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DRM To Be Used In Renault Electric Cars 231

Posted by timothy
from the insert-coin-to-continue dept.
mahiskali writes with this interesting news via the EFF's Deep Links "The new Renault Zoe comes with a 'feature' that absolutely nobody wants. Instead of selling consumers a complete car that they can use, repair, and upgrade as they see fit, Renault has opted to lock purchasers into a rental contract with a battery manufacturer and enforce that contract with digital rights management (DRM) restrictions that can remotely prevent the battery from charging at all. This coming on the heels of the recent Trans-Pacific Partnership IP Rights Chapter leak certainly makes you wonder how much of that device (car?) you really own. Perhaps Merriam-Webster can simply change the definition of ownership."
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DRM To Be Used In Renault Electric Cars

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  • by MitchDev (2526834) on Thursday November 14, 2013 @01:12PM (#45424260)

    are a good reason why again?

    • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Thursday November 14, 2013 @01:49PM (#45424614)

      Plenty of good reasons. The real question is: Is closed source software safe? and the clear answer is "We have no idea... since it's closed. But it's probably not"

    • by jimbolauski (882977) on Thursday November 14, 2013 @02:18PM (#45424956) Journal
      Here are just a few of the electronic parts in modern cars
      Fuel Injection - the computer can monitor O2 and fuel precisely resulting in much better efficiency.
      ABS - a computer senses when your car is skidding and rapidly pumps the brakes so you can still steer.
      ESC/Traction control - when loss of steering or wheel spin is detected it will automatically start braking to enable steering and stop the skidding
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by BronsCon (927697)
        The computer *CAN* tune the engine for better efficiency, but if you run too lean you risk grenading the engine. As a result, the computers are programmed to operate with a large (IMO too large) margin of safety, resulting in often *WORSE* fuel economy than older cars.
        • [Citation needed]

          Last time I checked, engine efficiency has improved significantly since electronic engine control systems were introduced.

          • [Citation needed]

            Don't have a Citation handy. Will a Geo Metro do instead?

        • There was a generation of cars that 'burned lean' (very late 80s early 90s). They can't do it anymore as burning lean produces unacceptable levels of NOX.

          But it's not a safety margin issue, it's an emissions issue. Less NOX, more CO2. All fuel injected, Oxygen sensor cars.

          • by BronsCon (927697)
            You're both right and wrong. I'm not talking about running lean, I'm talking about running leaner than today's cars run. Too lean and you burn too hot, produce too much NOX, and eventually grenade the engine. There's a sweet spot right before combustion temps skyrocket, though; that's what I'm referring to.

            Because sensors degrade over time and most people are morons who won't follow a maintenance schedule, an extra margin of "safety" is added, running the engine richer than necessary, to prevent this issu
            • So buy a late 80s car. They still exist.

              But you are simply wrong on the history. They existed, then they were banned due to emissions issues. They make too much NOX with brand new sensors etc.

              Engines produce too much NOX way before they melt their pistons. Air cooled bugs also produce too much NOX because they burn hot but they were typically slightly rich (like all well tuned, carburated engines).

              • by BronsCon (927697)
                The combustion temps are the problem there, as you inadvertently pointed out. Cool the engine properly and keep combustion temps under control and you can run a bit leaner. I'd like to also point out that you aren't actually arguing with anything I've said here; nowhere did I say an engine will melt its pistons before NOx production gets out of hand. Yes, a lot of older cars ran too lean, but you glossed right over what I said about that sweet spot; leaner than most cars today run but *NOT* so lean as to in
      • by ApplePy (2703131)

        Fuel injection is great. The latter two are just so much molly-coddling of people who can't be bothered to learn how to drive a car. Taking control of the vehicle away from the driver is making worse and worse drivers.

      • by MitchDev (2526834)

        NONE of which require fucking DRM...

    • by NeverVotedBush (1041088) on Thursday November 14, 2013 @02:20PM (#45424984)
      And if Renault goes out of business? What happens to the owners of cars and renters of batteries then? What about hackers?

      I translated the original article and they don't seem to mention whether it is a deadman/watchdog kind of kill switch that needs to periodically hear from Renault that it is OK to continue to operate, or if it is a specific signal to stop operating that is only issued when that situation is deemed necessary.

      If it is a "one-time" signal, then that is possibly open to spoofing/hacking and potentially very disrupting for legitimate owners in good standing if someone figures out how to remotely shut them down. That would be quite the coup for hackers if they could stop the entire fleet.

      If it is a deadman kind of thing, one hopes that the company would continue to support sending that signal for as long as even a single car was still on the road and the owner was in good standing.

      Either way, I don't think I would buy one of these.
      • And if Renault goes out of business?

        Impossible! And if that should happen anyway the tax payers of all of the Union Européenne will come to ze rescue.

      • They'll just go screaming to government and receive big bailout. Plus some laws that will force everyone to purchase their crap. This is how modern business works - it too far from how communism operated in the old days.
      • by jelizondo (183861)

        Speaking from experience, back in 1983 Renault ceased operations in Mexico (now it's back) and a lot of owners were stranded with no parts, warranty or service.

        I would not buy a Renault even if it was the most awesome car available and the cheapest; once burned, twice shy.

        Yes, the French government will bail them out in France, but not everywhere else... Caveat emptor.

    • Computers in cars are good. Transceivers in cars are bad.

      • by wagnerrp (1305589)
        Without transceivers, how are the various different computer systems supposed to communicate with each other over the CANbus? I suppose we could have one central control, that manages everything else over dumb IO, but that's... well... dumb.
  • Defensive move (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jamesl (106902)

    Perhaps this has something to do with preventing people from using the battery longer than is safe. Because we know that when things catch fire or stop working the immediate remedy is to sue.

    • by robmv (855035)

      I can use medicine longer than is safe (expired) and kill myself and a lot of people. Do you propose to embed DRM on it? There is no need for remote capabilities for that, just add a timer and disable it after their secure time of life. The problem with this case is not only the remote capabilities, but that they don't sell you a battery, they rent it to you, not a problem they give you an option to buy one or others are able to provide the same rental service and by definition of DRM I am pretty sure this

      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 14, 2013 @01:42PM (#45424534)

        ...I can use medicine longer than is safe (expired) and kill myself and a lot of people....

        The 'expired' date on medicines (and food) does NOT give a time after which they are unsafe to use.

        Please concentrate, because this is slightly non-intuitive. The manufactures lobbied, not to provide this, but to provide a time UP TO WHICH it had been tested to be safe.

        Now, those two times may be very similar for cases where an item spoils quickly - a cake or bread, for instance. But in many cases medicines (or food) can last essentially unchanged for many decades. In those cases a manufacturer will NOT test for several decades and try to find the maximum shelf life, but will test for, say, 5 years. That's a reasonable length of time, and he will be very happy if after 5 years a warehouse has to throw away perfectly good items which would have lasted another 15 years, and buy some new produce from him again.

        If you are using something with an outdated shelf-life, consider the chemistry. For instance, a sealed jar of sodium bicarbonate isn't going to go 'off' even if it's 100 years old...

        • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Thursday November 14, 2013 @02:20PM (#45424992)

          The 'expired' date on medicines (and food) does NOT give a time after which they are unsafe to use.

          True story: I had a box of fungicide in my shed, and my wife wanted to throw it out because it was expired. I finally convinced her that it was unlikely that fungicide would rot.

          • I have that argument with my wife all the time over dry ingredient (flour, baking soda, sugar, salt), once she claimed our dish detergent had gone bad, and yet she insist on keeping spinach in the plastic container in the fridge until it's just a puddle of green ooze and gets mad at me if I throw it away when it starts to turn.
        • ...I can use medicine longer than is safe (expired) and kill myself and a lot of people....

          The 'expired' date on medicines (and food) does NOT give a time after which they are unsafe to use.

          Please concentrate, because this is slightly non-intuitive. The manufactures lobbied, not to provide this, but to provide a time UP TO WHICH it had been tested to be safe.

          Now, those two times may be very similar for cases where an item spoils quickly - a cake or bread, for instance. But in many cases medicines (or food) can last essentially unchanged for many decades. In those cases a manufacturer will NOT test for several decades and try to find the maximum shelf life, but will test for, say, 5 years. That's a reasonable length of time, and he will be very happy if after 5 years a warehouse has to throw away perfectly good items which would have lasted another 15 years, and buy some new produce from him again.

          If you are using something with an outdated shelf-life, consider the chemistry. For instance, a sealed jar of sodium bicarbonate isn't going to go 'off' even if it's 100 years old...

          The US military has a program to test how long medicine is still effective after expiration. Since they typically stockpile significant amounts, it is expensive to throw out perfectly good, but past date, medicine. Not only do they need to buy more but they need to then ship it to warehouses around the work.

          Not surprisingly, some of it from a PR perspective, i.e.e "We're giving our troops outdated medicine;" but also because it represents a revenue loss for suppliers. If ^H^H When the data leaks to the gene

        • by AK Marc (707885)
          So the antibiotic I got that was a refrigerated liquid with a 1 week expiration, that'd be fine left out in the sun on the counter for 6 months?
        • by DarthVain (724186)

          So you are saying my vitamins may not be less effective if they are past their expiry date?

      • I can use medicine longer than is safe (expired) and kill myself and a lot of people. Do you propose to embed DRM on it?

        I am sure that as soon as it becomes practical, somebody will propose that, yes.

        • I know someone who developed smart medicine packaging. It basically integrates temperature over time and throws a red light when the medicine is expired.

          Not exactly DRM. But close. It could burst a cell full of ruining agent when it expires.

      • by jamesl (106902)

        Batteries don't expire according to the calendar. They expire according to how they are used.

      • Re:Defensive move (Score:5, Informative)

        by almechist (1366403) on Thursday November 14, 2013 @03:53PM (#45426048)

        I can use medicine longer than is safe (expired) and kill myself and a lot of people. Do you propose to embed DRM on it? There is no need for remote capabilities for that, just add a timer and disable it after their secure time of life. The problem with this case is not only the remote capabilities, but that they don't sell you a battery, they rent it to you, not a problem they give you an option to buy one or others are able to provide the same rental service and by definition of DRM I am pretty sure this will be something like "only Renault can provide that service"

        There is not a single drug that has been proven to become unsafe after it's passed the expiration date - or any other date, for that matter. After expiration a drug may become less effective, i.e. you may not be getting the full dose as labeled, but the medicine isn't going to suddenly start to have different pharmacological effects, dangerous or otherwise, just because of the passage of time. There was at one time a single known case where a drug was thought to possibly degrade into a potentially harmful substance, but it was subsequently proven that the drug in question, tetracycline, remains safe even after expiration, and in any event tetracycline is only sold for veterinary use these days. So no, you won't kill yourself or anybody with expired meds, that's basically an urban myth, although big pharma would no doubt love for everybody to continue to believe it.

        • by robmv (855035)

          Thanks for the insight, but in my defence, giving someone an expired drug is still dangerous if that people need it to live, don't you think? probably the drug is ineffective or is not strong enough for the people required dosage. I assure you that if someone start giving a lot of people expired drugs, he or she will go to jail, it is because it is dangerous, people can get harmed receiving something ineffective

          • True enough, less of a needed drug can indeed be harmful, I will grant the point. But in reality I suspect even that is overwhelmingly unlikely to happen. There's an AC reply above that explains the real meaning of drug manufacturer's expiration dates rather well, in case you missed it. AFAIK some drugs degrade faster than others, but none are so fast that it becomes a real concern, unless we're talking decades or longer past expiration, and even then, who knows for sure? So yeah, technically possible in th
    • by AK Marc (707885)
      Yeah, like DRM inside print cartridges is for the good of the user.
  • No Problem. (Score:5, Funny)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday November 14, 2013 @01:12PM (#45424264) Journal
    Ownership: 1. N. "The state or condition of being liable to an early termination fee in the event of returning, selling, or otherwise losing custody of an object."

    2. (obsc./archaic) N. "Possessing the right of use or disposition of an object as one sees fit."
  • How long do you think it will take for someone to hack it and allow them to use whatever battery?

    Look how long the much ballyhooed Bluray DRM took to get cracked.

    Not to mention I wasn't aware Renault still made cars.
    • by gstoddart (321705)

      How long do you think it will take for someone to hack it and allow them to use whatever battery?

      And then you will be subject to being sued for breaking the DRM. In fact, you probably sign something that says you won't do that, and if you do you consent to be sued.

      You really don't think they have a bunch of lawyers making sure they've got your options limited, your nuts in a vice, and their hand on your wallet?

  • Not entirely new (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cornjones (33009) on Thursday November 14, 2013 @01:17PM (#45424328) Homepage

    This is obnoxious but not entirely new. My 2005 volvo has a 'feature' where the power steering pump can only be changed by volvo as the software 'needs an update' before the car will start again. Can't even have another garage do it, you need the volvo computers.

    I guess it is just a way to ensure the dealership garages stay in business.

    • Re:Not entirely new (Score:5, Informative)

      by Charliemopps (1157495) on Thursday November 14, 2013 @01:54PM (#45424666)

      First off, that's what you get for buying a Volvo.
      Second, you can reset the computer yourself. It's not that hard. Use the interwebs and all will be revealed. I had to deal with that mess on a friends 2007.

      Now if you replace the engine or transmission... yea, you need to get some software off the piratebay to program the computer correctly. Done that to. That sort of crap should be illegal.

      • by cornjones (33009)

        Yeah, apparently they changed something in the wiring so it isn't a computer reset, it is actually new software. I'm just not quite comfortable torrenting car software. (not that I didn't consider it)

    • And this kind of BS is why I've just about decided never to buy a car built in this millennium.

    • This is obnoxious but not entirely new. My 2005 volvo has a 'feature' where the power steering pump can only be changed by volvo as the software 'needs an update' before the car will start again. Can't even have another garage do it, you need the volvo computers.

      I guess it is just a way to ensure the dealership garages stay in business.

      BMW does this as well. Cost of new battery:$145 Cost of putting it in and programming car for new battery: $400 Buying aftermarket programing kit for $180 and DIY: Priceless (sort of)

    • by LoRdTAW (99712)

      This happened to Mack trucks after Volvo bought out Renault Trucks who happened to have a controlling interest in Mack. Volvo basically told Mack they were now to use Volvo engines (rebranded of course) Mack shops were all forced to buy costly Volvo computer diagnostic equipment. Mack used to supply dealerships with the necessary software and hardware for the original Mack engines (also shared with Renault).

      An employee at a Mack dealership told me the cost was $5,000 per system with equally costly yearly ma

  • by Nrrqshrr (1879148) on Thursday November 14, 2013 @01:25PM (#45424368)
    Looks like I still can't download a car... but I sure as hell will be pirating one!
  • by MtHuurne (602934) on Thursday November 14, 2013 @02:02PM (#45424760) Homepage

    What I heard is that Renault realized that the cost of the battery is one of the main problems in electric car adoption, both because it is expensive and because it is unclear how its value will depreciate over time. Therefore, instead of letting people buy the car with the battery, they sell the car much cheaper without a battery and the battery can be leased. At least here it is clear the battery is not sold, unlike many products with DRM.

    I haven't looked into this further, but a possible reason for refusing to recharge would be if someone stopped paying the lease of the battery but didn't return it. Or if the battery pack got stolen from the person who leased it.

    Of course some people don't like the idea of any kind of kill switch existing at all, which I can understand. It is a sign of distrust and it is also a potential mode of failure (both technical and administrative). But making the battery a rental was done for a good reason here, not just out of corporate greed or control freaking.

    • by Rlindstr (2866673)
      "But making the battery a rental was done for a good reason here, not just out of corporate greed or control freaking." They could have offered it as an option and not a requirement then.
    • by jemenake (595948)

      I haven't looked into this further, but a possible reason for refusing to recharge would be if someone stopped paying the lease of the battery but didn't return it. Or if the battery pack got stolen from the person who leased it.

      Yeah... the same thing went through my head when I read the headline. They're probably selling the car and renting the battery, and being able to brick the battery is a lot easier than trying to get into the "deadbeat battery lessee repo business". And your comment about being able to brick stolen batteries or cars has parallels to things like the new "Activation Lock" in iPhones. Still, I won't be buying one of these things...

    • by Aaden42 (198257)

      because it is unclear how its value will depreciate over time

      If there’s a leasing company prepared to offer a lease on the battery, you can be absolutely assured that either the above is untrue (IE they have a perfectly clear understanding of how it will depreciate) or else the lease cost is inflated such that that they’re making the purchase cost plus a tidy profit over a conservatively short estimated lifetime of the battery. If you’re required to continue making lease payments beyond t

    • by ultranova (717540)

      What I heard is that Renault realized that the cost of the battery is one of the main problems in electric car adoption, both because it is expensive and because it is unclear how its value will depreciate over time.

      But because that was a problem potentially solvable through technology, they decided to replace it with a much bigger problem that does not depend on insufficiently advanced technology to remain unsolvable. It's an utterly brilliant move that should definitely help make all electric cars seem s

  • On one hand, I can't disagree that encryption in automotive control systems is very important.... critical even. On the other hand, to potentially make cars more expensive to adjust, repair or update is an attack on the consumer and should not be tolerated. Copyright is abused far too often as the real cause and intent would not be allowed by most legislators.

  • The Chevy Volt comes with a 150,000 mile, 10 year warranty on the battery. GM started with 100,000 miles with the original Volt, 8 years, but then upgraded the battery technology in later models.

    So this is not a technology problem.

  • But I don't know if it was Citroen or Renault that my father did not want to buy, because one of them used non-standard screws and and so on, so if he wanted to work on his car, he had to buy an expensive set of tools from that specific car manufacturer. That was more than 30 years ago.
    • 30 years ago, it what probably because the car was metric. The American auto makers were very late to adopt metric fasteners. My 1989 Jeep is all Imperial nuts and bolts.
    • BMW uses secret decoder ring bolts. You used to have to get the tools off the tool truck for many dollars but now they are relatively common.

    • by Aaden42 (198257)

      There’s definitely something new here, at least under US law. If the manufacture uses unique screw heads, the market can produce a cheap replacement tool, and you’re good. See Apple & pentalobe screws on iPhones.

      Assuming this is in fact interpreted as DRM (and we’re not just throwing that word around for the knee-jerk) and thus covered by DMCA, it would be illegal, not merely inconvenient for you to attempt to repair the problem if the battery were deactivated. Even if it’s no

    • by nukenerd (172703)
      Sounds like the Citroen Dyane, the ones that look like inverted deckchairs. Despite looking basic, they required all sorts of special tools (and I don't just mean spanners) even to do routine jobs. Just checking the brake shoes required peeing. The design was insane.
  • Finally! Car analogies will make sense to Joe-Public because they will have lived through them.

  • by Registered Coward v2 (447531) on Thursday November 14, 2013 @02:45PM (#45425316)
    and they can disable it at any time, as owners are they liable for any damage it may cause? So when my Zoe leaves me for someone else and Renault fails to disable the charging and said new person is at fault in a serious accident, how long will it take for someone to argue Renault was at least partially at fault since they fails dot take action in a timely manner?
  • Don't buy Renault.
  • I own a 1980 Triumph TR-8. No ABS, anti-lock, traction control, air bags, EFI (it's carbureted), bluetooth, or GPS; therefore, no computers. The most modern thing in it is the stereo, a Clarion from 1993. It's even got manual door locks and windows. Analog clock. Mechanical speedo, tach and odometer.

    I'd like to see them try to apply DRM to it.

    Sometimes, being a partial Luddite can be a good thing.

    Oh, yeah, it's a real kick to drive....

    • by Ksevio (865461)
      It's not possible for there to be DRM in my chair either, but that doesn't really add much to the conversation. Sure we could add digital locks to your car, but the issue is with new cars and if it's going to be a trend.
      • My point is that buying a new car with DRM is a choice. Don't want DRM? Don't buy new; there are plenty of viable alternatives out there. Or, buy new from a manufacturer that hasn't gone the DRM route. If enough people make those choices, it starts to hit the manufacturers where it counts the most, in the profit/loss statements. Doesn't always work, but it works often enough.

  • Father: See that, son! That's a picture of Renault.
    Son: Renault? Who were they?
    Father: Who? Renault?
    Son: Yeah.
    Father: It was a car company. They went out of business screwing their customers over.

  • This vehicle has detected an unauthorized passenger. Initiating baby seat ejection sequence.
  • You buy the car, lease the battery. Why the snark about changing the definition of ownership?

    If you don't like the lease the battery arrangement, get a different car. Renault even has other EVs to offer.

    It's pretty absurd to say that this changes the definition of ownership when the part affect is a part you didn't actually buy.

  • If you're taking functionality out of a car, don't be surprised when people are willing to pay less for it. So whatever increase in profits you expect to make from this, subtract that. And account for bad PR too. "Family DIES when their car shuts down in the middle of the autobahn." You're going to have to spend a lot on PR to compensate for that. Make sure you subtract that from your expected profit as well. And subtract developing this too.

    Now, Renault, look at your spreadsheet after you've adjus
  • How did everyone miss this?
    The ZOE has a swappable battery. There are or will be stations where one can drive up and swap the discharged battery for a different charged battery. This is why the battery is leased and not sold. The infrastructure to do this swapping and the spare batteries that must be kept at the swap stations need to be paid for somehow. The lease is how it is paid for.
    Lets look at a couple of scenarios;
    1. Purchase battery
    Worst case scenario. A user charges the battery until it degrades to

    • by KreAture (105311)
      The point is, they can use this while you have a dispute with them.
      Basically giving them a choke-hold on you regardless of you being wrongly treated and them violating agreements.
  • The Zoe is an electric only car that is marketed at European "company lease" users. Actual drivers don't "own" the cars, nor do their employers. To keep costs nice and predictable, Renault had to do this. Even the few private "owners" of these cars got scared of battery replacement costs of several hybrids we've had for the last ten years or so in Europe, but lease companies have started demanding warranties for the full duration from manufacturers to even consider the cars in their programs.

    The fact that

  • Will that law need to be updated to stop BS like this from locking out 3rd party shops from working on cars or even the do it your self people?

  • Renault has thus been eliminated from my list of candidates for my new electric car.
    Thanks Renault for making it easier.

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