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Electric car security/simplicity


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I keep hearing about modern electric vehicles getting firmware updates spontaneously via cellular connection, offering subscription services, only being serviceable by the original manufacturer, having their wireless connectivity hacked, replacing buttons with touch screens.

Does anyone know about any electric cars which are the opposite? Standard parts, widely serviceable, minimum gimmickry and no mothership connectivity? Do any current EV owners have opinions on how their models stack up on this basis?

I suppose an EV could be built from entirely analogue electronics except for the part which has to communicate with the charger. I don't expect anyone to go that far except maybe some eager people doing home conversions, but maybe there's a middle ground.

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I think it has less to do with the car being electric and more to do with a manufacturer's use of technology platforms across their products. 

Even non-EV cars are going in this direction and for manufacturers that make EV and ICE cars, they will share the same platform. I mess with vintage cars a lot and each generation of cars will have commonality across models within a brand and shared underlying hardware between brands since it's all made by a few select component manufacturers (I.E.: Bosch, Siemens, VDO, Delphi, etc)

With modern cars relying on more complex software, even if the underlying hardware is similar between brands, more specialized software packages will be needed to configure, modify, or update them. Gone are the days where you can simply dump the contents of an EPROM and if you know the mapping of where configuration bits are, you can just flip them to enable / disable features. In the 90's more things had checksums to and validation checks (overcome by reverse engineering checksum algorithms). In the 2000's they started encrypting things locally (overcome by brute forcing the key or just plain stealing them from equipment manufacturers / brands). In the 2010's, remote verification was done via series of handshakes and other checks. 

There is an entire industry around all of this. Software and/or hardware packages are created to enable owners to make changes to configurations or even add features via modifying existing hardware configurations or injecting commands into existing protocols to do new things. 

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One of the annoying things about the "digitalization" of cars is that much of it is cascading from regulatory requirements, which means all cars are heading that direction, not just EVs.  We currently see it most in EVs because they're the newest "ground-up" designs where manufacturers aren't trying to reuse existing parts and these regulations are considerations from the start.

If you have to have a screen for a rearview camera anyway (which they do), you can add the digitizer and smarts to turn it into an infotainment system for $ then save $$ by eliminating the physical HVAC controls and moving it into a menu.  But, in order to do that, you need an infotainment system that can talk to other systems in the car, which means security becomes a safety issue, and when you're a car manufacturer you have to fix safety issues (see: Takata recall that never ends).  For software/firmware that means updates; but you don't want to end up in a position like Chrysler after Chris and Charlie did their thing where you have to bring millions of cars into dealerships to do it, so you want OTA updates; but to do OTA updates the car has to be in some way connectable, and being connectable amplifies the security requirements.  This bleeds over into modifiability and reparability because it's WAY easier to make a system that's super locked-down and controlled "secure" than to allow other people to freely mess with it.  What's more, going to that extra effort is of minimal benefit to the manufacturer in the best case (how many people buy new cars with "where can I get it serviced?" or "can I tune it?" as deciding factors?) and actively harmful in the worst.

A slight glimmer of hope is that the sort of people with power to influence such things are starting to realize that being able to do things "by feel" while driving is kind of important for safety and that moving everything to touchscreens might not be the best idea.

So, to answer your question; no, nobody is doing the "simple EV" thing at any sort of scale.  I'm sure there will be a few "Low-volume manufacturers" building them; but, based on what we've seen from low-volume manufacturers so far, most of those are going to be vaporware, spectacularly expensive, or just comically janky.

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