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Weirdness: Hackers Use NES Pad To Drive Car

Posted by Damien McFerran

All those hours on Rad Racer might come in handy after all

Security experts Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek have demonstrated a method which allows hackers to control a car using a laptop and NES joypad.

The pair have created a system which enables them to connect to a car's electronic control unit (ECU) via the on-board diagnostics port and wrestle control from the driver. A modern car's ECU controls things like acceleration, braking, steering, LED displays on the dashboard and even the car's horn.

Their work — which is funded by Pentagon research facility Darpa — is intended to raise awareness of the increasing dominance of computer systems in modern auto-mobiles. A 2010 model Ford Escape and Toyota Prius were the vehicles "hacked" in the tests.

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Speaking about the research, Charlie Miller said:

At the moment there are people who are in the know, there are nay-sayers who don't believe it's important, and there are others saying it's common knowledge but right now there's not much data out there.

We would love for everyone to start having a discussion about this, and for manufacturers to listen and improve the security of cars.

You can see more of the pair's exploits in this video. In the meantime, let's hope they add support for the Power Glove soon — we've been practising on Rad Racer for years.

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User Comments (37)



Smitherenez said:

I just started driving lessons, maybe this form of controlling the car will be more useful to me, since the clutch is giving me a lot of trouble



Weskerb said:

If they could get it working with analogue sticks and triggers I would be more impressed.



FantasiaWHT said:

Lack of analog (how FAR your wheels turn left or right) has to make it pretty useless. Surprised they didn't use something with an analog stick.



Adam said:

If someone is trying to hack your car, they may not be concerned with driving it safely. I drive a Prius, one of their test vehicles. Now every time I see someone with an NES pad I will be extremely nervous and suspicious.



Captain_Gonru said:

Unlike previous posters, I'm impressed it worked at all. I think that they used the NES pad to illustrate how low tech the equipment can be to pull something like this off. Of course a controller with analog sticks and triggers would work better. But, would it have the same impact as watching a modern car being driven with a 30 year old piece of tech? Nope.
On a side note, I don't know what ad popped up for everyone else, but I got Fantasia for XBox One. If that's what they are rolling out, I feel even better about my Wii U.



nomeacuerdo said:

It would be very reasonable to catalogue a car driven with a power glove as a weapon of mass destruction. (Thinking about AVGN's review of the powerglove)



retro_player_22 said:

Good, next they should try implementing it on an airplane and maybe perhaps a ship and a submarine after that.



element187 said:

"Can't wait to see how the Power Glove would turn out."

@StephenYap3 if it was anything like the powerglove in gaming back in the 80's, the car wont stay on the road and it will fall down bottomless pits constantly... My parents bought me a powerglove for Christmas after I begged for it..... in practice, it was total FAIL. Everything was difficult to control. Think of it as the first wiimote with horrible response time and feedback... half the time your onscreen character would do the opposite of what you were trying to do.



Varia01 said:

O_o! THAT'S FREAKING AWESOME!!! They successfully wired the controller into the car, and it the thing was successfully driving the car! MAN, THAT IS SO COOL!!!



Gioku said:

I'm sure they could easily use a controller with analog controls, as well. Maybe next they should try a GCN or N64 controller...



ArkOne77 said:

I wonder what would happen if you punch in the "Contra" code for 30 Lives..... LOL



AlexSora89 said:

Power Glove? Holy Explosive Love Letter, no. The Power Glove already made jumping over a Goomba a difficult task, let alone taking a car somewhere without accidents!



Gridatttack said:

Yeah sure, use the power glove for control the car.
You have to input a code for every specific car model, just to have it crash on the wall behind.

Or instead of it, how about is you drive it normally?



shazeobock said:

This is both cool (real life Rad Racer!) and kind of scary at the same time.

From a non-gaming standpoint: With lots of cars being made with internet-compatible capabilities, I imagine Darpa is trying to get ahead of the game where other people could "hijack" controls in vehicles. Imagine where someday your car can drive autonomously without your input (similar to a Google car). Now imagine someone with malicious intent suddenly able to "hack" your vehicle because its online enabled and connected to an satellite with your exact location. So many horrible scenarios seem to unfold in the imagination. Celebrities, politicians and other people of great importance to society will need to have greater security in their car's online capabilities. Car companies and manufacturers will need to think ahead to stem these possibilities. Existing hacking events in recent history have already proven security may be a problem someday in the average car.

By the way, sorry to be a downer to the board on this topic. As quoted above: "We would love for everyone to start having a discussion about this, and for manufacturers to listen and improve the security of cars." I just think it's important to share ideas like this besides the normal "Oooo! Cool! Driving with an NES controller!"



Zombie_Barioth said:

Exactly, thats one of the downsides to everything becoming high-tech. Another thing to think about are viruses, I know it sounds silly but its not too far fetched for a virus to screw up something in your car.

The scary thing about this is the more tech-oriented our society becomes the easier it'll be for any random person on the street to do.



tripunktoj said:

That, and a cheap electric powered car, would be the only way I will ever get a car. Seriously, I just cant control those things, it takes like 3 spins of the steering wheel for most cars to turn a couple degrees to the right or left.



StarDust4Ever said:

I would not recommend freeway driving with this setup.

That said, my 2007 dodge Caliber is probably not hijackable, which is a good thing.



Giygas_95 said:

Seems a bit dangerous, but neat nonetheless! Just got my driver's license recently.



Henmii said:

"it doesnt really seem to work very well"

Agreed! But still impressive!



ungibbed said:

The hacked Prius even working at all with the NES pad is amazing in itself. All thanks to electric power steering. Now think if a GameCube controller worked and would provide rumble when the wheels hit lock to lock (full left to right)

Analog triggers for the throttle and the other face buttons for control features. Turn signals, headlamps, gear selection from park, reverse, drive.

Imagine the possibilities for disabled individuals such as myself being able to drive again with a modified controller proven safe to use by the government.. That's serious $$$$ right there at its first step getting a Prius to work at all. Since the entire car is "drive by wire" (no actual mechanical link to the power train or transaxle), I could see this being quite feasible and far less expensive than existing systems retrofitted to current full size vans or modified minivans...

Most of these custom additions add over thirty grand or more on top of the existing price of a new vehicle which is required for such alteration. So think of your average Dodge Caravan with a final sticker of over $80 thousand depending on your needs.

Not sure if the same rules apply to the UK.

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