Author Topic: Car communications, and how it is done  (Read 265 times)

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Offline DaleReid

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Car communications, and how it is done
« on: January 10, 2020, 10:47:13 PM »
Recently there has been, along with other stories about privacy invasions into our lives, stories about newer cars communicating much of our data back to the manufacturer.  Sure, OnStar has been around for awhile, but supposedly only called 'home' when you pushed the button.  Then they began to tell us that if you're in an accident and cannot reach the button, that golly we've installed a voice activated call that allows you to summon help with just your voice.  Ain't that neat?  Sorry to say that for that to work, everything that is said in the car is parsed and evaluated.  Whether or not it is used otherwise, who knew, but now we do.

The article in the NY Times went on to say lots of stuff about our vehicles is transmitted back to some monitoring station.   Useful stuff like I've been in an accident, time to change the oil, and so on.  More nefarious are that at 3:22 pm I was doing 104 mph on the interstate, or some such violations.  And the radio stations we are listening too and other stuff that had nothing to do with the warranty on the car and so on.

My question is how does this get back to the manufacturer?  Satellite seems to be a possible path.  We've all seen these river and weather  monitors with what looks like high gain Yagi antennas pointing at a geostationary satellite, and companies like Campbell Scientific make equipment to allow the weather service and researchers gather data from out in the boonies and send that back.  That method alone intrigues me such as how many of these can a satellite handle, what is the data rate and all that, but that is for another discussion.

If there are say 30,000 newer cars from a manufacturer trying to dump these data back to their motherhouse for analysis, how do they avoid stepping on each other's transmissions, and how much bandwidth does this eat up?  Where is the antenna in the car, just like the patch antennas for GPS and so on?  How much power does the car transmitter put out? 

Is this whole system the reason that the advertisements for the last couple years brag about having WiFi in the car?  Is this a ruse to get the data that everyone says is so valuable about us? 

What happens if the antenna is all of a sudden covered in foil that is grounded?  Or the lead to the antenna gets accidentally snipped by a handy pair of diagonals?

I'm just tossing this out for chit chat since I don't know a thing about the technology used, and it is cold out and other than throw more wood on the fire and read, I'm looking for some intellectual challenge and discussion.
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Offline davidmc36

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Re: Car communications, and how it is done
« Reply #1 on: January 11, 2020, 03:23:37 AM »
It's not satellites.

The sensor loops on big highways that look like traffic light loops pick up data from you cars black box.

Offline galfert

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Re: Car communications, and how it is done
« Reply #2 on: January 11, 2020, 06:56:21 AM »
Today it is all just cellular. One day it may be Starlink
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Starlink_(satellite_constellation)
« Last Edit: January 11, 2020, 09:57:07 AM by galfert »
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Offline vreihen

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Re: Car communications, and how it is done
« Reply #3 on: January 11, 2020, 08:52:58 AM »
Most factory in-vehicle telematics systems use cellular data as their link back to the manufacturer's mothership.  In theory, you could simply unplug the antenna from the controller box, but personally I'd attach a dummy load to the antenna connector just to be sure.  Of course, you should consider the ramifications if you are still under factory warranty.

An interesting dilemma for some manufacturers is that they are still using older 3G GSM radios in their telematics systems.  With all US carriers having announced sunset dates for their 3G systems, so your car may be cut off from the mothership in 1-2 years with no action at all on your part.  Looking back at the 2G sunset, I've read that BMW gave a "settlement" in the form of a $200 gift card to 2G car owners who permanently lost their service during that transition.....
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Offline DaleReid

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Re: Car communications, and how it is done
« Reply #4 on: January 11, 2020, 09:14:00 AM »
I had thought of cellular, with the manufacturer having licenses with various cell service providers, but then with the extraordinary crappy service and coverage with more rural areas sort of ruled that out, without further thought.  The old ads for the blue button indicated that it would work anywhere, and if your car went into a ravine and had even further reduction in optimal service, when you needed it most, would put the service in a legal position that most sensible people wouldn't want to assume liability for, but I guess they do.

I wonder how often the current system does NOT work?  That is, if there is a call for help,to unlock your car, etc, that it just fails?

This makes a lot of sense.   There is enormous capacity (except during football games, Air Venture, and other enormous gatherings) for cell connection and with something like this, it only needs to have a brief data upload and will be off for awhile.

And why in the world would disconnecting the uplink interfere with my warranty, if I had a car new enough to have this built in?  Do they write the contract to say that it is required?  Rather than have regular oil changes and stuff, most new car warranties don't specify much more, although the CR-V had a carrot to say if we had the local dealership do the oil changes (at inflated prices) we would get a new set of tires every 30,000 miles.   Anyway that is further chit-chat.

Thanks for the discussion and I hope to hear more things.  I wonder if this 'service' is prevalent in other countries, and especially how GDPR in the EU would impact this function on new cars?  I'd exercise my right to be forgotten frequently, I guess.
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Offline chief-david

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Re: Car communications, and how it is done
« Reply #5 on: January 11, 2020, 09:35:56 AM »
I have a Dodge. I assume any data is being relayed back by 3g cellular. It is updated the firmware that way and is available for purchase/use.

Even my CPAP machine uses cellular data to get data to my phone/app and to my doctor.

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Offline miraculon

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Re: Car communications, and how it is done
« Reply #6 on: January 11, 2020, 10:36:19 AM »
In the past, and with my '18 Ford Fusion, the outgoing comms are via Bluetooth to the cellphone. I don't have the WiFi feature, so maybe an embedded cellphone with 3/4/5G is used in vehicles that have it.

Ford used to offer a "Vehicle Health" feature, but I don't know if it is still active or not. It fell into disuse with myself after a while.

Since we live up in the "Piney Woods" of Northern Michigan, there are areas off of the State, US or Interstate highways without cell coverage. (sometimes I bring my Ham HT, or my Flex has a rig already in it as a backup communication means)

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Offline vreihen

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Re: Car communications, and how it is done
« Reply #7 on: January 11, 2020, 11:14:56 AM »
I wonder how often the current system does NOT work?  That is, if there is a call for help,to unlock your car, etc, that it just fails?

The Internet is full of BMW owners posting that they paid a gazillion dollars for a car that their smartphone app can't communicate with 50% of the time.  I don't have napkin stats on complaints about other manufacturers, but outside of Tesla there seems to be some similar gripes.

Quote
And why in the world would disconnecting the uplink interfere with my warranty, if I had a car new enough to have this built in?  Do they write the contract to say that it is required?

"Any unauthorized modifications" is a broad blanket for denying warranty claims.  Could they argue that a catastrophic failure might have been prevented if the car was able to report something to the factory mothership earlier?  If you want to roll the dice.....
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Offline K5GHS

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Re: Car communications, and how it is done
« Reply #8 on: January 14, 2020, 12:01:58 AM »
My Mom's car (as an example) has the available "mobile hotspot" from Chevy in it.  Just because she doesn't have the service and doesn't pay the fee doesn't mean it is turned off and doesn't have the ability to transmit data to OnStar to remind her to check her blinker fluid.

The only real way to get it to turn off is to rip it out of the car, then the car probably won't work.... and this is getting more and more common.  Those hotspot prices for data though make Verizon Wireless sound like a cheap option, at least so far...
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