schorr joins Marc Hoag, Dr. Martin Adler (Netherlands), and Dr. Henning Lategahn (Germany) for the Season 3 Finale of Autonomous Cars with Marc Hoag. Their discussion on nearly every angle surrounding autonomous vehicles ranges in topic from technology to societal impacts, and everything in between.
Listen to the podcast here – https://www.podbean.com/media/share/dir-kdzqx-6299ada
Justin P. Schorr, Ph.D., Principal Collision Reconstruction / Transportation Engineer with DJS Associates, can be reached via email at experts@forensicDJS.com or via phone at 215-659-2010.