Category Archives: Energy

Tesla Threat to Public Safety

WalMart is suing Tesla for negligence, saying Elon Musk’s rush to market is failing industry standards of safety

…as of November 2018, fires broke out at no fewer than seven of the stores, forcing the disconnection of all the solar panel systems for the safety of the public…[because installed] haphazardly and as quickly as possible in order to turn a profit

Has Tesla released a transparency report on the total number of unexplained fires it’s caused? There are so many.

Even more concerning is how very little tangible response has come from the manufacturer, despite being cited as significantly worse than other manufacturers. For example:

Spontaneous combustion without warning:

…around 8:15 pm on Sunday night, the Tesla Model S is seen emitting smoke before suddenly bursting into flames. Further video shows the resulting charred wreckage, including that of two other nearby cars.

Once you realize the likelihood of a fire is unpredictable and could be increasing dramatically without explanation, the severity of these fires is also a major concern.

The fires seem to re-ignite unpredictably, are extremely toxic and, because of those two attributes, require expensive special training and equipment funded by tax-payers:

“With a gasoline fire, they know if they get enough water on it, it’ll go out,” [Peter Sunderland, a professor of fire protection engineering at the University of Maryland] said. “But with a deep-seated fire, it’s hard to spray the water deep enough into the battery to stop the fire.”

Slate reported that the firefighters who attempted to put out the 2013 Model S car fire in Seattle had trouble and “ended up using a circular saw to cut a hole that would allow them to pour water directly on the battery.”

In a fiery Tesla crash into a barrier in Austria, the car kept reigniting, forcing firefighters to battle the flames for hours. The car had to be put into quarantine for 48 hours to remove the chances of reignition, Jalopnik reported.

What’s more, lithium-ion fires can release high levels of “toxic gases” such as carbon monoxide, soot, hydrogen fluoride, and particulates of oxides of nickel; aluminum; lithium; copper; and cobalt, according to a Tesla Model X emergency response guide. As a result, firefighters need to wear a self-contained breathing apparatus and should use hoses that spray fog and special ventilation fans that push air out at a high velocity to protect bystanders downwind of the fire, according to the guide.

There are dozens of stories of Tesla fires not only being far less predictable, more expensive and more toxic than other products, they seem to not have any cohesive story yet of what to expect in the future.

In several cases the fires were extinguished at first encounter. Then had to be extinguished again on the tow truck. Then had to be extinguished again in the junk yard. That’s a multiplier effect for several reasons, not least of all because fires on tow trucks and in junk yards are not supposed to happen.

Initially Tesla’s CEO tried use social media to claim his products “500% less likely” to catch fire. This almost immediately was disproved (not to mention ridiculed by many for using math incorrectly)

Tesla, without a question, has a way higher incidence of fire deaths than other cars.

Then the car manufacturer tried to pivot to an argument that their fire death statistics aren’t being separated from collisions, where occupants would have died anyway. This again ignores the fact that their fires are different in ways that increase the likelihood of fatalities, not only for occupants but also those responding to help.

Tesla’s CEO should not be allowed to misrepresent harm likelihood and severity of his products when clearly there is ample and growing data on sub-standard engineering practices and threat to society. WalMart is picking up a hot topic, to be sure.

The CEO’s “safer than what you can buy from others” false claim even seems to be turned into a joke by him in 2018, as you can see in his attempts at humor when promoting sales of a flamethrower:

A Boring Company spokesperson said its flamethrower is ‘safer than what you can buy right now off-the-shelf on Amazon to destroy weeds’.

If Tesla wanted to extol virtues of battery technology, it would be that the carbon footprint producing them is zeroed out in just a few years and they emit zero harms when operating normally. That would be a viable defense, while they work to improve engineering to reduce fire likelihood and severity.

However, instead we see a company try dismissive fallacies (false equivalence in fires) and make claims their products give better odds of survival than other manufacturers.

The data doesn’t support Tesla in this comparison, since likelihood and severity of their fires already appear to be higher and trending worse with minimal explanation and no recall.

Tesla had at least quadruple (5 observed fire deaths vs. 1.19 expected) the fire-related mortality of the average car from 2016 through 1Q 2019

In fact, arson soon could be added to increasing probability of Tesla fires as owners realize what spontaneous fire in an unexpected location can mean (e.g. parking garage near structural integrity of a building). Imagine investigators trying to ascertain whether a Tesla exploding within a building was predictable with intent or just another “safer that what you can buy from others” incident.

The infamously glib and unapologetic “everything’s better with fire” social media presence of their CEO suggests WalMart’s lawsuit declaring his product line to be a public safety hazard…may document how failures in engineering duty-to-care may even come from the top.

“Parked Teslas Keep Catching on Fire Randomly, And There’s No Recall In Sight” –TheDrive

Why E-Scooters Are Big Polluters

A new scientific paper makes a number of recommendations that are so obviously good, it makes it seem the E-Scooter industry has put little to no thought into environmental harms.

We illustrate the potential to reduce life cycle global warming impacts through improved scooter collection and charging approaches, including the use of fuel-efficient vehicles for collection (yielding 177 g CO2-eq/passenger-mile), limiting scooter collection to those with a low battery state of charge (164 g CO2-eq/passenger-mile)

Turns out burning oil to shuffle empty yet charged scooters around is…wait for it…generating pollution. Science.

The study also points out short lifecycles of the scooters due to lack of resilience (against intentional or accidental harms) is another factor. The conclusion is pretty clear:

Claims of environmental benefits from their use should be met with skepticism…

In other words, ride a bicycle.

Epstein’s Counterfeit Austrian Passport

There is some excellent reporting from the Daily Beast, as they lay out the details of a police search:

…U.S. attorney’s office said that the travel document “contains numerous ingress and egress stamps, including stamps that reflect use of the passport to enter France, Spain, the United Kingdom, and Saudi Arabia in the 1980s.”

The passport—which was Austrian but listed a Saudi Arabia address—was found in a locked safe…

A few notable points here:

  • Locked safe contents
  • False identity
  • France, Spain, UK and Saudi Arabia in 1980s

The locked safe is notable because the false identity passport was very old, yet never had been destroyed. Why keep an old document locked in a safe unless it still serves some purpose? Let’s look at what it may prove for those gaining access.

This triad of European countries with Saudi Arabia immediately should be recognized as an arms trade group.

It was less than a year ago this was discussed in the news:

UK, France and Spain to maintain arms sales to Saudi Arabia

The word “maintain” is a big clue. We are talking here about passport stamps from the 1980s, when those arms sales initiated.

An older news story from the 1990s thus becomes more relevant to perhaps explain why this passport still was locked in a safe.

…Mark Thatcher, 41, helped broker a British arms deal to Saudi Arabia worth a reported $35 billion in the mid-1980s.

According to a long report in the London Sunday Times, middlemen in the arms deal–which involved aircraft, warships and ammunition–received about $360 million for their services.

Both the Sunday Times and the Independent on Sunday said Mark Thatcher earned a $19-million commission for helping secure the deal.

Whenever arms trade, or similar black market dealings, come to light there usually are signs of an effort to make large payments untraceable. The Daily Beast offers exactly these details from the police search.

Also found in the safe was $70,000 in cash and 48 small diamonds that prosecutors contend are often kept on hand by someone who needs to make a quick getaway.

I understand why prosecutors right now are saying diamonds are evidence of quick getaway plans. They have a job to do and they probably are right about flight risk.

Yet quick getaway plans don’t match up with a long-expired counterfeit passport, which is why I am reminded here of a similar story from Frontline in 2002 of arms payable in diamonds

U.N. arms expert Johan Peleman…got a lucky break. Peleman learned of a cocaine bust in Milan, where Italian police discovered four prostitutes in a hotel room with a Ukrainian businessman named Leonid Minin. The police also discovered more than $35,000 in cash, a half-million dollars in diamonds, and more than 1,500 documents detailing a tangled web of business dealings in oil, diamonds, timber and gun shipments to Africa.

A police search based on drugs and prostitution uncovers cash, diamonds and…arms deals.

What may come to pass is the current investigation into Epstein’s history of sex crimes also may now implicate him in serving Israel funneling European arms to Saudi Arabia during the Reagan Administration.

When Reagan came to power he wanted to undo humanitarian embargo policies that Carter had enacted, avoid Congressional worry about oil embargo/power, and return to the prior era of executive-privilege like Nixon/Kissenger secret arms deals.

The explosive growth of major cash sales of weapons to Third World nations—especially those in the oil-rich, but politically volatile Middle East and Persian Gulf region—stimulated a growing congressional desire to be better informed, and consulted with, on such sales that had serious potential consquences for American national interests.

New Yorker Cartoon, 31 May 1974

More to the point, Nixon had spent the early 1970s secretly building up Iran’s military capabilities and Reagan wanted to spend the mid-1980s using executive power to expand Iraq’s military capabilities in a war with Iran.

Here’s “National Security Decision Directive (NSDD) 99, signed on July 12, 1983″, which clearly explains everything in Reagan’s mind.

1985 seems to be the crucial turning point in strategy, as Reagan normalized relations with Iraq he also backtracked on direct arms sales to the Saudis (claiming personal responsibility while also saying he didn’t know what was going on).

You can see the result of that shift was arms deal numbers jumped for France, UK and Spain:

That’s a graph I made from the SIPRI database of 1980s arms transfers to Saudi Arabia. Who brokered them?

The answer in part might be a guy who founded his own financial firm in 1982. His peculiar Austrian passport with a fake name, a Saudi address and stamps from France, UK and Spain now just needs to be held up to a 1980s calendar of major arms deals:

Maybe the target of this current investigation also will be linked directly with infamously unpopular American-made secretive arms deals to both Iran and Iraq to manipulate and destabilize them (see also: Iran-Contra Scandal of 1986).

The Shadow World and BAE Files have a Compendium at Tufts that summarize the significance of this passport to already documented history:

An investigation by the UK government’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) uncovered ‘commission payments, or bribes, totaling as much as GBP 6 billion paid by BAE Systems to members of the Saudi royal family and others.

[…]

The [1985] Al Yamamah deal resulted from the reluctance of the U.S. Congress in the early 1980s to allow sales of major combat aircraft to Saudi Arabia, fearing they may be used against Israel.

General reporting about the 1980s may call out a “reluctance of the U.S. Congress” to sell arms, and I often see talk about Thatcher’s “intent to create jobs” (lining the pockets of her own son) by selling arms into brutally repressive regimes. Andrew Feinstein even goes so far in his book “The Shadow World” to phrase the deals like this (p91):

Such were the benefits of Al Yamamah to Thatcher fils that some refer to the deal as ‘who’s ya mama’.

I have yet to find anyone discussing however whether Epstein was given an Austrian passport by the US or Israel to broker European arms into Saudi Arabia and thereby fuel Iraq in its war with Iran.

In other words, people talk about Epstein’s strange and shadowy accumulation of wealth in very similar terms to Thatcher, without any of the transparency. Maybe they should look into whether his counterfeit passport was within or near a nexus of arms payments between Reagan, Thatcher, Prince Bandar “Bush” bin Sultan, Saddam Hussein and Shimon Peres.

To help, I’ll give a couple examples of what money laundering and arms trade accountability has looked like for Mark Thatcher.

First, consider his conviction for laundering a diamond mines and oil coup d’etat led by an ex-SAS officer:

…son of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher pleaded guilty Thursday to unwittingly helping bankroll a botched coup plot in oil-rich Equatorial Guinea…[after] he paid $275,000 in two installments last year to charter an Alouette III helicopter to be used in the takeover attempt…

I say laundering because his “unwittingly” helpful role since has been proven to be formally approved as necessary by British Prime Minister Thatcher, his mother.

On his release from prison, [ex-SAS officer] Mann said he could never forgive Sir Mark, who he claimed was a key participant in the military adventure rather than a mere investor, for failing to come to his aid.

And second, given the above secretive laundering role, there’s a direct parallel to Epstein’s track record in “financial services” versus reality:

For years mystery has surrounded the way in which Mark Thatcher suddenly acquired great wealth in the 1980s, when his mother was in office. He repeatedly has refused to answer journalists’ questions about the subject but is reported to have told friends he made his fortune offering “financial services.

[…]

The Sunday Times said Thatcher was one of a group of people who helped broker the deal, and who received among them a $360 million commission from the Saudis. It said his share was $18 million.

[…]

The Sunday Times quoted Saudi arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi as saying that Mark Thatcher’s value to the Saudis during the negotiation was that he could go to his mother and get an answer to any question they raised.

That leaves quite a lot for Epstein. Given records saying the Saudis expected sexual favors as part of the bribery system (e.g. the UK inflated cost of its jets 30% before signing the deal), it’s not a stretch to see how human trafficking through private jets and private islands became Epstein’s 1980s self-enrichment plan, thanks to his special passport.

Now we just need the Daily Beast to give us some dates from his passport stamps and the name in the passport to see if the above international history analysis holds any water.

EV Charging Station Vulnerability

Anyone else read this article about the bug in a Schneider product?

At its worst, an attacker can force a plugged-in vehicle to stop charging

At its best, an attacker can give away power for free.

That’s basically it. A hardcoded password meant the power could be disabled, although really that means it could be enabled again too. Breaking news: a switch installed in public places could be switched without special switching authorization.

It’s kind of like those air pumps at gas stations that say you need to insert $0.25 when really you just have to push the button, or at least yell at the person in the station booth “hey I need some air here, enable the button so I can push it” and you get air for free.

Breaking news: I got some air for my tires without inserting a quarter. Someone call TechCrunch journalists.

Seriously though, it would be news if someone actually had to pay for a plugged-in tire to start filling.

If a gas station owner insists that you have to pay for air even after you’ve used the pump, stand your ground. If that doesn’t work, here’s the form to report the station to state officials.

That’s right, and speaking of denial of service…an attacker could even run off with a gasoline pump hose (they have safety release mechanisms) or an air hose. Such a brazen attack would leave cars that have tires and gas tanks without services when they pull into a station.

Fuel host disconnects do happen fairly often, by the way. So often there are even videos and lots of news stories about why and where it happens (protip: bad weather is correlated):

And yet TechCrunch wants us to be scared of EV cables being disconnected:

…unlock the cable during the charging by manipulating the socket locking hatch, meaning attackers could walk away with the cable.

Safety first, amiright? Design a breakaway and attackers can walk away with the cable…for safety.

Such a “vulnerability story” as this EV one by TechCrunch makes me imagine a world where the ranking of stories has a CVSS score attached…a world where “news” like this can theoretically never rise above stories with a severity actually worth thinking about.

An attacker could disable or enable a charging point, where charging status is something easily monitored and on a near-continuous basis. Did your car just stop charging? It’s something you and the provider ought to know in the regular course of using a power plug.

This ranks about as low as you can go in terms of security story value…yet a journalist dedicated a whole page to discuss how a public power-plug can be turned on and off without strong authentication.

Transit Management Leaders: Copenhagen Bans Cars; Sweden Halves Pedestrian Deaths

Copenhagen is estimating a $1-2 million gain every day — that’s right, EVERY DAY — when people in the city ride bicycles instead of drive cars. Since the biggest friction to cycling is the fact that cars kill those around them either immediately (crash) or slow and painfully (disease), a great deal of money and time is being spent by the Danes to isolate cars and reduce societal harms.

In other words, restricting the violence of cars enables Copenhagen’s population to flourish in multiple ways:

The city’s investment in impressive cycling infrastructure is paying off in multiple ways. For not only are there many health benefits to getting more people to use bikes, there are some serious economic gains too. Cycling is a great, low-impact form of exercise which can build muscle, bone density, and increase cardiovascular fitness. Figures from the finance minister suggests that every time someone rides 1 km on their bike in Copenhagen, the city experiences an economic gain of 4.80 krone, or about 75 US cents. If that ride replaces an equivalent car journey, the gain rises to 10.09 krone per km, or around $1.55. And with 1.4 million km cycled every day, that’s a potential benefit to the city of between $1.05m and $2.17m, daily.

That’s the World Economic Forum reporting these numbers, and perhaps even more impressive is the risk management graph they offer readers. Apparently Copenhagen has invested an average of $10m each year over 13 years in cycling infrastructure, which is now believed to return benefits of $300-600m each year. Here is what the investment return looks like in terms of safety and ridership:

As distance ridden on bicycles goes up, health risks go down significantly across the population. That is just health risk related directly to cycling, as there will be additional health risk reductions in terms of physical and mental fitness. The World Economic Forum turns to UK data on this point:

…a single ‘cycling city’ worth £377 million to the National Health Service in healthcare cost savings

I wrote the other day about a cities around the world that are banning cars altogether in their city center, some on an accelerated 5-year timeline such as Oslo and Madrid.

Given all the data above, it should come as no surprise Copenhagen is considering the same road forward and banning cars entirely from some neighborhoods.

Don’t worry Americans, we also have a few car-free neighborhoods, believe it or not. My favorite part of a study of where to live in America without danger from cars is the disclaimer at the beginning of the list:

New York City is not included in this listing. If it was, neighborhoods from that city would dominate the entire list. In fact, you could place the whole of Manhattan on this list as only 5% of residents use a car for their daily trips

With the most-successful city out of the running, the list then goes on to recommend being in the Tenderloin of SF. The author clearly hasn’t tried riding down the infamous Golden Gate corridor of Tenderloin cars parked or driving in the bike lanes.

Why anyone would eliminate the best option in America and then recommend living in a filthy run-down neighborhood with awful bike and pedestrian access options…is beyond this blog post. But it definitely shows American analysts often don’t understand this transit topic.

First, they don’t factor for overall health improvements as a function of car-less urban spaces. They just draw a circle around transit stations and measure nothing else. That isn’t how this works.

Second, based on the radius of the circle they think like car drivers and assume you are better off living directly above a subway as if it’s a straight substitute for having a car in your garage. Remember at the start of this post how the distance traveled by foot/bike leads to multiple facets of financial and health improvement?

Forget about the model where you roll out of bed and stumble into an elevator that drops you into a car so you can avoid using a muscle. Wrong quality of life model.

Notice that the author admits these errors in analysis, without even realizing it:

…this area of San Francisco is known for drugs and crime, it is surrounded by very desirable places to live. It’s also lies adjacent to the rapid transit line, BART

Yeah, go live in the desirable places surrounding the transit line, not inside the train station. Moreover, let’s be honest here, the author also regurgitates an old American white supremacist trope, probably without even knowing.

All of San Francisco is known for drugs, and crime is widespread. You literally can’t go to a neighborhood in SF and find it free of drugs. This tracks to the rather sad fact that Nixon’s racist “war on drugs” still lives on, giving people the impression urban areas are dangerous because “drugs and crime” (Nixon’s propagandist way of saying blacks and pacifists).

We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin. And then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities [by turning them into rubble and building highways through]

In fact, the only reason Highway 101 abruptly ends at Octavia and does not cut through the Haight (a formerly black neighborhood) and Golden Gate Park as planned is because civil-rights protests blocked “disruption” for white-flight-suburb road construction. There is no highway to this day running through urban SF because quality of life protests against it meant the successful rejection of white supremacist propaganda, which meant streets and houses instead of overpasses and parking lots.

Tenderloin is not more dangerous than the Mission area, which also lies “adjacent to the rapid transit line”, and it certainly is not more dangerous than the Marina if you are measuring getting raped by white football player who just moved to SF to party and “get some” before getting appointed to Vice President or the Supreme Court.

Nixon was elected because he said things like blacks can’t handle drugs, and he enacted policies to incarcerate blacks and not whites for the same behaviors. And that’s just a modern version of America First, which in the early 1900s under President Wilson argued non-whites (Irish, German, Blacks…) couldn’t handle liquor.

Prohibition was passed to destroy black lives, while whites could continue producing and drinking because notes from wealthy/connected doctors cited “medicinal” reasons.

Anyway, if you want to cite SF, look at the SOMA neighborhood sitting at the head of the CalTrain station, adjacent to the new high-speed rail station, and also on the new north-south local transit line, which will feed into BART, not to mention on the water with easy access to the ferry.

SOMA has far superior pedestrian, cycle and transit options to the Tenderloin or any other neighborhood in the city. This tracks historically to SOMA having amazing trolley grids before the car enthusiasts ripped it all up to drive up air/noise pollution and cause traffic jams as their preferred lifestyle.

Ok, back to the Scandinavian leaders in transit management. Sweden in 1997 set about trying to cut down to zero the number of pedestrians killed by cars. The strategy used has produced impressive results, yet nowhere near the kind of zero-death safety they had targeted:

Since the scheme began, road deaths have almost halved: 270 people died in road accidents in Sweden in 2016. Twenty years earlier the figure was 541.

America lags so far behind on this topic, its numbers are in a completely different ballpark. While Sweden is annoyed that it only has seen a 50% reduction in death from cars, some states in the US are actually tracking increases. Texas, for example, apparently is aborting human life at an alarming rate by repeatedly failing to address cars as a threat to health.

NSC estimates traffic fatalities in Texas have jumped 7 percent from 2015 to 2017

This is not normal, or acceptable, and could easily be going the other direction. NY proves to the rest of America what needs to be done, by deploying solutions similar to those proven in Denmark and Sweden:

NSC estimates traffic fatalities in New York fell 3 percent last year and have dropped 15 percent over the last two years. Safety advocates say the decline may be due to New York City’s push to eliminate traffic deaths by lowering speed limits, adding bike lanes and more pedestrian shelters.

“Changes like those being made in New York can save lives,” said [Deborah Hersman, CEO of the National Safety Council]

When NYC releases the financial and healthcare benefits that derive from fewer cars, maybe it will help steer the discussion forward in Texas. Seems unlikely, though, as Texans do not seem to be pro-life as much as they think their success is measured by ability to collect and carelessly operate things that kill others.

American cities in places like Texas paint a stark contrast to the quality of life stories around the world, and especially Scandinavia, that highlight enabling people with the freedom to live, without being unjustly harmed. The automobile industry is going through a transformation that will be wise to learn from the leaders, gaining trust in urban areas committed to freedom and justice through respect for diverse ideas and modes of movement.

American transit managers of the southern states who watch their neighbors and friends be killed by drivers without feeling any guilt should in the near future be about as common as politicians today who would look the other way when they see slave drivers.

Binocular Night Vision Goggle II

One deep dark night on a dirt road on a remote mountain of an even more remote island, I rode swiftly downhill, passenger of a pickup truck. The driver shut our lights off. We sat in silence as the truck skidded and careened along the dusty road.

I barely could see the driver’s hands rolling quickly back and forth on the steering wheel to keep us from driving off the cliff ledge to our left. He didn’t slow down after lights-out, and when I turned my head more towards him he said warmly l’appel du vide or something like that and smiled broadly at the barely visible road ahead.

While the road itself is seen better with headlamps, by shutting them off we actually expanded our visibility further and were safer overall. And of course we revealed ourselves less dramatically (noise and dust still were emitted), which can reduce blindness in oncoming vehicles.

With so many experiences like this in the past, I often see lights as pollution and wonder how much longer we must accept theories of Victorian street-lamps as safer?

Apparently, the original lighting in London was so poor in 1763 that James Boswell was able to have sex with a prostitute on Westminster Bridge. The shadows and gloom of the pre-electrified world not just provided privacy for Mr Boswell’s actions but it was also a haven for crime.

To be fair I have seen couples having sex in the broad daylight on the eastbound platform at Charlton Station (CTN) in London, so it might not just be about visibility. Anyway, developing better vision integrated directly into the windshield, or our glasses seems like a much more sane and modern idea than trying to increase lumens everywhere. We wear sunglasses while driving, why not a night glass?

We save immense amounts of energy when we choose to leverage starlight and ambient heat, and reveal so much more…fortunately the US military is a big investor in technology along these lines and the latest iteration sounds quite nice:

The BNVD amplifies the small amount of existing light emitted by stars, the moon’s glow or other ambient light sources, and uses the light to clearly display objects in detail in very dark conditions. The COTI uses heat energy from the Marine’s surroundings to add a thermal overlay which allows the image to be viewed more clearly.

This seems light years ahead of driving with a common joint electronics Portable Visual Detecting or Range and Bearing, Search (AN/PVS)

Jaywalking is a Fantasy Crime

Brilliant comedy routine by Hannibal Buress

Humor helps underscore a very real problem with Jaywalking laws, which any historian should be able to tell you:

What sets jaywalking apart is that it never should have been against the law in the first place. City streets were meant for foot traffic and horses from ancient times until the early twentieth century. As a result, early automobiles found themselves alongside all sorts of pedestrians. To make way for cars, literally and figuratively, wealthy drivers and the U.S. auto industry set out to stigmatize lower-class pedestrians who crossed streets at will. Those who wouldn’t step aside for vehicles became known as “jay walkers”…

Or more exactly, clowns were repeatedly rammed by cars in public displays paid for by car manufacturers, to shame anyone walking on the street

Auto campaigners lobbied police to publicly shame transgressors by whistling or shouting at them — and even carrying women back to the sidewalk — instead of quietly reprimanding or fining them. They staged safety campaigns in which actors dressed in 19th-century garb, or as clowns, were hired to cross the street illegally, signifying that the practice was outdated and foolish. In a 1924 New York safety campaign, a clown was marched in front of a slow-moving Model T and rammed repeatedly.

I cover some of this history in my presentations on big data security, such as “Security in a World of Intelligent Machines

If you look carefully at that police notice from 1866 London it has two modes of operation for the red and green street lights:

  • CAUTION: all persons in charge of vehicles and horses are warned to pass the crossing with care, and due regard for the safety of foot passengers
  • STOP: vehicles and horses shall be stopped on each side of the crossing to allow passage of persons on foot; notice being given to all persons in charge of vehicles and horses to stop clear of the crossing

British railroad managers took ship right-of-way red/green lanterns and recommended using them to stop vehicles so pedestrians could walk safely.

American car manufacturers then took that street light concept and flipped it around completely, telling pedestrians to stay off roads, inventing a fantasy crime to shame and physically harm certain races of people for not driving.

Yes, you read that right. Racism permeates America’s enforcement of this fantasy crime:

In cases like jaywalking, which often hinge on police discretion, blacks accounted for 95 percent of all arrests.

And just to make the point even starker, North Dakota lawmakers in 2017 actively promoted the concept of using vehicles as a weapon to murder pedestrians, awarding zero liability for drivers:

A bill introduced by an oil patch lawmaker would provide an exemption for the driver of a motor vehicle if they unintentionally injured or killed a pedestrian obstructing traffic on a public road or highway.

“It’s shifting the burden of proof from the motor vehicle driver to the pedestrian,” said Rep. Keith Kempenich, R-Bowman

Several months later, Kempenich’s campaign led to a federal civil rights investigation of a white nationalist for murder instead of the zero liability for killing people with cars, which he had promoted to them.

One person was killed and 19 were hurt when a speeding car slammed into a throng of counterprotesters in Charlottesville, where a “Unite the Right” rally of white nationalist and other right-wing groups had been scheduled to take place, the city tweeted on its verified account.

A 32-year-old woman was killed while walking across the street, Charlottesville Police Chief Al Thomas said. Police were still in the process of notifying her family.

[…]

Federal authorities said a civil rights investigation into the deadly crash was opened hours after it happened.

In related news, dozens of cities today are restoring pedestrian rights and looking at ways to ban cars from streets:

  • Oslo, Norway
  • Madrid, Spain
  • Chengdu, China
  • Hamburg, Germany
  • Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Paris, France
  • London, England
  • Brussels, Belgium
  • Berlin, Germany
  • Mexico City, Mexico
  • Bogoto, Colombia
  • San Francisco, USA
  • New York, USA

And while Jaywalking is a fantasy crime that produces little if any positive results, Pontevedra, Spain is being called a paradise after banning cars across most of the city. It is quite clearly the opposite of the city in the Buress comedy routine:

Lores became mayor after 12 years in opposition, and within a month had pedestrianised all 300,000 sq m of the medieval centre, paving the streets with granite flagstones.

“The historical centre was dead,” he says. “There were a lot of drugs, it was full of cars – it was a marginal zone. It was a city in decline, polluted, and there were a lot of traffic accidents. It was stagnant. Most people who had a chance to leave did so. At first we thought of improving traffic conditions but couldn’t come up with a workable plan. Instead we decided to take back the public space for the residents and to do this we decided to get rid of cars.”

The results they have reported are amazing. Can’t wait to hear what Buress has to say about it.

Police Say Man Who Stole Tesla Model 3 Charged With Battery

Many moons ago you may remember this introduction to one of my car-hacking posts:

First, you need a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). You can ask your friends or family for their VIN. You can walk into a parking lot, especially a Jeep dealer’s, and look at the VIN. Or you can search craigslist for a VIN. I used the SF bay area site but you can search anywhere using a simple URL modification…

The VIN is a token, a fairly important one, that requires manufacturers to use threat models to think about adversarial usage. Alas it sits in plain view both in person and online.

We interrupt this PSA about credential management to bring you a hot story about a brand new cutting edge technology Model 3 Tesla being stolen.

…a regular at the Trevls EV-only rent-a-car company in Minnesota was the key suspect in stealing a Model 3 rental car owned by the agency. According to the owner of Trevls, John Marino, the man simply walked up to the Model 3, opened it, got in, started it and drove off. Bloomington police are saying that “the man somehow manipulated the Tesla app to unlock and start the car, disabling the GPS before leaving town.”

The key here for the key suspect, puns intended, seems to be that this Tesla was rented before. The suspect had the VIN associated with his account and used the application, so was a temporary valid driver. A VIN has to be associated with an account to run the application, and I think most Tesla owners would not want any path for their public VINs to be “matched” to someone else’s account.

Alas, a rental company does exactly that, putting a VIN in random people’s accounts. The rental company claims they remove the VIN from a customer account after their rental, thus denying any further authorization. However, this driver likely realized since he was authenticated as a driver of that car at least once he probably could contact Tesla support and somehow convince them to add the VIN back to his account without authorization of the rental company. Or maybe the removal process wasn’t clean. Deprovisioning is notoriously hard in any credential system.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say the Tesla application and driver support system wasn’t sufficiently threat modeled for the kind of VIN use that rental companies require, let alone social engineering talent of rental customers.

It reminds me once of sitting down with an automobile manufacturer and telling them while I enjoyed hacking cars I wasn’t about to start inserting USB into my rentals…and they interrupted me with a disgusted look on their face to say “WHY NOT?” I meekly explained I thought a lab was more appropriate as it would be dangerous for others to be renting cars I had been hacking on, especially when rental use wasn’t in the threat models (it wasn’t).

Police were scrambling for clues when this Tesla disappeared because, after the suspect reportedly disabled GPS, all the usual tracking signals (e.g. NFC/RFID scanning) on Interstate roads weren’t being helpful. The Tesla owner (rental company), on the other hand, noticed the stolen car being connected to the charging network and 1,000 miles from the scene of the crime (Minnesota to Texas in two days). Police simply went to the charging station and there they found the lazy thief, who despite noticing a loophole in authorization and means to disable GPS failed to think about other ways he could be charged.

And yes I wrote this entire thing just for the puns. You’re welcome.

Update Sept 15: Telsa has pushed an update (2018.34.1) that offers a “PIN to drive” security option to limit use of a key.

No word yet on the “forgot PIN, enter credentials to drive” flow resilience to social engineering. More to the point this update does not seem to leverage PIN to drive when using the mobile application with “keyless driving”…perhaps because if you can enter credentials for keyless driving you could start the car with the same credentials in the forgot PIN screen.

Harley-Davidson Moves Research to Northern California

Well I have to say I was wrong twelve years ago about diesel motorcycles. No matter how patient I was for those Kawasaki to arrive, in the back of my head it was clear that hackers around me loved the zero-power-curve of electric bikes more than the long-distance of diesel.

At one point many years ago I was stuck in a long car ride around rural France (ask me another time about war-driving) with an aeronautical engineer and to kill time I opined about the benefits of light motorcycles with batteries easily outperforming gasoline. Only a few months later, back stateside, I received an email thanking me because he had built one himself and now was commuting effortlessly and with a smile.

I was gruntled, yet still awaited news of a diesel. Something about the plug-in/range didn’t suit my sense of riding.

With Harley, king of the long-haul open-road bikes, making a major electric research announcement like this, I officially give up on diesel bikes making it to civilian life:

Harley-Davidson, Inc. (NYSE: HOG) announced today it will establish a new research and development facility in Northern California to support its future product portfolio, including the company’s first complete line of electric vehicles.

Many, many years ago I worked on Cabletron switches, which in a bizarre twist led me to Milwaukee, WI. Unbeknownst to many, if not most, Harley was at that time doing cutting edge IT deployments. Also I attended wedding parties there of Harley workers that ended with the couple describing Harleys they would ride to California. I mean high-tech Harleys in California does make sense, in spite of their oil-splattered tinkering owners group heritage.

Until now my heart still ached for that Kawasaki diesel dual-sport we were promised. Oh well. The time has come to say diesel bikes aren’t going to make headlines. Perhaps electric range soon will be less of an issue as Harley clearly thinks about that spectrum. But will HOGs be able to keep their tinkering ways or is DRM also coming?

Israeli Raider Micro-ATV

Israelis have successfully shrunken the ATV to micro-size with a new electric “Raider”, unless you want to believe they have enlarged the electric skateboard to giant-size…or is it a stretched segway?

I want to believe four-wheeling has advantages, yet in every action scene above I found myself imagining a two-wheeler doing it more efficiently (further and faster) on same charge. Sure, two-wheels requires training yet we’re talking about a highly trained operator in this market, right? If nothing else I would fiddle with a two-wheeler that splits wheels and extends axles into four, rather than be stuck all the time in a four-wheel mode.

Ok, one advantage I will grant is that if the Raider can be configured as driver-less then it’s far, far easier to manufacture and operate than two-wheels. Real advantages there. Someone could hit the panic button and their Raider would be like a medic drone and return them to safety. Or if you wanted the Raider to drop you off and then secretly make its own way to a pickup zone, also better than two-wheel options.