When Does Car Hacking Become “Tampering”? The British Government Seeks Guidance

When a government decides to take a look at your particular field of experimentation, it’s never necessarily a cause for rejoicing, as British motor vehicle enthusiasts are finding out through a UK Government consultation. Titled “Future of transport regulatory review: modernising vehicle standards“, the document explains that it is part of the process of re-adopting under UK law areas which have previously been governed by the European Union. Of particular interest is the section “Tackling tampering”, which promises a new set of offences for “tampering with a system, part or component of a vehicle intended or adapted to be used on a road“.

They go into detail as to the nature of the offences, which seem to relate to the production of devices designed to negate the safety or environmental features of the car. They’re at pains to say that they have no wish to target the legitimate car modification world, for example in motorsport or restoration, but it’s easy to see how a car hacker might inadvertently fall foul of any new rules. It’s worried the enthusiasts enough that a petition has been launched on the UK parliamentary petition site, making the point that the existing yearly MOT roadworthiness test should fulfill the function of taking any illegal vehicles off the road.

We’re always wary when governments wander into our purview, and given where this is being written it’s fair to say that British governments have had their fair share of ill-considered laws in their time. But before we call doom upon the future of car hacking for Brits, it’s worth remarking that they don’t always make a mess in this arena. The rules for the Individual Vehicle Approval test for putting a home-built car on the road are far from a bureaucratic nightmare for example, instead being a relatively sensible primer in building a safe motor vehicle.

So we’d suggest not to panic just yet, but perhaps any British readers might like to respond appropriately to the consultation and the petition in the interests of nudging them in the right direction.

Thanks [Adam Quantrill] for the tip.

88 thoughts on “When Does Car Hacking Become “Tampering”? The British Government Seeks Guidance

  1. About a decade ago or a little less, I was working for an ISP that provided hosting services. As a part of my job I had to look after server security and a part of that was penetration testing and the like.

    My government (Australia) introduced laws to prevent hacking. Those laws applied regardless of weather or not the action was nefarious hacking or penetration testing so I could no longer ensure the security of our servers without risking up 25 years imprisonment. The solution for me and most of the people who worked in the computer/data/network security industry in Australia was simple, we all just migrated to different industries so now it’s near impossible to employ computer/data/network security staff in this country and this country is now the most hacked and financially taken advantage of country in the world.

    My government, in it’s ultimate stupidity has set up a small agency to deal with hacking. There is no possibility such a small agency has any capacity to defend our country against any potential cyber-warfare and if they need to employ extra staff that have capabilities in this area then they have no hope of employing Australians as we have all moved on after their hacking laws long ago. Perhaps, in the event of cyber-warfare, the solution for Australia is to outsource cyber defense to China!

    Getting the “definition” hacking or tampering is absolutely crucial.

      1. Apple? Tomato? Ketchup? My comment related to the money transferred from victims. The victims don’t want to tell you. Our government doesn’t want to tell you. There’s plenty of evidence on the dark web.

        There’s probably lots of stats websites that have your answer. Personally, I don’t work in that field anymore. I haven’t for a decade but I still read mainstream media and that’s enough to tell me that nothing has changed for the better.

    1. >Getting the “definition” hacking or tampering is absolutely crucial.

      There should be no such vague and over-arching laws in the first place.

      For example, the consequence of defining illegal tampering as referring to modifying “safety devices” opens up a whole other can of worms where a “safety device” then needs to be defined such that it will not end up referring to some privacy invading device or other arbitrary control feature, such as mandatory speed limiters, geofencing, GPS tracking, video monitoring inside the vehicle…

      In other words, it’s a “think of the children!” law which can be used to do just about anything if so desired regardless of your definition. This is a case where the state should have no involvement because it can only lead to worse consequences.

      1. I’m sorry, but not making definitions because it’s hard doesn’t solve the problem. Just like all other issues that are hard, ignoring them is not a genuine solution, and depending of the nature of the problem, will just delay the problem until it’s even harder to solve.

        1. You can always make definitions, but laws which operate on vague and poor definitions will inevitably be abused or circumvented, making them either dangerous or irrelevant.

          If laws regarding the “tampering” of “safety equipment” leaves “tampering” OR “safety equipment” poorly defined, we cannot know what the law even means and how it will be interpreted. You might as well write a law that requires all drivers to be “polite”, which can become to mean anything.

  2. Maybe could we please just have cars that are cars, and not rolling server farms? I get it that computer control of an internal combustion engine can reduce its atmospheric emissions problems, but certainly an electric doesn’t need much more than a battery management system. And seriously is there any need for a brake light to need CAN bus control? It’s astonishing that new cars should be in short supply because of dependence on microcontrollers. Microcontrollers are fantastic, but do we *really* need hundreds of them to run a car? Funny how cars managed to work without them for decades. And this notion that cars are going to drive themselves? In this age when it’s a struggle to keep a PC secure? At one end you have ransomware saying “you’re taking the bus to work today”, and the other end doesn’t bear thinking about.

    Please, could we please stop trying to turn cars into ballistic cell phones? This shift in perspective, and we wouldn’t even have to worry about issues like “tampering”. And fwiw don’t think for a moment that this isn’t an erosion of right to repair. The simple fact is we need to get over this idea of cramming as much tech as possible into things like cars. It’s not helping.

    1. Lol, You pay the ransom or we drive your car over a cliff in 5 … 4 …

      There have been a number of 4WD cars bought in the chip shortage era that have the old tech (like sliding knob climate controls and window winders) fitted instead of the new tech that they can get chips for. Lots of irony in that.

        1. I drive an old diesel 4WD. If I park it on a hill then I can roll start it without a battery. It needs a battery to turn the engine off but you can just deliberately stall it. The windows have winders. The door locks and ignition are mechanical.

          If you drive in the outback bush of Australia you see lots of new cars abandoned. Usually bogged or an electronic problem. They get used for spare parts by the locals lol, but the locals never take the “black boxes”.

          1. I recently bought a ‘new’ car to replace my 2005 Jeep, a 2010 B2500. The engine computer controls the engine and that’s it. The stereo doesn’t connect to the brakes, the windows don’t need a key, and it doesn’t need a cell signal to unlock the doors. I fear the day when these ‘lack-of-features’ no longer exist.

    2. Literally, the computer-driven brake lights “solution”: I have a friend with a 2004 Caravan, and I noticed that one of his rear running lights wasn’t working. It turned out to just be a corroded contact, but in troubleshooting this, I discovered that the two-filament lamps could be plugged in two different ways, and both of them worked properly. HUH??? How was THAT possible? It appears that the computer measures the resistance of each of the filaments, to determine which wire to activate for running lights, and which for brakes and turn signals.

      I’m not saying I agree with this – how difficult was it to use polarized lamp sockets? Frankly, it sounds like someone designed a cheaper lamp socket, and then someone else discovered that there was no way to make them so that you could only plug them in the proper way, and then threw a software solution at it. This is insanity.

        1. In this context polarity refers to which filament is driven, since brake and running lights have vastly different brightness it is important to drive the correct one. The OP was simply decrying relying on software to detect the orientation of the bulb so the brakes light the brake light regardless, it has no relation to voltage polarity.

          1. Seems to be a 3057 bulb with a wedge (flat) base. But those bulbs have an inner and outer set of contacts so orientation doesn’t matter. I think OP is incorrectly assuming, based on the non-symmetrical appearance when looking at the side, that each side related to a single filament.

          2. chagrinnish: Yes, 3057, but no, not on this car, not with these sockets. Since the sockets are not polarized, that would have required having eight contacts on the socket, so that it wouldn’t matter which way the bulb was plugged in. I didn’t just look at it and go “huh, that’s funny”, I explored it, because the socket was completely symmetrical. The four socket contacts, two on each side, were wide enough that they made contact to the wires on either side, whether they were in the “inner” or “outer” positions. I mean, at first I said, “oh, it must be that they have the contacts spaced differently on each side”. But no, it was truly symmetrical – there was no physical way that each filament could always connect to the same pair of wires.

          3. .. and then, turns out I was …………. WRONG!

            What I thought were the spring contacts were actually just what grip the plastic mounting block on the lamp. The electical contacts are deeper in the socket, and they are aligned with either the inner or outer wires. No software magic after all.

      1. The connector is wired so the lamp can be plugged in either way and still be connected properly. Trivial to do: inner two contacts are the tail light, outer two contacts are the brake. Rotate 180 degrees, it’s the same. No computer required.

        Far simpler than requiring a polarized connector, and you never run into the case of a shadetree ape forcing the thing in the wrong way.

    3. I’m also in favour of ‘less’ or appropriate technology in general going into places where it makes no difference.

      Personal anecdote: failed brake light on a 2005 JDM Toyota. Opened the trunk/boot, lift the little door behind the lght. Brake is as the top, socket comes out with a simple twist. However this bulb was orange (indicator). The penny drops that the brake light section is in fact an LED cluster and the entire tail light needs replacement.

      Cue two hours of googling and phoning local suppliers and junkyards to find a replacement in stock. All items over $200 and would need to shipped. Got lucky and located a local small business via an auction site, they had one (aftermarket, used) for $90.

      I picked that up and had it swapped out in 20 minutes. This required removing the trim etc from all around the inside of the back of the car.

      What should have been an quick and simple exchange of an easily accessible low cost replaceable part, was a 2 hour mission with 100x cost – and a lot most waste.

    4. I work in automotive LED lighting design. Here’s the thing: we moved to LED lighting in order to try to improve the efficiency of lighting, and it turns out people don’t actually want higher efficiency. They want more lights. Specifically they want fancy lighting that does all sorts of flashy things when they walk up to the car or while it’s driving. They pay quite a bit for this. You could say well nobody should get stuff like that and manufacturers shouldn’t offer it, but someone’s gonna and people are going to buy them. All the fancy CAN stuff is because buyers apparently really want it and are willing to pay bewildering amounts of extra money for them.
      Similarly, the car companies want to send out software updates to modify and upgrade operation, and one of the things they upgrade is the animations. I dread this day but I’ll bet you good money that within 3 years you’ll be able to project Tetris on a wall with your Tesla headlights and play it from your cellphone, and, again, people pay good money for that, so manufacturers build it.
      There’s a market for ECU-less/non-CAN illumination and some manufacturers are asking for that because they want to avoid the complexity, but for every one doing that, there’s another manufacturer who is saying we want even more individually addressable led’s and higher bandwidth for talking to them.

      1. I wonder how many people have died as a result of switching from white light “bulb” and coloured lenses to RGB LEDs with clear lenses.

        People who see colour normally, simply do not understand colour. 10% of the population are colour-blind. Almost everything was designed in a way that things were equally usable for colour-blind people. I started an early job as a communications technician and during the interview they brought out a small piece of wood with many colour coded wires in a standard order and gave me a piece of cable and asked me to put the colour coded wires in the same order. They though they were giving me a colour-blindness test. The different coloured wires have different length colour bands for colour-blind people to be able to sort them out to. I had no trouble with the test.

        The resistor colour code is arranged in an order so that colour-blind people see the colors as ordered different shades from black to white.

        Colour-blind people can see a yellow-orange coloured lens over a whit “bulb” but most colour-blind people can’t see a RGB led set to what normal colour-vision people perceive as yellow. I say perceive as yellow because it’s not yellow at all, it’s Red, Green and Blue. A yellow lens over a white “buld” is IN FACT yellow.

        So to a colour-blind person the yellow lens over a white “bulb” may not-necessarily appear yellow but you can clearly see the contrast change and that is why a specific shade of “yellow” was chosen: so colour-blind people can see it clearly.

        I can’t see any sufficient contract change with RGB LED indicators that are set so the normal colour-vision people perceive it as yellow on specific model cars and the range is growing.

        I got sick of the problem so now I drive a large 4WD with a large bull-bar. You may get angry with me for making that choice but remember that I represent 10% of the population and your not going to take drivers license of 10% of the population because they are colour-blind. I am not gong to be one of the colour-blind people who die because of someone else’s stupid decision.

        In my country if I were in an incident because of this issue with LED indicators then I am in the right because the other vehicle has the responsibility to indicate their intention to me and that means I must be able to perceive their indication of intention.

        1. Except that the yellow LEDs used in automotive applications are NOT red plus green. They are in fact yellow, by their wavelength. So while there may be a difference in how colorblind people see narrow-band spectral light and wideband filtered light, the red-green-blue explanation is not valid.

          But let me make sure I am understanding this properly. You are saying you drive a vehicle “with a large bull-bar”. Does this mean that you are aware that it is hazardous for you to drive in traffic where there are yellow LEDs being used for indicators, without any concern for the people who don’t have massive steel barriers to protect them from the hazard you present?

          Don’t get me wrong: if what you say is true, then regulations are needed to ensure that indicator lights can be seen by people whose color vision is within the legal limits. If your color vision is not within the limits set for driving legally, that’s a different story. But in either case, to take the attitude that you will protect yourself at the expense of people who have done nothing wrong is inexcusable, and based on this alone, you should not be allowed to drive.

          1. You missed “on specific model cars and the range is growing” and “in my country”.

            I love it when a normal colour perception person tries to correct a colour-blind person. We live in the same world as you and we “have to” understand colour better than you to live in your world.

            You will never win an argument about colour with a colour-blind person unless you’re and absolute professional in that field.

          2. You can’t blame me for the state of law. As I stated, I am legally correct and it’s up to the owner of the car to sue the manufacturer for creating a car that does not comply with regulations. Good luck with that.

            Secondly you are so quick to blame me and denigrate me when it is the responsibility of the person in the other vehicle to protect my safety by ensuring their vehicle complies with regulation. Or yes, in other word they HAVE (legally) done something wrong (it’s mostly the fault of the manufacturer in the first instance) however in my country the vehicle owner is responsible to ensure compliance. Are you saying that it would be “inexcusable” for me to have a bull-bar to protect myself against people who may drive a car with faulty brakes.

            If you met me you would know that I am highly empathetic and responsible but I’m not willing to die for the sake of someones stupidity.

            I have ensured that my vehicle complies with all relevant regulations including safety regulations.

            Also my level of colour-blindness (if you want to call it that) is best described as average so this is a problem effecting a lot of people in my country at least.

            I have had this exact same argument here before. You’re a website visited by people from all over the world. Just because “things” are a certain way in the US doesn’t mean that there that way everywhere else in the world. Don’t blame me if your diesel Volkswagen isn’t what you expected.

          3. If your “level of colorblindess” is “average”, then you are just trolling. People with average color vision don’t have any trouble at all seeing yellow LEDs.

          4. Welcome to planet earth [BrightBlueJim] You should understand that there are different laws in different parts of this planet.

            This is HackaDay.com here meany experienced people share their knowledge with one another politely. You should understand that calling someone a troll and then asking them to assist you with your knowledge is not likely to be successful.

            I should also explain to you what a “straw man argument” is. When I say that most colour blind people have trouble seeing the “Contrast” changes of a RGB indicator and you say “People with average color vision don’t have any trouble at all seeing yellow LEDs” then that is a straw man argument as I was referring to RGB LEDS and not Yellow LEDs. Did you stop think what differences in contrast there may be between a white bulb and coloured lens and a RGB LED and a CLEAR lens. One is (sunlight – all but yellow – all but yellow) + (white bulb – all but yellow) and the other is (sunlight – practically nothing as it’s reflected) + (red + green).

            Oh by the way, I can certainly tell that they’re yellow LEDs because on some models the back ones alternate between red (tail light) and yellow (indicator) and the front ones alternate between white (daytime running lights) and yellow indicator. Take a moment to consider what contracts change (and therefor perceptibility) that may provide to a colour blind person.

  3. Bit late for suggesting people respond to the consultation – the period is already over:

    “The consultation period began on 28 September 2021 and will run until 11:45pm on 22 November 2021.”

  4. They aren’t looking for advice they’re looking to see what they can get away with as far as appeasing corporate interests.

    The answer to the question is a relatively simple one when not considering their profit and exlusivity interests. 1. when you buy a product it is yours to manipulate as you will. 2. once purchased licenses should not be a limiting factor when the physical object is under the purchasers control. 3. manipulating any objects that you own and are in your physical control is not tampering.

    In this way its still safe for corporations to rent out software, application, and server space as long as they keep it under their control. ..and once a consumer buys an object a corporation cannot reach in and assert control where they should not be able to.

  5. +1

    After buying a new(er) car a couple of years ago now, I stumbled across this very frustration..
    The car had been supposedly checked over, and declared fit for sale by the outfit we went to.
    Fast forward a couple of weeks and I’m driving to work…
    suddenly “ping! ping! ping!”, an engine warning light and a warning on the dash about some sort of problem of the “You can’t repair this yourself, take it to a dealer”. The car then went into what I now know is what everyone refers to as “limp mode”. Engine power dropped through the floor and the “ping” noise wouldn’t stop!
    Talking to the place I bought it was pointless. They sent me to their warranty company. Warranty company says “get the car checked by a garage in your area. Tell us what the diagnostic code is.”
    First garage I take it to, he checks the EMS, finds the code and then resets it, without telling me, DESPITE me telling him everything the warranty company wanted. And then he turns around and charges me £45 for him taking less than 10 minutes with the scanner (probably less than that, although he made me wait 30 mins in total).
    I tell the warranty company this, who turn around and say “okay, drive it around for a few days and see if it happens again”.
    A few days later, I managed to get to work, rang the warranty company, response was “it might reset itself. Try it again on the way home.”
    On the way home, everything was peachy.. until I got onto the main road… we’re talking a main A-road too… You can imagine what happened next!
    Car went into limp mode again, and I was scared witless. Driving on our equivalent of a freeway, at probably less than 25mph! Suffices to say, I found the nearest slip-road and made my way back home cross-country, albeit very slowly, and gave the warranty company a piece of my mind when I got there.
    So I take it to a different garage, where the response could not be any different.
    Within two minutes he came back to me. “Yes. We’ve found out what the problem is sir.”. Turns out it’s the throttle pedal. I asked the garage how much they wanted for the diagnostic, and he said there was no charge, since it was just a very quick check on the computer!
    Whole pedal had to be replaced, done by them in no time at all. Thank goodness it was a warranty part, but still. Car has been running well ever since, and I certainly know who is going to be getting my business in the future. Sure, the first guy’s garage is nearer, but charging me that much for a quick diagnostic is taking the mickey.
    Cars seem to be like aeroplanes these days, most of it fly-by-wire.
    Probably some sort of hall-effect switch had failed or something. In contrast, my previous car, had no such silliness, a standard throttle cable which worked very well, thank you very much.
    Replacing the ENTIRE pedal for one tiny semiconductor, or even to replace a magnet seems totally crazy.

      1. There is redundancy, this is what puts it into a limp mode when it detects one of the channels is not working correctly.
        This lets you drive the car fast enough to get out of traffic but not so fast that you crash into something in case the other channel were to fail at the same time.

        1. He said the “Engine power dropped through the floor”. I thought he meant the engine shut down, but I guess he exaggerated.

          It is stupid the driver cannot see any error code. Is there a way to unreset the diagnostic code? It seems dangerous to force a driver to reproduce the same error.

          1. How is this dangerous? If there’s an error code, it’s up to you or your mechanic to make a note of what the code was, before resetting it. If you hire a mechanic who doesn’t do this, your money was wasted. I don’t see how this is the manufacturer’s fault. Error codes can be reset so you can see how often something is failing, when the problem has been fixed, and maybe correlate that with what else is going on. And most ECUs can record a number of failures before running out of space.

            I agree that it’s kind of stupid that the error code is hidden away, though – before OBD II, many engine computers would flash a light or beep in a particular sequence (like three blinks, pause, four blinks,…) that you could look up in the service manual, so I’m not sure what OBD II did that couldn’t have been done by just standardizing the blink codes. But that’s kind of moot now, when you can get a code reader for under $20.

          2. “Engine power dropped through the floor” is no exaggeration.

            A company I worked for many years ago had car that “ate” oxygen sensors. When the sensor quit, the computer would switch to “limp home mode.”

            I had that happen to me on the Autobahn one day. Cruising in traffic at 130khm one second, struggling to maintain 65 kmh the next second.

            That is freaking DANGEROUS.

            There’s no external signal to tell other drivers that there’s something wrong, just seemingly some idiot who has suddenly slowed to a near stop in fast and heavy traffic.

            I got a lot of honking and dirty looks before I could get off the highway, and was very lucky that whoever was behind me had been maintaining a safe distance when the sensor quit.


            The car gave no warnings before it hit “limp home mode.” There were no warnings that the sensor was going bad or giving bad values.

            Just “boop” and a sudden slow down while in traffic.

          3. Okay, so you are saying that the computer gave you the ability to move the car off the road, rather than stranding you in a traffic lane, which is what an ignition or fuel failure would have done in an old-school car. “Limp home” mode isn’t really there to get you home; it’s to get you off the road. What’s dangerous isn’t that the car’s power dropped way down, but that you continued to try to drive it in that condition.

    1. Many cars have a fault code display without needing a reader, for example the wife’s Astra you press brake and accelerator at the same time then turn on the ignition without starting. The codes are then displayed on the mileometer.

  6. I get that a government would want to establish rules for cars and hacking. A car and other toad vehicles that travel at speed are certified to be secure (enough) to be used on public roads by certified drivers. The security systems on modern cars are computer controlled, so modifying hard- and software could make the vehicle less secure by intent or by error. I love tinkering with my own stuff and normally would call this a right to do this on the stuff i own. That could still hold up for cars, motors, etc. but there is a logic that modifications could result in forfeiting the right to use that vehicle on public roads. Of course in most cases it would not be noticeable, but if you are involved in a serious accident and it is established that you modified the software, you might be held liable and loose your insurance coverage even if the mod is unrelated to the reason of the accident.

    1. It’s difficult… The limit of my modifications to my car is adding a dashcam. I shouldn’t have any liability if something fails and it causes an accident.

      At the other end, there’s folks who rewrite firmware for their engine management, or make alterations to the chassis. If they’ve done something stupid and it causes an accident, I assume they’re liable. But they’re mostly skilled enough to not make mistakes (I hope).

      And then there’s a lot of people in between who might make modifications without really understanding them; stuff they saw on YouTube or something. Where do they stand? MOT isn’t going to catch all the types of stupid that might have been done.

  7. I wonder what’s driving this (excuse the pun): the “chipping”/ECU remapping industry? Those who remove the silencer and catalytic converter from the exhaust? Those who put dazzling headlights in?

    In most cases the annual MOT won’t catch them because they will revert the mods to original for the MOT and switch back again afterwards.

        1. The practice of taking a high milage vehicle and reducing the displayed milage so it looks like a low milage vehicle. In the olden days possible with a reversible electric drill on the tachometer feed (I am told), harder with modern electronic displays, but of course they find ways to nobble the stored milage.

          1. So from what I’ve heard, some (many?) electronic meterage/mileage displays have the count maintained by the computer, and the computer sends the value via CAN bus to the gauge cluster.

            Clocking in these cars is as easy as buying a “CAN injector” off ebay and splicing it into the harness. I’ve heard tell of people buying cars and finding these strange devices on the harness.

            Though now I just did a quick search for “mileage corrector” and I get OBD programmers, so now it’s even easier.

          2. Clocking is still possible(I do it regularly after fitting and programming in used instrument clusters) to match the original mileage. Clocking cars to sell is rare these days as the mileage is recorded with mot, so the only way around this is to “give the car a haircut” before every MOT. This gets expensive but I have heard of folks doing this when a car is on some limited mileage finance deal. If a car gets say 40k took off between Mots, it’s flagged on an hpi check and a dealer cannot legally sell it. So if someone is dumb enough to clock a car it becomes near impossible to sell, so they usually just end up broken for spares.

          3. @denis obrien
            Most cars in the UK are bought on PCP deals over 4 years with 8K miles (industry average), so only ever see 1 MOT. If you clock them before the first MOT there is no record of the mileage.
            Which is why mileage “adjustment” is rife, more so than it ever was under the old analogue days where you’d have to pop the cogs off the cluster and manually wind them back. Tho that didn’t need an electronic widget, just some screwdrivers to take the dash apart – which was also easier back then.

    1. Been there, done that. Not quite like your examples, though. I had a car once, that would stall at the first stop sign I came to whenever I left my house. This was because the road down to that stop sign was downhill all the way, and was far enough away that by the time I got there, a) the thermostatically-controlled choke had already cut out, but b) the engine wasn’t warm enough to run without choke. So it stalled. Every single time. My solution was to remove the automatic choke and install a manual one. But knowing this would be technically a modification to the emissions reduction system, I kept all of the parts and changed back to auto choke whenever I had to have it inspected. Eventually I moved to another place, where the car didn’t exhibit this behavior, and was able to leave the auto choke in place.

      1. Oh, I was thinking it happened because you didn’t know what the pedal opposite the accelerator from the brake pedal was for!
        J/k (my sister-in-law was guilty of that!)

  8. So, the government is concerned that people will disable emissions-limiting features, and the counter-argument from “enthusiasts” is that regular MOTs will detect any problems so there’s no need for new laws.

    That seems a bit disingenuous, when VW just got in trouble for doing exactly that, and successfully hiding it from routine inspections on a massive scale.

    Regulating DIY tinkering is probably still a dumb idea, but this highlights that a lot of “tinkering” may be for less than innocent purposes.

  9. Kind of agree.
    The basis of the MOTs is to ensure the vehicle is safe & finding defects and illegal fixing on car such as dodgy number plate sizes that are tiny and lettering are minute and opaque background.
    But the old bill should be pulling cars over more and not relying on VOSA inspectors.
    There are existing laws that need enforcing and not introducing a new crop of additional laws.
    Some are overdue; priority to pedestrians and cyclists.
    # drop mic and walk off #

    1. The U.K. doesn’t bother enforcing old laws, it just creates new ones. Makes the politicians look good.

      Next year they’ll probably “solve” knife crime by creating a new law against stabbing people; can you believe there’s no law about “stabbing”? Only a truest evil person would oppose a law against it.

      1. Just change the definition of ‘knife’ and watch the figures drop dramatically: It worked with potholes, and you get to watch BJ stand in front of a press conference and say “That’s not a knife. This is a knife.”

  10. My locale used to have annual, state-mandated vehicle inspections – not unlike the MOT. We eventually did away with it for three reasons:

    1. The intersection of corruption and practicality. The actual inspection process was farmed out to private businesses, usually existing garages and service stations. Most wanted the extra income but didn’t want to damage their relationships with customers – nobody wants to be the one to tell the near-destitute, the single mom or unemployed dad, that in addition to their overwhelming challenges they also lose their freedom to drive to work or school or the physician. So for an extra tenner or twenty or a case of beer or a handshake you get a false approval. Opposite that side of the coin, other more selfishly corrupt establishments would inevitably invent some near-catastrophic “failure” that they would cheerfully repair at significant cost – “don’t want to lose your registration, right?”

    2. “Muh freedoms”, in the generic “government can’t tell me what to do” sense.

    3. The state discovered that managing this sprawling pubic-private network cost an order or two of magnitude more than any return, while also being almost completely ineffective.

    In a rare demonstration of political wisdom, away went the inspections.

  11. Doesn’t it depend how Binky gets registered by DVLA ?
    I helped a friend build a Cobra kit car a few years back. ( Usual fun and games, had to build the dash with switches and dials in places that’d pass the IVA, then rebuild it with ‘period correct’ parts in the ‘right’ positions)

    Anyhow, since he was able to meet some quota of original parts used from the donor vehicle he was able to retain the donors registration and so it needed an MOT before it could be taxed and driven on the road as it wasn’t classed as a new car.

    But then apart from the roof, what’s left of the original Binky ?

  12. It’s only going to get worse, with electric cars. I don’t know how it works in the rest of the world, but in the US, taxing vehicles for use of the public roads was handled with what seemed like an elegant solution: taxes on gasoline and other motor fuels. The elegant part was that cars that caused the most wear on the roads were the same ones that used a lot of fuel, so there was a roughly equitable application of these taxes.

    Enter the Prius, and suddenly state governments notice that these cars, that weigh as much and cause as much wear and tear to the highways, were paying less than half the road use taxes of their gas-guzzling counterparts. And now with full-electric cars that you charge in your garage? Maybe this is something that’s already been addressed; I don’t know, I drive a 24 year old car, but it seems like governments are going to have to have spy devices in your car or your charger. So you can bet there will be increased legislation over people modifying their vehicles.

    1. Actually, that’s not true at all! The vehicles that caused the most wear pay the least in gas tax: heavy trucks. The amount of damage they do to the road is exponential, so when they do 10k times the damage but only pay the amount to fuel 50 cars then they are paying far less.

      I would be overjoyed if taxed based on calculated damage by vehicle weight and distance (in addition to the gas tax) because it would obliterate most of the trucking industry overnight, giving the rail freight industry a fair shake and preserving our roads. I’m tired of subsidizing corporations. My EV isn’t that heavy and I already pay an $100 annual registration fee on it to make up for the lost gas tax.

      1. Gas/fuel tax cover heavy trucks as well if you notice the one or two 50-100 gal fuel tanks on them (~8 mpg?). There also is the vehicle registration in some of the US states that (at least in NY) is charged by weight, and DOT stickers etc.

      2. Taxing trucks is pointless though, because the cost is instantly shifted onto the price of goods and services, and it won’t change the situation in any ways because the trucks can’t drive less or carry less mass.

        Of course you could tax them enough to shift all road transport onto rail, but then you’d pay for expanding that infrastructure in addition to the road networks, so it costs you double.

      3. Commercials don’t pay tax on fuel because they pay periodically, according to actual mileage. This is how diesel car drivers USED to get away with not paying road use tax, since in most places the diesel pump didn’t include tax, on the assumption that diesel users were already paying tax through a separate mechanism. But while diesel engines in cars were always the exception in the US, electric cars are only a few years away from being the norm.
        So that $100 annual registration fee “to make up for the lost gas tax” is what truckers have been dealing with since day one, and it’s a matter of $thousands per year for them.

  13. It _should_ be fairly simple: hacking become tampering when the owner has not authorized you to do it. Environmental regulatory compliance is entirely differ issue.

    If a vehicle violates environmental standards then it should be taken off the road (possibly immediately depending on how bad it pollutes) until it’s repaired. When a vehicle is modified to violate environmental standards (without express government permission) and used on public roads then it should be destroyed.

    1. How can you even ask? ALWAYS prioritize pedestrian. If you are driving down the road, and a pedestrian suddenly becomes visible to you, too close to stop for, would you not drive into a utility pole or a parked vehicle to avoid hitting them? Passengers are protected by seat belts, air bags, and metal shells. Pedestrians are protected by fabric.

  14. In this context polarity refers to which filament is driven, since brake and running lights have vastly different brightness it is important to drive the correct one. The OP was simply decrying relying on software to detect the orientation of the bulb so the brakes light the brake light regardless, it has no relation to voltage polarity.

      1. Heh. That’s not my gripe with CAN-bussed lights though. I have no problem with that. What I _do_ have a problem with is that they’re not a fixed address, and so replacement means that the new one needs ‘pairing’ to the car. Which the home user can’t do. So ‘yay’ – I can go to a breakers, get a replacement light unit, fit it… And it doesn’t work unless the dealer decides to _let_ it work. And there’s nothing that says they have to. They can refuse, and insist I buy a new unit from them at huge cost. Which I have to do, as the car has to be road legal.

  15. This isnt to do with modifications which most of the poster above are listing. One or two have gotten close tho.
    it’s all about replacing the existing ICE taxation system with a system by where they can continue to rake in tax and likely even more.
    It’s protection racket so you dont modify your GPS per mile tracker and pay less for use.
    Or dont modify the charging circuit in your car to ID as a different device with a different per KWH pricing structure. – because WTF did you think smart meters were for ?
    Or worst, your rationed travel miles are not reset earlier this month than they should be.

    So as someone that highly modifies their cars today, I’m not worried for two reasons:
    1) It’s not going after my hobby, it will be decimated anyway by petrol costing 5quid a ltr.
    2) no DRM, no security device, no legislation EVER stops a hacker from achieving at least a pyrrhic victory. Which is still winning.

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