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Over-the-Air Vehicle Software Updates – 2014 AD

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Over-the-Air Vehicle Software Updates

Elon Musk (b. 1971)

“In January 2014, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) published two safety recall notices for components in cars that could overheat and potentially cause fires. The first recall notice was for General Motors (GM) and required owners to physically take their cars to a dealership to correct the problem. The second was for Tesla Motors, and the recall was performed wirelessly, using the vehicle’s built-in cellular modem.

The remedy described by the NHTSA required Tesla to contact the owners of its 2013 Model S vehicles for an over-the-air (OTA) software update. The update modified the vehicle’s onboard charging system to detect any unexpected fluctuations in power and then automatically reduce the charging current. This is a perfectly reasonable course of action for what is essentially a 3,000-pound computer on wheels, but an OTA fix for a car? It was a seismic event for the automotive industry, as well as for the general public.

Tesla’s realization of OTA updates as the new normal for car maintenance was a big deal in and of itself. But the “recall” also provided an explicit example of how a world of smart, interconnected things will change the way people go about their lives and take care of the domestic minutiae that are part and parcel to the upkeep of physical stuff. It was also a glimpse into the future for many, including those whose jobs are to roll up their sleeves and physically repair cars. The event also called into question the relevance of NHTSA using the word recall, because no such thing actually took place, according to Tesla CEO Elon Musk. “The word ‘recall’ needs to be recalled,” Musk tweeted.

This was not the first time Tesla had pushed an update to one of its vehicles, but it was the most public, because it was ordered by a government regulatory authority. It also served as a reminder of the importance of computer security in this brave new connected world—although Tesla has assured its customers that cars will respond only to authorized updates.

Indeed, OTA updates will likely become routine for all cars for that very reason—timely security updates will be needed when hackers go after those 3,000-pound computers on wheels.”

SEE ALSO: Computers at Risk (1991), Smart Homes (2011), Subscription Software “Popularized” (2013), Wikileaks Vault 7 CIA Surveillance and Cyberwarfare (2017)

Don’t think of the Tesla as a car with a computer; think of it as a computer that has wheels.

Fair Use Sources: B07C2NQSPV


Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics – 1942 A.D.

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Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics

Isaac Asimov (1920–1992)

“Science-fiction author Isaac Asimov introduced the Three Laws of Robotics in his 1942 story “Runaround” as a set of guiding principles to govern the behavior of robots and their future development. First, a robot may not cause harm to a human, either by the robot’s action or inaction. Second, the robots must follow human commands, unless they would violate the first law. The third law states that robots must look to their own survival, provided that doing so does not interfere with their obligations under the first and second laws.

Asimov added a fourth law, known as the “zeroth” law, in 1985. It ranks higher than the first three and affords similar protections to all of humanity.

Asimov originally attributes the laws to the Handbook of Robotics, 56th Edition, 2058 A.D. The laws are a fail-safe feature used to inform robot behavior as robots interact with humans and choose courses of action that involve morality, ethics, and thoughtful decision making. They are used throughout the Robot series and other narratives linked to it. For example, Dr. Susan Calvin, a robopsychologist, is a recurring fictional character in Asimov’s robot stories. Calvin is employed by 21st-century robot manufacturer US Robots and Mechanical Men, Inc., where she solves problems caused by robots’ interaction with humans. These problems are often associated with a term in Asimov’s stories called the “Frankenstein Complex,” understood as human fear of self-aware, autonomous machines.

Asimov recognized in his writing that anxiety about intelligent robots would be a significant challenge to overcome in order for robots to be accepted by human society. His laws tapped into a subject that has moved from fiction to public policy as society confronts the commercialization of machines (such as autonomous vehicles) whose function is directly associated with human life.”

SEE ALSO Rossum’s Universal Robots (1920)

Cover of Signet’s 1956 edition of I, Robot by Isaac Asimov.

Fair Use Source: B07C2NQSPV