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Car computers and murder! (1 Viewer)

Joker

Senior Member
I could use a little help coming up with a clue for my detective.

So at one point in the outline, I'm planning a murder where the hitman jacks into the victim's car systems and causes her to wreck before getting in close to finish the job. But I don't know jack about computers. I'm guessing there might be some sort of trace evidence deep in the system's code, or what's left of it after the wreck, something like "device X accessed the system at this time". And then he could trace the owner of the device, something like that. Am I on the right track?
 

Lawless

Senior Member
guessing there might be some sort of trace evidence deep in the system's code, or what's left of it after the wreck, something like "device X accessed the system at this time". And then he could trace the owner of the device, something like that.

I don't think car computers keep track of foreign access to the system. But I'm not an expert either.

Do you need him to be found out? Maybe he used some very special device very few people possess, to manipulate something that was supposed to be unchangeable, and the investigators will be able to find traces of that?
 

Joker

Senior Member
I don't think car computers keep track of foreign access to the system. But I'm not an expert either.

Do you need him to be found out? Maybe he used some very special device very few people possess, to manipulate something that was supposed to be unchangeable, and the investigators will be able to find traces of that?

Oh yeah, this is the second murder he's committed for the woman who hired him, and it's what causes them both to ultimately get caught. They basically got away with the first by the skin of their teeth and got greedy.

To be fair, this is the far far future, so maybe computer systems will be radically different by then.
 

Joker

Senior Member
One other problem though is he's a private detective. I'm not sure even if he convinces the police detective of foul play, he'll get a crack at looking at the system.
 

robertn51

Friends of WF
Am I on the right track?

Yes. You are on the right track.

And remember you are creating fiction so you, by definition, get to fiddle with reality.

As a once upon a time developer of realtime control systems, I could bore you to tears with fascinatingly excruciating details.

But, if one steps back into the larger frame, one can see what's coming.

Most vehicles these days have ECUs -- Engine Control Units. Most are not accessible remotely but require physical connections to diddle with the innards. It's pretty sure thing that will be changing because engineers and reliability people just friggin' hate physical connectors.

Vehicles will certainly soon have required "black boxes" that record critical control activities. They are actually here now -- your insurance company might be encouraging you plug one in so they can assess your driving habits.

Plus the ECU already stores information about at least the engine parameters. Ever disconnect your car battery and then reconnect it? And find, Hallelujah that damned Check Engine Light went away? For a couple of weeks? So you again disconnect the battery, reconnect it, and then rush to get an E-Check done? And the techs there give you major stink eye because the machine knows what has happened to it and has ratted you out.

It's just a matter of time desire and economics before the ECU, or another more secure device (which will be called "Black Box" guaranteed), will be recording what's happening to the vehicle.

And you can bet your bippy those recordings will include access -- both local and remote -- to the ECU innards. Since, from strictly engineering perspective, why not?

And, with insurance people and politicians and lawyers and stockholder all tech-ignorant and money-hungry-circling, you can bet, just as a Cover-Your-Ass move, everything that can be recorded will be recorded.

Right now, very few cars have remote (realtime wifi-like) access to the ECU, or VCU if the car is self-driving. But right now, in the US with the lax GDPR rules over here, Tesla can tell, after a crash, whether their vehicle was in Self-Driving mode when the crash occurred. Throw in their SpaceX cousin's Starlink system and there's satellite internet in the coming mix.

So you know the realtime situation data is going to be sloshing around in there somewhere.

Key to your fiction is that normal people already believe it is possible. (Cell phones, anyone?) And, in some daily grind in the too-near future, it will be likely.

With that belief, you are in the clear. Hack away. And the machine will know what has happened to it and will rat them out. With at least an IP address that (waves hands, presto Hollywood!) always never resolves to an actual physical location street address and the identity of another computer that was in use at the time of the accident.

Most people will believe you. Smarty-pants assholes like me will roll their eyes, shrug it off as colloquial canon, and read on.

PS: The cops likely won't have the data. But that brainiac pal of yours on the inside of the company who does, will.

Good writing!

[2021-07-023 1040]
 

Joker

Senior Member
Yes. You are on the right track.

And remember you are creating fiction so you, by definition, get to fiddle with reality.

As a once upon a time developer of realtime control systems, I could bore you to tears with fascinatingly excruciating details.

But, if one steps back into the larger frame, one can see what's coming.

Most vehicles these days have ECUs -- Engine Control Units. Most are not accessible remotely but require physical connections to diddle with the innards. It's pretty sure thing that will be changing because engineers and reliability people just friggin' hate physical connectors.

Vehicles will certainly soon have required "black boxes" that record critical control activities. They are actually here now -- your insurance company might be encouraging you plug one in so they can assess your driving habits.

Plus the ECU already stores information about at least the engine parameters. Ever disconnect your car battery and then reconnect it? And find, Hallelujah that damned Check Engine Light went away? For a couple of weeks? So you again disconnect the battery, reconnect it, and then rush to get an E-Check done? And the techs there give you major stink eye because the machine knows what has happened to it and has ratted you out.

It's just a matter of time desire and economics before the ECU, or another more secure device (which will be called "Black Box" guaranteed), will be recording what's happening to the vehicle.

And you can bet your bippy those recordings will include access -- both local and remote -- to the ECU innards. Since, from strictly engineering perspective, why not?

And, with insurance people and politicians and lawyers and stockholder all tech-ignorant and money-hungry-circling, you can bet, just as a Cover-Your-Ass move, everything that can be recorded will be recorded.

Right now, very few cars have remote (realtime wifi-like) access to the ECU, or VCU if the car is self-driving. But right now, in the US with the lax GDPR rules over here, Tesla can tell, after a crash, whether their vehicle was in Self-Driving mode when the crash occurred. Throw in their SpaceX cousin's Starlink system and there's satellite internet in the coming mix.

So you know the realtime situation data is going to be sloshing around in there somewhere.

Key to your fiction is that normal people already believe it is possible. (Cell phones, anyone?) And, in some daily grind in the too-near future, it will be likely.

With that belief, you are in the clear. Hack away. And the machine will know what has happened to it and will rat them out. With at least an IP address that (waves hands, presto Hollywood!) always never resolves to an actual physical location street address and the identity of another computer that was in use at the time of the accident.

Most people will believe you. Smarty-pants assholes like me will roll their eyes, shrug it off as colloquial canon, and read on.

PS: The cops likely won't have the data. But that brainiac pal of yours on the inside of the company who does, will.

Good writing!

[2021-07-023 1040]

Good sir, if the limits of spacetime did not prevent me, I would buy you a beer.

With that said, if I could bug you a little more, I have a few more questions.

1. Any idea how a private eye would be able to convince said brainiacs to let him take a look?

2. The hitman would be using some sort of sci-fi portable hack-o-matic dohickey. You think it would carry something along the lines of an IP address? I don't know if that's for traditional computers only.
 

Joker

Senior Member
Oh, I should add Corrit’s lovely assistant is a robot who used to work in factories, so really this more up her alley than his.
 

robertn51

Friends of WF
2. The hitman would be using some sort of sci-fi portable hack-o-matic dohickey. You think it would carry something along the lines of an IP address? I don't know if that's for traditional computers only.
TL;DR Yes. Yes it would carry. All dohickey require a unique symbol of identity. In this universe anyway.

All networks, past, now, and forever onward, require some sort of unique token identifying both the source and the endpoint of a transaction. Without that there is no network.

On our present day Internet, it is the Internet Protocol (IP) address providing that identity. In the future, with possible and likely different protocol names, what with quantum entanglement witchery looming, the overall network name is up for grabs. InfiNet? (Quick! Someone trademark the brain fart just laid there!) Then the name, "IP" (address), stays the same, making billions of documentarians and Sci-Fi authors breathe freely again.

1. Any idea how a private eye would be able to convince said brainiacs to let him take a look?
I was about to wax poetic about one of the appeals of PI fiction is the resourceful coterie of rag-tag, colorful, and often problematic accomplices they allow, when...

Oh, I should add Corrit’s lovely assistant is a robot who used to work in factories, so really this more up her alley than his.
Yes. Yes you should.

She? is (one-of?) the resourceful sidekick in the PI's coterie. And she? is, by her? very factory-connected nature, already inside (or at least one step from inside) of everything on InfiNet®, the universe-spanning network of self-sentient devices all and ever banally chatting sweet nothings amongst themselves.

As bonus:

Don't forget this. All data is trash. Annoying, never-ending trash. To be grudgingly dealt-with. Before disposing of it. Before it covers everything and becomes, like in Wall-E, the choked and static universe. Trash.

Trash, except to the person who, by plot, needs that one important thing in the pile, meaningless to everyone else.

The people and things managing trash do not find the disgusting mess valuable at all. They will, in a heartbeat, gladly give it up.

Corrit's assistant (name?) will have no trouble getting the data. But, as a matter of principle, might have to schmooze a little, just to let the source of the data feel important about their absolutely critical place in the smooth functioning of things.

(I once had a CTO we called Data-Miser because he, keeper of the ever-growing pile in the servers, needed to feel important. Every Monday morning I'd quietly delete all the backups but one, so he'd never get a life-shattering space-allocation alert and never feel the need to actually look at what was happening. One Monday I was out sick.)

[2021-07-23 1248]
 

Joker

Senior Member
snippity snip snip

Her name is Silver. She was designed to be a factory supervisor by what's essentially 41st century Mitsubishi. So even if the as-of-yet unnamed victim were to be driving a Space!Honda, I'd imagine Silver might have enough connections to butter-up the right nerds and get the IP.

So that just leaves the IP itself. If the device was legitimate, I'd imagine Hau (the hitman) would be in trouble, since it would be easy to see who purchased it. But being, well, a hitman, I doubt this device is above board. Maybe they'd only get a hit for some constituent part and they gotta do a bunch of running around to find out which one.
 

robertn51

Friends of WF
So that just leaves the IP itself. If the device was legitimate, I'd imagine Hau (the hitman) would be in trouble, since it would be easy to see who purchased it.
So, since you're following the trail, let me give you another layer of possibly useless detail.

About that IP....

The dohickey, all dohickeys, do not necessarily know their IP number, until it connects to the network. For instance my computer has no IP until it gets on the network. When it first gets on, it yells, "Gimme an IP!" and the network goes "Here's yer IP. Fer now. Now leave me alone." Sometimes it is always the same IP as before. Sometimes it is any legit combo within the (mumbo-jumbo) sub-net mask (yada yada blah blah).

See? The network must be able to handle every device. But (so far in the tech) the network has a large, but finite, number of IP addresses. In fact, in this very reality right now, there are more devices than the possible number of IP addresses. And the number of devices is growing. Always.

How does that fuster-cluck even work?

Well, for the simplest Number One, the network recycles IP addresses. All the time.

Have I contradicted myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.

Remember "(waves hands, presto Hollywood!)"?

For your purposes, though, the IP address is constant and uniquely identifies the hacker's dohickey.

It's not that simple in real life.

However if some nerd wants to, for some reason, flex and press you for more accurate verisimilitude, the network knows the (temporary) mapping of IP address to device identity. And, so, if you can get to the network's mapping data before it throws it away to make room for the relentless ongoing tsunami of more mapping data generated by devices connecting and disconnecting, you can get to the dohickey from the time back when it was connected.

Ah! An unknown and inexorable time-constraint. Energizing plot fuel! Hop to it!

Compress all that crunchy dry brown reality down to R2-D2 jacking in and spinning those colocated port chingaderos to make the Death Star network give her the data she needs to locate Princess Leia and stop the trash compactor.

Internet of Things, indeed. In 1977.

PS: Do not bring in TOR. Not Tor Books, the publishing company, but the devious open source TOR, The Onion Router. Because that would be too hard to explain. (Hold my beer... Imagine an enormous onion. Imagine each layer of the onion is an ever-changing different IP number from separate sub-networks. Now connect by stabbing a sharp stake into, not through, the onion. Now, doing nothing else, what is the IP address of the tip of the stake?) And that might frustrate things and make you give up.

Don't give up.

Just whirl that spinny chingadero there and save the day. We've been doing it for 45 years. Hasn't failed yet. Even Mr Robot does it.

[2021-07-23 1435]
 

Steve_Rivers

Senior Member
If it makes you feel even more confident, Joker, I even used this premise in my book set a century from now. The girl in my avatar wants to interrogate someone she knows has committed a crime, so remotely hijacks the person's car with them locked inside it and goes on a 'joyride' as a means of threatening the criminal until she gets the info she needs.
The things hackers will be able to do the more we transfer our safety over to computers is scary.
 

Joker

Senior Member
If it makes you feel even more confident, Joker, I even used this premise in my book set a century from now. The girl in my avatar wants to interrogate someone she knows has committed a crime, so remotely hijacks the person's car with them locked inside it and goes on a 'joyride' as a means of threatening the criminal until she gets the info she needs.
The things hackers will be able to do the more we transfer our safety over to computers is scary.

Niv32GwEmJMpQ3qT_2WiyvIHXbNTYg5FTxDihM9Hfqj08H3efvFw75nAbU8pBKzcrNn1W1ttCbNxhlQU8DjhW5WpGMHJIEB-XNKnduGz3DQ-0eDOPbzGC5vkEEadq_IsnQbaR9NqJSn7QROpDKnMKYva4jqgxHg
 

FrancisD

Senior Member
So here are my thoughts. The killer gains access to the car during a routine service.
Maybe he threatened a technician in some way. The car‘s brain(computer) is swopped out for an identical one, but a reprogrammed one. Part of the programming is to corrupt its own code after a specific time lapse. However, the investigator discovers that while the code is now unreadable, there is more of it than there should be, and this is suspicious. Also, these units do not normally corrupt themselves on impact. On further examination of the corrupted code the investigator manages to separate out the ‘extra’ bit. While this is still unreadable it does have a distinct pattern, one that matches a sort of signature, Serviced by the Acme Carriage Company, that sort of thing. By a process of elimination they narrow it down to one of three or so centres. The rest is leg work. This is the killers mistake, he/she was unaware of this tradition. In today’s terms it is the equivalent of having your service record stamped by the garage.
 

Joker

Senior Member
So here are my thoughts. The killer gains access to the car during a routine service.
Maybe he threatened a technician in some way. The car‘s brain(computer) is swopped out for an identical one, but a reprogrammed one. Part of the programming is to corrupt its own code after a specific time lapse. However, the investigator discovers that while the code is now unreadable, there is more of it than there should be, and this is suspicious. Also, these units do not normally corrupt themselves on impact. On further examination of the corrupted code the investigator manages to separate out the ‘extra’ bit. While this is still unreadable it does have a distinct pattern, one that matches a sort of signature, Serviced by the Acme Carriage Company, that sort of thing. By a process of elimination they narrow it down to one of three or so centres. The rest is leg work. This is the killers mistake, he/she was unaware of this tradition. In today’s terms it is the equivalent of having your service record stamped by the garage.

I'll keep all this in mind. 🤔
 

SteveTheAviator

Senior Member
An edit in the computer system could simply show "BRAKE CIRCUT" was disabled with a timestamp. This is a generalization.

The best "detective" gimmicks are simple clues. It makes the detective work for the reward. In this case, a timestamp plus a mechanic's receipt would bring the detective to the mechanic shop. They have to figure out who did it from there.
 

ehbowen

Senior Member
While those programmers and creators in the 41st century may be more experienced than those in the 21st century (or are they? Many 'programmers' today just lift snippets of code off the Internet and 'glue' them together, as opposed to the 1960s Apollo engineers writing machine language code from scratch!), I would wager that they are not necessarily any more careful than those who created this 21st century Jeep Cherokee:

Hackers disable Jeep Cherokee, experts forecast widespread threat to auto safety
 
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