Ontario man hacks vehicle computer to pass emissions test


Photo: Dan Bock, flickr

When his 2007 Corolla failed to pass Ontario’s “new and improved” Drive Clean program, Thomas Callaghan was aghast.

“I just can’t believe it,” he told Mooseclean’s. “Two years ago the exhaust fumes for his car were negligible. Now it’s failing just because the on-board computer says there’s something wrong. News to me. The check engine light has been on for 3 years now and the mechanics can’t make it turn off because there’s nothing to fix.”

As a computer repair technician, Callaghan wondered if there was something he could do.

“Usually when a customer comes in with a PC with a virus or a crashed hard drive, I’ll use Ubuntu Linux running from a DVD to see what’s going wrong. It’s a great operating system,” he explained. “These days, Linux runs on everything . . . TVs, cell phones, cooker pots. I wondered if there was a version that would run on my car.”

Fortunately, there was.

“After I installed Vroombuntu, the diagnostic fault codes vanished! I was ecstatic!” Callaghan gushed. “The testing facility’s mechanics sure were pissed though. They’d already planned out the $450 in repairs they’d do to give me a conditional pass.”

Reached for comment, Toyota Canada and the Ontario Mutual Insurance Association both cautioned that installing after-market software onto a car would void warranty and insurance coverage.

“Beyond the safety concerns we have with free and open source software, we’re also concerned about the licensing risks,” said Jan Bhatia, Toyota’s Manager of Public Relations. “If you use Linux, the terms of use require you to share freely with others, and I don’t think anyone is particularly excited about having to share their open-sourced car with freaky bearded, basement-dwelling Linux hippies.”

Sebastian Panache

Sebastian Panache

Editor-in-Chief. Follow him on Twitter @SebPanache. Or don’t. It’s okay, really.

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