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Red Alert: NASA Launches Toyota Probe

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Posted on Mar 30, 2010
Modified from a NASA image

It seems like everyone is investigating Toyota these days. There’s the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the National Academy of Sciences and even the automaker itself. Why not NASA? Apparently Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood was thinking the same thing.

Nine NASA scientists will take time off from eating freeze-dried ice cream and launching ornery septuagenarians into orbit to take a crack at Toyota’s acceleration problem.

LaHood said a little prodding from Congress led to the request.  —PZS

Reuters:

Nine NASA scientists would bring expertise in electronics, eletromagnetic interference, software integrity and complex problem solving to the Toyota review, Transportation Department officials said.

LaHood has maintained that NHTSA could handle the analysis itself but said suggestions from lawmakers at congressional hearings prompted him to consider outside help.

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By BMW Service Essex, May 31, 2011 at 8:13 pm Link to this comment

Another brilliant time and money-wasting idea from politicians anxious to look busy while not actually accomplishing anything.

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By Don Farkas, April 8, 2010 at 10:02 am Link to this comment

With regard to the article about NASA being asked to undertake an investigation
of the Toyota sudden acceleration reports, it may also be noteworthy that an article about “cyber warfare” recently published by the aerospace trade
magazine “Aviation Week & Space Technology) (March 29/April 5, 2010, Page
49) states:  “There are also laboratory examples of anti-electronic attacks. 
Electrical generators have been destroyed with a few lines of computer code,
and a beam of high-power microwaves gave the fly-by-wire system of an F-16
a “nervous breakdown” that produced widely fluttering control surfaces.”

Addendum to questions to experts:
1)  Are the computers used to operate vehicles susceptible to microwave or
other radio interference?

2)  Are there any suspicious patterns such as geographical areas or proximity
to high-powered transmitters where reports of sudden acceleration are more
common?

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By Don Farkas, March 30, 2010 at 12:24 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Questions for experts:
1)  Are the on-board computer systems serving to control operation of vehicles
remotely (i.e., wirelessly) programmable, or do they require a cable connection
to reprogram?

2)  Whether or not such computers are remotely programmable, what security
precautions are installed in on-board vehicle computers to prevent someone
from deliberately hacking in to install malicious software or programming
designed to intentionally interfere with a vehicle’s proper operation?

3)  Just as we have laws requiring tamper resistant medication and food
containers to prevent malicious persons from sabotaging the medications and
foods in our supermarkets, should not vehicles operated using on-board
processing units be designed to be protected from the possible criminal
introduction of malicious programs by hackers?

Don Farkas, Los Angeles

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