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Dutch Forensic Team Hacked Tesla's Driving Data to Investigate a Crash by@sidrazafar

Dutch Forensic Team Hacked Tesla's Driving Data to Investigate a Crash

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Sidra Zafar

Cyber Maniac|Technical Writer

Tesla’s data storage system was hacked by a team of Dutch forensic researchers this week. This breakthrough will give investigators access to all the information which was not provided previously by Tesla. 

How did the Tesla hack happen

The Dutch forensic team decrypted Tesla’s heavily guarded data storage to obtain unshared information about the car’s autopilot system. 

Francis Hoogendijk, a digital investigator at the NFI, said in a statement:

Data contains a wealth of information for forensic investigators and traffic accident analysts and can help with a criminal investigation after a fatal traffic accident or an accident with injury.

Tesla stores the driving behavior of its customers. The data is periodically uploaded from cars to upgrade its ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance System) and fix malfunctions. This data can also be used by investigators in the event of a car crash.

What kind of data does Tesla store?

According to the researchers at Netherlands Forensic Institute(NFI), Tesla cars store more data about driver behavior than it was shared with the investigators.

The forensic team was investigating a car accident in which a Tesla car unexpectedly braked and crashed in another vehicle. The Tesla car was in autopilot mode and was following the other car too closely. Though the driver took control of the car after warning within time, the crash still happened. 

Instead of requesting data from Tesla, the team decided toreverse engineer” the company’s data logs to assess them “objectively”. 

According to the agency, Tesla did share the data in the past, but the data was generic and lacked a lot of useful information to aid in the fair investigation.

Tesla however only supplies a specific subset of signals, only the ones requested, for a specific timeframe, whereas the log files contain all the recorded signals - NFI report

Tesla’s autopilot probe

Tesla cars that utilize autopilot have been involved in several accidents. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has already opened a formal safety inquiry into Tesla's Autopilot system in 765,000 U.S.NHTSA has identified 12 car crashes that involved Tesla cars in autopilot mode. 

The retrieved data will aid in revealing many truths to investigators, local authorities, and insurance companies in the event of future car accidents.

“It would be good if this data would become available more often for forensic investigations,” Hoogendijk said.

“Now that we know what kind of data can be obtained from a Tesla, certain data can be requested even more specifically to find the truth after an accident.”

The NFI obtained the data for models 3, S, X, Y and has shared it at a conference of the European Association for Accident Research for future accident analysis.

Tesla did not respond to media inquiries for comment. The automotive car Tesla has dissolved its press office and does not respond to media inquiries for over two years now. 

It seems like the news did not affect Tesla’s stock, as it hit an all-time high and closed at a record on Friday, 22 Oct 2021

“Rising estimates drove Tesla to the moon in 2020. They will drive Tesla to $1,000-plus in 2022,” says Gary Black, managing partner of the Future Fund Active exchange-traded fund.


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