Cyber Threats Leave Vehicles Vulnerable

Car TechnologyWe have become reliant upon Bluetooth, WIFI, USB devices, and intelligent traffic communications within our vehicles. These features can improve fuel economy, reduce driver fatigue, and increase traffic safety, but it is all at a cost. Increased technologies can allow for dangerous breaches of security in vehicles. The Federal Bureau of Investigations and NHTSA recently published an alert regarding this automotive cybersecurity. 

Vulnerabilities may exist within wireless communication functions of a vehicle allowing an attacker to gain access to vehicle systems. In August 2015, a vehicle was studied in an unaltered condition which allowed cyber-attacks to affect engine speed, brakes, steering, door locks, turn signals, radio, and GPS. Obviously, this is disturbing to consumers who have advanced electronics in their vehicles. The bulletin by the FBI and NHTSA while providing important information, did not address why this could occur or how it would be prevented.

Software safety is not only a software issue, it is a system issue. Software related hazards must be identified, understood, and mitigated considering that software interfaces with hardware, humans, and other software. Software safety is an integral aspect of the overall system safety plan and the methodology is documented in a system safety plan process.

Software safety is not the same as software reliability or quality assurance. A pragmatic way to determine software safety is by incorporating a bilateral safety process.

First, software functional coverage is a process focusing on functional design and hazard identification. Secondly, software development coverage focuses on specific development tasks to ensure high quality software is safe. The bilateral approach is a strategy intended to cover all aspects of software that can impact safety. The approach requires a system hazard analysis to identify hardware and software causal factors, identification of software at critical levels which will impact the level of rigor tasks performed by the software development effort.

With each model year, vehicles become more integrated regarding communications. It is necessary for designers and manufacturers of intelligent transportation systems to undertake system safety planning of software to identify and eliminate said hazards to the extent reasonably possible.

Politics: The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

NewspapersThe 2016 Presidential election is in full swing and, unless you have cut yourself off from the outside world, you’ve been privy to a front row seat of the unfolding battle. A big story playing out in this year’s election process is the split in the Republican Party. On a regular basis there is news about presidential candidate Donald Trump against Candidate X or against Candidate Y. The recurring theme is Trump against the rest.

For many, seeing the party split may be a new experience. There has not been a major party contention such as this for many decades. But, if you search through the history books, you’ll find it’s a tale told over and over again. The more things change, the more they stay the same, politics not excepted.

Listen in as Kevin King discusses political upheaval and party splits of the past, starting with the first party split of the Democrat-Republican party in the early 19th century.

Want to hear more talks from Peter and Kevin King? Tune into WCIS 1010 AM Columbus, IN the first and third Friday of every month for People’s Law Talk.

A Daily Struggle: Tethering Child Safety Seats

Daily, moms and dads across the country place their most precious cargo into a child safety seat and hit the road, all of them believing their children are safe and secure. With mandatory laws requiring that children be placed in car seats, two systems (seat and car) come into play and interact with one another. This interaction of a child safety seat with a vehicle is another example of how system safety can be used to recognize hazards and eliminate said hazards through design.

Over the years, there has been literature regarding parents’ alleged misuse of car seats relative to installation anchoring. Misuse is the incorrect term though. Parents use their best efforts to anchor car seats given the two systems they are utilizing. Designers of the systems (both car seat designers and car designers) should undertake studies well in advance of marketing to understand how parents will use both systems in conjunction.

In 2015 the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety published a study regarding LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children). The study found that latch hardware could be better designed for correct installation. The study recognized that parents often struggled to locate the anchors in vehicles or find it difficult to attach the car seat to the vehicle.

Lower anchors should be no more than ¾ inch deep in the seat bight (area where the seat back and base come together). 

Seat Bight Measurements

The left picture shows a depth of less than ¾ inch. The right picture shows a depth of greater than ¾ inch.

Upper anchor points should also be easy to find, clearly labeled, and not confused with such things as cargo hooks that could be mistaken for anchor points.

Seat anchor examples

The two left images show vehicles with easy to find anchors without other hardware nearby that could be confused as anchors. The right image shows tethering anchors that are hard to find. They are hidden among other hardware that could easily be confused as anchors.

Securely anchoring child seats should not be a struggle for parents. Coordinating designs of child seats relative to vehicles is an example of how design induced error can occur when system safety is not used.