back to article Connected car in the second-hand lot? Don't buy it if you're not hack-savvy

Cars are smart enough to remember an owner, but not smart enough to forget one – and that's a problem if a smart car is sold second-hand. The problem is as simple as you could imagine: people shovelling apps and user services into cars forget that the vehicle nearly always outlives its first owner. The global head of IBM's X- …

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  1. Oengus Silver badge

    Hackers dream

    The Register can't help wondering what that's going to look like once a bunch of vendors have talked different vendors in different industries to implement different identity management and access revocation solutions

    With all of these self interests at work there will be security holes that you could drive a double decker bus through...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hackers dream

      With all of these self interests at work there will be security holes that you could drive a double decker bus through...

      .. which makes me wonder what this would do on a double decker bus. Sorry, carry on..

      :)

      1. Mike Moyle Silver badge

        Re: Hackers dream

        ".. which makes me wonder what this would do on a double decker bus. "

        Oh they used to laugh at me

        When I refused to ride

        On all those double-decker buses

        All because there was no firewall on the top.

        -- "Twisted" (with apologies to Ross & Grey)

    2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Hackers dream

      With all of these self interests at work there will be security holes that you could drive a double decker bus through...

      Somebody else's double-decker bus, controlled from your phone.

    3. Locky Silver badge

      Re: Hackers dream

      I don't know what you're all so worried about. Security is top of the list of these car manufacturers.

      It's not like one would broadcast an advert telling the world what it's default password is...

      Oh

  2. Winkypop Silver badge
    Happy

    Everything old is new again

    Saw an old car of mine some 10 years after I sold it. After the shock of realising it was still getting around, I surreptitiously reached behind the number plate to find my 'secret' key was still in place...

    1. Magani
      Facepalm

      Re: Everything old is new again

      In the bad old days of cowboy car dealers in the late '60s, I traded my Austin 1800 (yes, I know...) in with 45,000 miles on the clock. About a month later, I saw it parked in the city, and just out of curiosity, went across to have a look at how the new owner was keeping it. The odometer now read 19,000 miles.

      (They had removed my spare key, though.)

      Wouldn't happen these days, would it....

      1. FlossyThePig
        Headmaster

        Re: Everything old is new again

        Wouldn't happen these days, would it....

        If you have a car that is older than three years it requires an MOT test and the certificate shows the mileage from previous tests.

        Perhaps:

        - You never look at the certificate;

        - You only own cars less than four years old;

        - You no longer own a car.

        Whack-O!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Everything old is new again

          "If you have a car that is older than three years it requires an MOT test and the certificate shows the mileage from previous tests."

          In the UK a private seller can sell a vehicle with a re-clocked odometer legally as long as they disclose the fact.

          I rode old British motorcycles as main transport for many years, and the vibration would routinely kill speedometers. Every time I fitted a new speedo the indicated mileage was zero again (but I was always honest about the true mileage when selling a bike). After a few speedo replacements the mileage on MoT certificates bore no resemblance to reality.

          More recently I owned a 15-year old car with less than 20,000 miles on the clock - for the second time, as it started at zero again at 100,000 miles. Over the few years I owned it I had several "low mileage" MoT certificates, the point being that the mileage on a previous certificate isn't necessarily a true figure.

          1. Dan McIntyre

            Re: Everything old is new again

            I rode old British motorcycles as main transport for many years, and the vibration would routinely kill speedometers.

            I rode a 1938 Argson tricycle across the Alps in 2011 and found the same problem - the speedo first stopped working and then dropped off altogether eventually. Minor issue though compared to the chain stretching, the idler shaft snapping halfway up a swiss mountain on a sunday etc etc.

            BTW, we managed to find a garage on that mountain, open and they let us use their welding gear to fix the idler.

        2. HieronymusBloggs Silver badge

          Re: Everything old is new again

          If you have a car that is older than three years it requires an MOT test

          There are plans to re-classify vehicles over 30 years old as 'classic' and exempt them from MoT tests. At present the exemption only applies to pre-1960 vehicles.

        3. Magani
          Holmes

          Re: Everything old is new again

          @FlossyThePig

          Perhaps:

          - You never look at the certificate;

          - You only own cars less than four years old;

          - You no longer own a car.

          or perhaps I live in a country that isn't the UK?

          1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

            Re: Everything old is new again

            I have a car imported from japan. I fitted a uk speedo , and tried to adjust it for the correct mileage.

            I was half asleep , and instead of 75 k miles it has 10 times that.

            Some of the MOT certs notice that , some assume its 75 ish.

            I dont really care. Me and any potential buyer know what we're looking at.

            I must say the new accessible mot mileage records must have almost eliminated "clocking".

            1. imanidiot Silver badge

              Re: Everything old is new again

              Not really. It's just done differently now. It's rather easy to adjust the odometer on modern cars (Requires a CANbus controller and some hacking skills, especially knowing which modules store the mileage, so that you can reset ALL of them so as not to leave a trace).

              This is most useful on new cars, but what you basically do is set the mileage to a much lower value before each MOT test (Or APK in the Netherlands). Over the years this means you have a much lower mileage count on the odometer than the vehicle has actually made. Then you can sell it for much more than it's actually supposed to be worth because it's a "low mileage" vehicle. Since the mileage year on year still increases and there are no weird jumps either way, the authorities still give you the genuine/logical mileage declaration.

  3. redpawn Silver badge

    Nothing will be done

    until there is a sensational case of a former owner doing something unspeakable to a young...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Nothing will be done

      Nothing will be done

      until there is a sensational case of a former owner doing something unspeakable to a young...

      Hey, no need to drag the Catholic Church into this one.

      :)

  4. macjules Silver badge

    "Without naming the machine's maker"

    Not many cars around that use apps to control them .. dare I mention Tesla? The procedure for transferring ownership is pretty hard:

    Old owner:

    DVLA transfer

    Log out of the app

    Inform Tesla of the transfer of ownership and also send a copy of the registration

    New owner is required to inform Tesla of:

    Colour copy or photo of current driver’s licence

    Copy or photo of vehicle registration

    Phone Number

    Email Address (the email use for My Tesla Account)

    Home or mailing address

    Might be easier to buy a much older car that doesn't have apps to control it.

    (PS: I'm a Tesla owner)

    1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

      Re: "Without naming the machine's maker"

      Well they are certainly doing a reasonable job attempting to identify the new owner, but the euqestion remains, are all the access controls also zeroed to startup?

    2. 0laf Silver badge

      Re: "Without naming the machine's maker"

      "Not many cars around that use apps to control them", only pretty much every BMW from the last few years.The app can track the car and open it and can't be disabled by the owner.

      1. Wade Burchette

        Re: "Without naming the machine's maker"

        "The app can track the car and open it and can't be disabled by the owner."

        I would like to see it work with its fuse pulled.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: "Without naming the machine's maker"

          "I would like to see it work with its fuse pulled."

          Sure, only will you have a working car at that point. Never underestimate the deviousness of Big Brother so that one cannot disable the telemetry without disabling the device altogether: all or nothing.

      2. Dan 10

        Re: "Without naming the machine's maker"

        I just got rid of a 2014 5 series on Friday. I now cannot log in to the app on my phone.

        Also, even if I managed to log in, the app checks the car's location. If it's more than 1.5km away from the phone, it refuses to provide any info 'for privacy reasons'.

        The only hidden nugget on that car is Faithless's The Dance on the hard drive.

    3. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: "Without naming the machine's maker"

      So Tesla's USP is that 'the car owns you' then?

      with all that information on you you are going to get pawned and that's almost a 100% sure fire guess.

      Obviously, the next step will be for the Tesla (other makes are available) to draw blood from the driver and do an onboard test for

      - Is the sample from a registerd driver

      - is the sample from someone who is insured to drive

      - is the driver drunk or under the effect of drugs.

      Then it will check all poilice databases to make sure that there are no outstanding warrants for the driver arrrest. If it finds one then it will lock the doors, immobilise the cars and call the police.

      And all you wanted to do was put the thing in the garage instead of leaving it on the driveway over night.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "Without naming the machine's maker"

        "[...] to draw blood from the driver and do an onboard test"

        That will be fun trying to start the car on a cold winter's morning when hands are too cold to produce even a micro-spot of blood.

        1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

          Re: "Without naming the machine's maker"

          The machine won't give up. It will just keep digging until it strikes blood.

          1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

            Re: "Without naming the machine's maker"

            "The machine won't give up. It will just keep digging until it strikes blood."

            So, once again, life will imitate art?

    4. nilfs2

      Re: "Without naming the machine's maker"

      Why do I have to ask Tesla for permission to sell MY car? One more reason why all that electronic gadgery doesn't belong on a car, GPS is as far as I will go with the gadgets, and that's on my phone, not on my darn car.

      1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

        Re: "Without naming the machine's maker"

        "Why do I have to ask Tesla for permission to sell MY car?"

        Good question... is it really YOUR car, in the sense that you actually OWN it and can do with it whatever you want?

        I don't know the particulars in Tesla's contracts, but lately I have been noticing a tendency amongst makers of vehicles to regard their products not so much as sell-and-forget physical things, but rather as intellectual property on wheels that the "buyer" may use for some time, within clearly defined (and somewhat repressive) parameters.

      2. d3vy Silver badge

        Re: "Without naming the machine's maker"

        "Why do I have to ask Tesla for permission to sell MY car"

        There's a simple answer. You don't.

        You can inform them of the sale (I'm sure the new buyer will insist on it so they can register for all of the connected services and access to the electronic service records)

  5. jake Silver badge

    Now ask me why ...

    ... I drive pre-1970 "enhanced restorations". (There are a couple from 1972 in the fleet, and the Peterbilt is this century ... ).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Now ask me why ...

      ... I drive pre-1970 "enhanced restorations".

      You don't want to be allowed in Central London anymore when the new pollution measures come in?

      I love old cars too (especially the 60s models because they're just mad) but there is no way anything older than approx 10 years is as good environmentally as what is produced today. I suspect even VW will now be OK for a while.

      That said, I look at the full picture. Unless we find a better way to produce electricity I don't think electrical cars are the answer either, at present we simply push the pollution elsewhere :(.

      1. Stephen Wilkinson

        Re: Now ask me why ...

        While the environmental output of the engine isn't anywhere near as good on classic vehicles, not building a new car is even more environmentally friendly!

        1. 0laf Silver badge

          Re: Now ask me why ...

          Can you imaging any government saying "as an environmental measure we're going to encourage the citizens not to buy stuff and to incentivise repairs and maintenance".

          As opposed to "old stuff bad, new stuff good"

          No, me either

        2. Eddy Ito Silver badge

          Re: Now ask me why ...

          Putting the environmental friendly bit aside, the newer cars are much safer than the older models. Just look at the IIHS 50 anniversary crash between a 2009 Malibu and a 1959 Bel Air or Stuntbusters 2002 Caddy vs 1962 Caddy. While the '62 Caddy had the benefit of a more square on hit the driver still isn't walking away. Even later models from the early '90s don't have anywhere near the safety features of new cars which is very clearly demonstrated by the video of a Mexican spec 2015 Tsuru (essentially a cosmetically updated 1992 Nissan Sentra) and a U.S. spec 2016 Nissan Versa.

          Folks may like the old cars because they won't see much damage from a random ding in the parking lot but they are nowhere near as safe in a high speed crash.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Now ask me why ...

            "Folks may like the old cars because they won't see much damage from a random ding in the parking lot but they are nowhere near as safe in a high speed crash"

            The old Range Rover had solid steel bumpers attached to the solid steel girder chassis. A neighbour once reversed into it one frosty morning. I later wondered about the paint scratch on the front bumper - until he came to apologise and showed me his car's crushed rear end.

            One problem was that you couldn't get into a tight kerbside parking space and use the bumper "ding" method to judge the neighbouring cars' bumpers proximities.

          2. Fonant

            Re: Now ask me why ...

            newer cars are much safer than the older models

            Possibly, although (a) newer cars are a lot heavier and go a lot faster so they have significantly more kinetic energy when moving and (b) safer for the vehicle occupants, perhaps, but not necessarily for pedestrians, cyclists, dogs, etc.

            There's also the problem of risk compensation, where humans tend to convert safety enhancements into performance enhancements. Knowing you have excellent brakes allows you to drive faster and brake later, compared to a car with known-rubbish brakes. All very well until something unexpected happens, and every single "accident" on the roads is unexpected.

            1. Eddy Ito Silver badge

              Re: Now ask me why ...

              Newer cars certainly aren't heavier in the US. The IIHS test pitted a 2009 Malibu at between 3400 to 3500 lbs with a 1959 Bel-Air with a 6 cylinder at 3500 to 3600 lbs so it's a pretty even match. For the Cadillac matchup the older model weighs in at 4500 lbs and the newer one at 3800 lbs so the newer one is actually giving up 18% or so.

              I don't see either being particularly friendly to anything outside their respective envelope but the newer ones certainly aren't more dangerous to pedestrians and such. One might even argue that the softer rounded corners present less of a hazard than the older squarish designs and that some newer designs also have better visibility so as to better detect the presence of people and animals which may be preparing to cross ahead.

              Some time ago when crumple zones were just becoming a thing I had both an old 60's sedan and a newer car it was interesting to look at the insurance quotes. The line items for repairing each differed greatly and I asked if it was because parts were that much more expensive for the new model. My insurance agent said it wasn't really the individual part cost but it was that given a minor fender bender with no injuries the newer car would suffer quite substantial damage and be very costly to repair while the old tank would have little more than a scratch.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Now ask me why ...

                Modern cars are MUCH safer to both pedestrians and the occupants. Crumple zones, bonnet design, engine location, seat belts, pre-tensioning seat belts, airbags, bumper design, ABS, stabilty control, A-pillar design, floor pan design and on and on and on.

                Now, nothing we can do about people buying Chelsea tractors to pop to Tesco's in.

      2. gryphon

        Re: Now ask me why ...

        Indeed. Was there not a story on here a while ago where a Singaporean bought a Tesla or similar and got a massive unexpected environmental tax bill?

        i.e. The govt. had also taken into account the CO2 produced by the power station making the electricity to charge it.

      3. Ogi

        Re: Now ask me why ...

        >I love old cars too (especially the 60s models because they're just mad) but there is no way anything older than approx 10 years is as good environmentally as what is produced today. I suspect even VW will now be OK for a while.

        Fun fact, when I take my 1981 manufactured sports car to the MOT, not only does it fly past the emissions tests for the year of manufacture, they told me it easily beats 85% of modern cars in emissions output.

        Admittedly that is because most people drive a car until it stops working, then patch it up and continue, so cars are always at the near extreme of failure, and usually are barely passable in the emissions tests (not including the dodgy diesels which would be a MOT failure in any respectable garage, yet are still on the road).

        The big improvement in emissions came with ECUs, fuel injection and ignition control, which replaced the carbs of old, starting in the late 70s/early 80s. Since then it has been mostly minor refining in emissions.

        Most of the changes were in engine sizes (small engines with forced induction vs larger NA engines), making cars a lot bigger and heavier, lots of added safety airs, and seemingly making them far harder to drive (e.g. reducing visibility due to really thick pillars, especially at the rear).

        > While the environmental output of the engine isn't anywhere near as good on classic vehicles, not building a new car is even more environmentally friendly!

        Very true, someone did a full "Total cost analysis" on electric and hybrid cars vs keeping your old car, and it turns out that it it was more environmentally unfriendly to buy the electric/hybrid car vs keeping your old one (Especially the electric, due to the apparently really environmentally destructive mining of lithium for the batteries).

        Apparently you also had to do a stupidly high number of miles a year (for a decade or more) in order to break even on environmental footprint for the.

        I cannot for the life of me find the report now, but it was very interesting reading.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Now ask me why ...

          "I cannot for the life of me find the report now, but it was very interesting reading."

          Did you perhaps see this on an old episode of Top Gear with the "hilarious" Clarkson, "Captain Slow" and the "Hamster"?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Now ask me why ...

          it turns out that it it was more environmentally unfriendly to buy the electric/hybrid car vs keeping your old one (Especially the electric, due to the apparently really environmentally destructive mining of lithium for the batteries).

          The entertaining part is that that also has an as yet unused positive byproduct: thorium, which can be used to make far safer nuclear power plants than the current uranium based ones. I am well aware that what you have access to online is probably rather seriously biased, but from my reading so far there is but one argument that keeps thorium out of the picture: it doesn't generate weapons grade plutonium and lots of waste as a byproduct so there are no truckloads of money earned (as a matter of fact, thorium reactors can help reduce the waste pile).

          This flags up a very interesting question: is this maybe why China switched to exporting only the finished product instead of the raw ore?

          My feeling is that (based on what I have read so far) if thorium reactors were to become mainstream due to their inherently more safe failure mode and their far lower complexity, the balance would definitely shift to electric cars - basically to switch anything possible to electric.

          That is, if some assholes don't nick the cables first for the copper.

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: Now ask me why ...

            "The entertaining part is that that also has an as yet unused positive byproduct: thorium, which can be used to make far safer nuclear power plants than the current uranium based ones."

            Wanna bet? The thorium cycle produces Uranium-233. VERY weaponizable. Can't rule out a state being desperate enough to extract it. Not to mention U-233 is a real problem in cleanup time, as it's even MORE problematic than Pu-239.

      4. Christoph Silver badge

        Re: Now ask me why ...

        "You don't want to be allowed in Central London anymore when the new pollution measures come in?"

        They will have to allow older cars into London on the first Sunday in November. Much older cars. They will be extremely unpopular if they bugger up the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run!

      5. jake Silver badge

        Re: Now ask me why ...

        I tube/walk in central London, ta you very much. If I need other transportation, I'll use the two wheeled variety. The tree-fern powered bikes are also all pre 1970. But thanks for asking.

        What costs more environmentally: Building from scratch and then driving a brand new vehicle 100,000 miles, or restoring an older vehicle with modern enhancements & driving it 100,000 miles? I honestly don't know, but I've been told that recycling is good for the planet since I were a nipper ...

        Besides, they truly don't make 'em like they used to ...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Now ask me why ...

          "Besides, they truly don't make 'em like they used to ..."

          Remembering the Leyland rust buckets of the 1960/70s.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Now ask me why ...

            "Besides, they truly don't make 'em like they used to ..."

            Remembering the Leyland rust buckets of the 1960/70s.

            or Ladas :)

          2. d3vy Silver badge

            Re: Now ask me why ...

            "Besides, they truly don't make 'em like they used to"

            That's not always a good thing...

            Safety has improved massively over the years. For both occupants and pedestrians: as an example on detecting a pedestrian impact my bonnet pops up on springs to provide a cusioned surface for them to hit. The interior is full of air bags and I won't be impaled on my steering column.

            I wonder if I could up rate the springs and launch them into low orbit...

        2. Rainer

          Re: Now ask me why ...

          It's not too bad.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Embodied_energy#Embodied_energy_in_automobiles

        3. 404 Silver badge

          Re: Now ask me why ...

          'Besides, they truly don't make 'em like they used to ...'

          True, due to the crapplastic plastics car manufacturers used - However, I've found you can 3D print the fiddly bits of plastic/metal that are superior to the original. Good Times.

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