Unintended consequences of technology

Do you realize that the places your car visits (and thus infered that you vist) can be tracked using the signal from your tire pressure monitoring system? No wonder the gov. made the systems mandantory.

Not only can you be tracked but the systems can be “spoofed” (a signal is sent causing the monitor to falsely report a tire is low, causing the driver to stop and now be in danger). So many unintendend (or perhaps intended) affects of technology.

Perhaps a report to your Congressman is in order.

Frankly I’m more concerned about black boxes. Also I think that services like Onstar would make for near effortless tracking of any vehicle equipped with it. You can always remove the TPS sensors if you want to on any car.

You can be tracked by your license plate, too, but it won’t alert you to a low tire.

Sorry Oldschool, but I believe you are wrong on both counts.

First off, each tire monitoring device is keyed to the vehicle.
So, unless the tire monitoring system gets a low pressure signal from a device with the exact same code as your tire has (think of it being the same type of code from your key fob), that is not going to happen.

And if this was the case, if you were next to another car with a TPMS, and one of its tires were low, your signal light would go on, until their car was out of the way.

As for tracking the car using the signals from the sensors, this is also bogus, as the signal strength isn’t all that high, and won’t transmit very far from your car.

Nice try, though.
Try decaf in the morning for a week or two.
You will feel better.

But, of course, we all know the flavor crystals in your coffee are actually tracking crystals, and the FBI can hear your thoughts when you drink them. :stuck_out_tongue:


GM has been doing this for years with their ONSTAR system.

There was an article in either CAR & DRIVER or MOTOR TREND magazine years ago where they were test driving a GM vehicle putting thru it’s paces. This included rapid acceleration, braking, and skid pad G-forces. During this testing the ONSTAR operator came on line and asked the driver if there was a problem. Because the data they were recieving showed excessive readings. So any vehicle with ONSTAR or even with a built-in GPS can be monitored as to it’s location.


It’s much easier for “THEM” just to use your cell-phone…That’s all ONSTAR is…

But why would “THEY” want to track you or me??? No pay-off to be found there…Who cares where I am???

As for TPMS, the MOMENT if gave me any problems, it would GONE…

ONSTAR is a remote data acquisition system. And you assume everyone has a cell-phone.


Let’s all make sure our tin foil hats are on snugly!

It sounds like it is time for the tin foil hats.

Oldschool–I usually agree with your posts, and when it comes to BMWs, I consider you to be one of the most reliable members with good information. That being said, I think that you are all wet with this thread.

Unless you can post a credible source for the notion that your car can be tracked via the TPMS, I remain firmly unconvinced. I am also skeptical about “spoofing” the TPMS.

Is it possible that you received an e-mail from someone with this information?
I ask because I receive at least 3 bogus e-mail warnings per week from various friends. Each time, I thoroughly debunk them and urge my friends to be more selective with the e-mails that they forward, but inevitably in a few days I receive more e-mails warning of hazards that do not exist.

What is the source of this information?

And, if it does turn out that my car can be tracked via the TPMS, then “they” can feel free to track me. I can guarantee that anyone looking at data on my whereabouts would be bored to the point of slumber.

The easiest way is the license plate. There are camera systems (some on cars or vans) than can scan in hundreds of plates just by driving it through a parking lot or down a street. Parking enforcement in some cities use these to find people who haven’t paid previous tickets and then boot or tow their cars. Even if you’ve done no wrong, the location of your car is probably still logged and stored for some time to come.

I can send you the article it is this months “Motor” magazine. I did not create the story and Motor magazine does not carry a "radical’ type image.

And are they using cell phones to turn us into zombies?  ?

VDC, I can post a credible source for the information,in fact I can give you a link so you can view the entire november issue of Motor magazine.Now how do you feel. This was a mainstream article that they printed at the very front of the magazine.

I will add that I purposely left out my source because I wanted to see the responses from members that did not think I had proof, but I do. Motor magazine is a very credible source for the most current things happening in the automotive world. I have fequently reccommended it to other members, but I cannot force people to educate themselves.I think if you are going to be handing out advice you must stay current. Relating what you did or saw during the 60’s just does not cut it.

It is, but it’s written by motorheads, not by IT professionals, and that’s why they got the details wrong.

There was a university study conducted recently in which they were able to, using several thousand dollars worth of hardware, discover and then impersonate (spoof) the unique ID of a tire pressure sensor. Using that ID they were able to send spurious data to the car’s computer and make it do strange things. It is also theoretically possible to track a vehicle’s movements using the TPMS’s unique ID.

What is not so well understood is what would have to be set up in order to do it. TPMS is a very low power data transmission. It is not receivable beyond a few feet. The tracking device must therefore always be within visual range of the car. You would either have to embed sensors in every road in the country, which would be a preposterously expensive operation, or you would have to put a higher-powered transmitter on the car in order to boost the signals from the TPMS and relay them to the tracking station. And once you’ve put a transmitter on the car, you can just track the transmitter, and therefore hacking into the TPMS would be superfluous.

In short, yes, it is technically possible to track a tire sensor, but the apparatus required to do it would eliminate the need to use the sensor as the tracker in the first place.

As for screwing with the computer, you could probably do that from afar (although getting two separate databursts from the same UID would likely cause the computer to assume the sensor had failed, and it would therefore be ignored, and trip a “bad sensor” code). But to what end? What possible nefarious purpose could be served by telling someone that his tire was low on air?

Study was conducted by Rutgers University and reported by Motor magazine. The purpose to telling a person their tire was low was to get them to stop so you could do them harm. This was the scenario presented. The article quoted directly from the study and was not re-written by “motorheads”.

I ask, do we being civilians really know how low powered a signal must be before it is untrackable?

“Now how do you feel”

Actually, I feel as if you grossly overreacted with your defensiveness.

Is it technically possible to do the things that the story claims?
Yes, in fact it is.

Is it feasible to do so?
No, it isn’t.

As stated, the range of the TPMS system is very limited.
The bad people would have to be on top of your car in order to capture, spoof, and trigger the TPMS light on your car.

It would be so much easier just to flatten your tires before you get into your car, and get you at that point.

As for tracking the car using the id’s from your TPMS sensors, as someone else stated, yes, its possible, but again, the infrastructure isn’t in place, and probably will never be in place on a mass scale to know where you are at every moment in time.

You would be better off throwing out your cell phone, credit cards, bank accounts, EZ-Pass (or equivalents), transit passes, and scannable id cards that you use for work, if you are that paranoid about being tracked. In fact, you shouldn’t have ever logged onto the Internet, and created a profile, on ANY website.

The purpose of the story sounds like it was one to instill fear and outrage in the readers.
But you didn’t mention anything about the Ford or GM systems where the car can actually transmit its maintenance history to the corporate offices, where it can then send you email reminders that your next service is coming up in xxx miles, or with OnStar, where they can turn off the throttle while you’re driving, if the police call them and tell them to do so. Those systems can and do tell people where the car is all the time, and I bet just about every premium car has that feature either in it, or capable of having it, very easily.

The story may be factual, but it’s way over the top.

Then there’s the final bit about the TPMS light trigger idea to get someone to pull over.

If the light came on on my car, but the car still drove exactly the same as normal, there’s no way in Heck I would ever randomly pull over to check out the tire. That just won’t work for the bulk of the population.

If they could trigger the oil pressure warning light, then that would be a greater possibility.

But when you think of how often we read posts on this forum about people seeing their lights on, but yet still driving their cars for many miles, you have to realize that it just won’t work for the average person, period.


Be that as it may. You jumped on the bash bandwagon and you are the smartest of the bunch.

Now remember, this only works on the systems that have sensors in the wheels.
There are a lot of cars that use the wheel speed sensors to tell if a tire is getting flat.
So, this trickery won’t work on those cars.

Finally, you can disable the TPMS system, then replace the sensors in the wheels with normal tire valve stems, and eliminate the issue entirely.

And yes, it is a LOW POWER system, other wise other vehicles sensors would set off your car’s light, on the off chance that two cars had sensors with the same code next to each other.

I even have an extremely easy test for you to conduct.

Get two cars, both with TPMS.
Take 1 wheel from both cars, and swap them.
Test drive both cars side by side, to see if the cars can even identify the missing sensor.
If the power level is high enough, side by side could possibly keep the light off, but if my theory is correct, the lights should go ON on both cars, just about immediately.

If the lights stay off, however, then continue the experiment.
Lower the pressure in 1 wheel below the threshold that sets off the sensor.
Now drive both cars next to each other, and see if the proper car then has its light turn ON.
Then try putting more distance between the cars until the other car’s light turns on when it’s sensor finally gets out of range.

There’s your test.
You should send it to Motor, and see if they will run a follow up.

Still, it may be possible, but it’s not feasible.


We are not bashing you, Oldschool.
We are pointing out the holes in the theory of the story you have provided.

We don’t think you are the type of person to suffer from tinfoil hat syndrome, so we are doing our best to allay your fears of being tracked and potentially harmed by this piece of technology.

Its simply not feasible.
There are so many easier ways to track you, and harm you than using the TPMS system.

Just as I stated to my co worker a second ago:

If I was driving along, and noticed a big black cargo van with deeply tinted windows tailing me for an unreasonable amount of time, and then suddenly my TPMS light came on, but my car still drove perfectly fine, I would then automatically assume that it intended me harm, and I would then go into flight mode. Somehow, I think my Porsche Boxster, and my Nissan Altima can out handle a cargo van full of hostiles, with ease.