Car Technology

GM Ventures Invests in Powermat

General Motors Xconomy – Detroit reports that GM Ventures, the Detroit automaker’s venture capital arm has invested $5 million in Powermat the Commerce Township, MI start-up. A multiyear, multimillion-dollar deal with Powermat gives General Motors (GM) exclusive rights to place the company’s portable-device charging technology in its cars for a year. according to Micky Bly, the company’s director of hybrid vehicles. The Chevy Volt and certain Cadillac models will be the first GM cars to the Powermat accessories. The New York Times reports that at this years CES GM demonstrated four wireless charging positions in the Chevy Volt.

GM Ventures has also invested in Indiana-based electric car startup Bright Automotive and Ann Arbor-based battery developer Sakti3. Also see this earlier post.

Car Theft by Antenna

Car keyless entry MIT’s Technology Review reports that researchers at ETH Zurich in Switzerland have successfully attacked eight car manufacturers’ passive keyless entry and start systems. The researchers examined 10 car models from eight manufacturers. They were able to take all 10 by intercepting and relaying signals from the cars to their wireless keys because the key transmits its signals up to around 100 meters. The attack works no matter what cryptography and protocols the key and car use to communicate with each other.

The researchers tested a few scenarios. An attacker could watch a parking lot and have an accomplice watch as car owners as entered a nearby store. The accomplice would only need to be within eight meters of the targeted owner’s key fob, making it easy to avoid arousing suspicion. In another scenario, a car owner might leave a car key on a table near a window. An antenna placed outside the house was able to communicate with the key, allowing the researchers then to start the car parked out front and drive away.

The researchers concluded that manufacturers will need to add secure technology that allows the car to confirm that the key is in fact nearby.

New Standard for Automotive-Grade Wireless Modules

New Standard for Automotive-Grade Wireless ModulesSierra Wireless (SWIR) recently introduced what the firm calls, the industry’s first suite of embedded wireless technology modules designed specifically for automotive manufacturers. The Canadian firm is banking on the emerging trend to include telematics, infotainment, navigation assistance and remote diagnostics in new cars within the next few years according to an article on The firm believes these applications will need reliable built-in connections to cellular networks. The new Sierra Wireless modules will uses 2G and 3G network technologies and frequency bands used worldwide to provide the connectivity customers are demanding.

The manufacturer says these units are the first wireless modules developed from the ground up to achieve compliance with automotive specifications. says the Sierra Wireless AirPrime AR Series design encompasses:

  • Tolerance for up to 1,000 thermal shock cycles
  • Full certification with ISO 9001:2000 quality standards and ISO/TS 16949:2002 manufacturing processes
  • Extended operating temperature range from -40 to 85 degrees Celsius
  • Compliance with multiple automotive manufacturing and quality processes including AQPQ, PPAP, PCN, and 8D
  • Solder-down form factor and optional Embedded SIM to create a more reliable and less expensive solution
  • An open platform for customer application development, including dedicated APIs for telematics applications.

Wireless Car Sensors Vulnerable to Hackers

Wireless Car Sensors Vulnerable to Hackers MIT’s Technology Review reports that hackers could “hijack” the wireless pressure sensors built into many cars’ tires, researchers have found. Criminals might then track a vehicle or force its electronic control system to malfunction, the University of South Carolina and Rutgers University researchers say. The team successfully hijacked two popular tire-pressure-monitoring systems (TPMS).

As automakers add more technology and computers to cars, and connect those computers to critical components, in-car systems will need to be secured against hackers, experts warn.

The systems tested by the South Carolina-Rutgers team had very little security in place–they mainly relied on the fact that the communications protocol is not widely published. “In doing TPMS this way, [automakers] have left the door open to wireless attackers,” says Travis Taylor, one of the researchers. The team could eavesdrop on communications and, in some circumstances, alter messages in-transit. That let the team give false readings to a car’s dashboard. They could also track a vehicle’s movements using the unique IDs of the pressure sensors, and even cause a car’s ECU to fail completely.

“Normally, these [attacks would] result in small problems,” Mr. Taylor says. “But I see practical danger and damage that can happen from TPMS exploitation.” “The security and privacy problems that the researchers identify in TPMS systems are likely just one among many that will challenge the automotive industry in the years to come,” says Stefan Savage, a UC San Diego professor of computer science and engineering.

Ford Installs Sync Software via Wi-Fi

Ford Installs Sync Software via Wi-Fi The Detroit Bureau reports that Ford is the first automaker to use Wi-Fi to send software to vehicles along an assembly line. The automaker is sending infotainment software to Wi-Fi enabled MYFord Touch-equipped vehicles like the Edge.

Ford installed  Wi-Fi technology at its Oakville, Ontario, plant where it builds the Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX. Next up for Wi-Fi updates will be the upcoming Ford Explorer, built in Chicago, and then plants that build the Focus around the world.

Wi-Fi capability eliminates the need for building, stocking multiple SYNC hardware modules, thus reducing manufacturing complexity and saving cost.  “Using wireless software installation via Wi-Fi, we can stock just one type of SYNC module powering MyFord Touch and loaded with a basic software package,” explained Sukhwinder Wadhwa, SYNC global platform manager. “We eliminate around 90 unique part numbers, each of which would have to be updated every time a change is made – this system really boosts quality control.”

“Turning an assembly plant – with steel beams everywhere and high-voltage cabling throughout; everything you could imagine that would interfere with a radio signal – into an access point that would achieve 100 percent success was a huge challenge,” Mr. Wadhwa said.

Ralph Bach has been in IT for fifteen years and has blogged from his Bach Seat about IT, careers and anything else that catches his attention since 2005. You can follow me at Facebook and Twitter. Email the Bach Seat here.

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