Author Topic: John Deere tractors are coming with a kill-switch  (Read 2881 times)

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Online BU508A

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John Deere tractors are coming with a kill-switch
« on: May 10, 2022, 07:40:08 am »
It starts with a story, released by CNN:
Russians plunder $5M farm vehicles from Ukraine -- to find they've been remotely disabled

Cory Doctorow had some thoughts about it:
https://doctorow.medium.com/about-those-kill-switched-ukrainian-tractors-bc93f471b9c8

Money quote:
"In the 2017 edition of these exemption hearings, John Deere filed a stunning brief with the Copyright Office: in it, they explained that farmers do not own the tractors they spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on.

In fact, the farmers can’t own these tractors, because the software that animates these tractors (and enforces VIN locks and restrictions on using your own data) belongs to John Deere for the full term of copyright — 90 years — and the farmers merely license that code, and they are bound by the terms of service they have to click “OK” on every time they switch on their ignitions."

 :wtf:

What an ugly dystopia!  :--  :rant:
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Offline MazeFrame

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Re: John Deere tractors are coming with a kill-switch
« Reply #1 on: May 10, 2022, 09:23:02 am »
All of high-end Server and Networking gear (and many other higher-end devices) are arbitrary license hell, and have been for the past 10+ years.
So when all of them go EoS in five to ten years with the license servers down, the next generation of engineers and students has no way to familiarize themselves with tech.

Would be very dumb to kill global-ish food supply the same way, but I am just some IT guy and hobby tinkerer.  :-//
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Offline voltsandjolts

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Offline Gyro

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Re: John Deere tractors are coming with a kill-switch
« Reply #3 on: May 10, 2022, 04:19:07 pm »
There have been two threads on this in recent weeks irrc. They both turned political and got locked / deleted.
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Offline MrMobodies

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Re: John Deere tractors are coming with a kill-switch
« Reply #4 on: May 10, 2022, 07:13:28 pm »
they are bound by the terms of service they have to click “OK” on every time they switch on their ignitions."

That sounds to me like harassment if I had to do that everytime I wanted to use something that I paid for but then again what they paid for doesn't effectively belong to them.

I have just came across this post from Reddit:
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14075867
Quote
throwaway_jddev on April 10, 2017 | parent | context | favorite | on: Farmers look for ways to circumvent tractor softwa...

Hey all, I worked on software for John Deere. This is a throwaway account for obvious reasons. Opinions expressed here are MY OWN. I no longer work for John Deere or am associated with them in any way.
I was part of one of the many teams that work on this software. Specifically I was part of John Deere's ISG division also known as the Intelligent Solutions Group. The ISG division (was at the time) responsible for tying together various software built by OEM's, for building the central UI within the cabin, and for building various debugging and build tools. The team I was on, consisted of about 8 very senior engineers, and I think there were around 20 total engineers working for ISG at the time (though I saw, and knew only a handful of them). Now, when I say OEM integration, I mean suppliers and other John Deere divisions with their own teams mirroring ours. All told, I would estimate that John Deere has somewhere between 150-300 engineers working full-time on their codebase for their tractors.

Let me disabuse you of any myths. I have worked in software for 20 years. I have worked in large enterprises, and scrappy startups. This software is by FAR the largest, most complex codebase I have ever interacted with. Submission of any new code was seriously considered and reviewed before it entered production (sometimes to a pedantic degree), after which JD put all new code through 1 10s of thousands of hours of testing on production equipment. Production and release cycles take on the order of months to ensure that we don't kill people.

These are not riding lawnmowers. They are 30-ton combines, and 20 ton tractors tilling fields, with massive horsepower behind them. They have a real potential to end peoples lives in the event of failure, and these tractors do (in testing) fail in spectacular ways. If a team of hundred of engineers struggle with their codebase internally, Joe Farmer isn't going to have a fucking clue how to repair their software correctly.

Now should you, in theory, have the right to modify equipment you own? Sure. Absolutely. Hell, John Deere tractors run on open source software. But trust me on this, locking this down is a very good idea.

If you have the drive to make open source tractor software AND can make absolutely certain no-one ever dies from code you write, then go do it. Just keep in mind that the engineers that work on this shit really care about keeping people safe.

1 Sounds to me VERY expensive. I wonder how the costs compare to the production of these things to a mechanical driver only operated/controlled tractor.

I thought that was the drivers responsibility behind the controls.

Don't know where how to start looking but I'd find it interesting to see out how many non-computer/drm human-mechanically only controlled tractors of that specification have actually killed people. I;llk see if I can find something statistical about the two later.

« Last Edit: May 10, 2022, 07:34:15 pm by MrMobodies »
 

Offline SiliconWizard

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Re: John Deere tractors are coming with a kill-switch
« Reply #5 on: May 10, 2022, 11:19:00 pm »
Welcome to the new normal =)
 

Offline voltsandjolts

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Re: John Deere tractors are coming with a kill-switch
« Reply #6 on: May 11, 2022, 12:34:21 pm »
Welcome to the new normal =)

Yes, exactly this.

IMO, here in 2022, society has already transitioned through the best bits of our technological revolution.
We got computers in the workplace, computers in our homes and in our pockets. And the internet, yay!
There now remain only incremental improvements in technology which can improve our everyday lives (*).

The new tech advances are generally of negative impact for the public:
~turning our computers into billboards which have an AI model of our personality (and our friends personalities) to sell us shit we didn't know we needed.
~increasing control over the products we purchase for the benefit of the seller.
~increasing control over the information we absorb for political purposes.


* Nuclear fusion excluded, it would be a big step forward which can benefit all of us by reducing our environmental impact per capita.
 

Offline jpanhalt

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Re: John Deere tractors are coming with a kill-switch
« Reply #7 on: May 11, 2022, 09:08:23 pm »
I don't consider Reddit a very reliable source, particularly from an anonymous source with a suspicious alibi.

If JD is really putting that much effort into improving safety, which according to JD and the anonymous source, means disabling equipment not serviced by JD, then it needs to work harder.  Notice the increase through 1019, which was well into that era?

Source: https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/cfoi.pdf

 

Offline CCitizenTO

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Re: John Deere tractors are coming with a kill-switch
« Reply #8 on: May 29, 2022, 05:39:32 pm »
Anyone feel like making a tractor company that DOESNT do this shit? You'd probably put John Deere out of business if you had a good solid product that could be fixed by the farmers themselves etc...
 

Offline BrianHG

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Re: John Deere tractors are coming with a kill-switch
« Reply #9 on: May 31, 2022, 02:00:04 am »
Anyone feel like making a tractor company that DOESNT do this shit? You'd probably put John Deere out of business if you had a good solid product that could be fixed by the farmers themselves etc...
Cant be done.  They are locked into their market with attachments generating the top harvest yields, patents protecting such equipment and pay-backed ties into local dealers combined with secure connections to the companies / banks which provide the loans / lease which allow the farmers to purchase said equipment.

I know it's shit, but we are stuck with the top 2-3 institutionalized providers of farm equipment and that will be it.

If you come out with a 'proven'  superior harvesting setup, they will buy you out and bury you.
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Online Ed.Kloonk

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Re: John Deere tractors are coming with a kill-switch
« Reply #10 on: May 31, 2022, 02:10:37 am »
It's all very insidious.
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Online bd139

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Re: John Deere tractors are coming with a kill-switch
« Reply #11 on: May 31, 2022, 06:50:39 am »
I don’t think there is a problem with this as long as two things are satisfied:

1. You are aware of it when you purchase the tractor and agree to the terms.
2. There are other options on the market which you can choose if you disagree.

If you cannot vote with your feet on what is effectively an infrastructure product then a regulator should get involved and make sure the market is not oppressive.

To note if something is leased rather than purchased, which is not unusual on large expensive bits of machinery, then the leasing company’s corporate lawyer probably demands that their assets are protected with a kill switch as well. This is to stop someone who has not been paying the bill from deriving value from the product. Also to stop someone servicing and possibly damaging the resale or re-lease value of.

With all these things there’s a happy medium somewhere between complete freedom and corporate tyranny. We have to be careful at where this lands because on one end you have a dystopia of slavery and the other a dystopia of heavy industry failure.
« Last Edit: May 31, 2022, 06:52:13 am by bd139 »
 
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Offline MrMobodies

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Re: John Deere tractors are coming with a kill-switch
« Reply #12 on: May 31, 2022, 01:50:46 pm »
To note if something is leased rather than purchased, which is not unusual on large expensive bits of machinery, then the leasing company’s corporate lawyer probably demands that their assets are protected with a kill switch as well. This is to stop someone who has not been paying the bill from deriving value from the product. Also to stop someone servicing and possibly damaging the resale or re-lease value of.

I remember mobiles phones many years ago that were not paid for outright but were in a contract had a lock to stop the sim being changed. I know some companies automatically unlocked them after the contract ended which reminds me a bit like hire purchase.

I would rather buy it outright than have restrictions placed on it.
 

Online bd139

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Re: John Deere tractors are coming with a kill-switch
« Reply #13 on: May 31, 2022, 01:55:45 pm »
Yes which is why I buy my unlocked phone in cash up front :)
 

Offline BrianHG

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Re: John Deere tractors are coming with a kill-switch
« Reply #14 on: May 31, 2022, 04:45:40 pm »
I don’t think there is a problem with this as long as two things are satisfied:

1. You are aware of it when you purchase the tractor and agree to the terms.
2. There are other options on the market which you can choose if you disagree.


What if you only have 3 suppliers of farm equipment and all 3 leave you with a kill switch in the contract which you do not want.  Say your family have been in the farming business for generations.  I guess your only choice is to quit farming once your old equipment becomes un-repairable, or you can no longer compete with the times due to the additional man power needed to run your fields with the older equipment.
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Online bd139

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Re: John Deere tractors are coming with a kill-switch
« Reply #15 on: May 31, 2022, 05:08:14 pm »
In the EU: complain to the regulator

In the US: hire lawyers.
 

Offline SiliconWizard

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Re: John Deere tractors are coming with a kill-switch
« Reply #16 on: May 31, 2022, 06:58:18 pm »
I can't wait till people come with a kill switch. :-DD
 

Offline AVGresponding

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Re: John Deere tractors are coming with a kill-switch
« Reply #17 on: May 31, 2022, 08:57:00 pm »
In the EU: complain to the regulator

In the US: hire lawyers.

The end result is the same: no action. The difference is the cost of the lawyers...
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Offline jpanhalt

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Re: John Deere tractors are coming with a kill-switch
« Reply #18 on: June 02, 2022, 05:25:34 pm »
The end result is the same: no action. The difference is the cost of the lawyers...

Sort of true.  The US has a healthy industry of "contingency" attorneys, who only eat what they kill.  Translated to JD, class-action lawsuits rarely help the plaintiffs significantly,* but they can punish the company severely (many billions) and reward the attorneys handsomely.  Some companies try to write into contracts clauses that forbid class-action lawsuits and require arbitration.  NB: There are 3 arbitrators in a typical American arbitration.  The companies pay all three.  What could go wrong?

*I just got a settlement check of $23 from a class action lawsuit in which I was part of the class.  That is the most I have ever received in my 80 years.  Wow.
 

Online BU508A

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Re: John Deere tractors are coming with a kill-switch
« Reply #19 on: June 08, 2022, 10:15:04 am »
Old and busted: DRM in tractor endangers food supply.

New hotness: DRM in a wheelchair endangers human lives.

https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2022/06/when-drm-comes-your-wheelchair
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Online bd139

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Re: John Deere tractors are coming with a kill-switch
« Reply #20 on: June 08, 2022, 10:23:39 am »
What we need is open source wheel chairs. You get a kit of parts and have to load the firmware from GitHub written by some dude in a hut in the Philippines between his day job of beating peasants.

EFF have one job which is to be extremists on the other side of the fence.

The happy point is always somewhere between two extremes.

Incidentally there is legislation about firmware on medical devices which wheelchairs are classified under. That may be the deciding factor here.
 

Offline SiliconWizard

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Re: John Deere tractors are coming with a kill-switch
« Reply #21 on: June 08, 2022, 07:36:28 pm »
The general problem with medical devices is that they are heavily regulated (for, mostly, a good reason), which makes open-source a very tricky approach.
Of course a company, as long as it fits its policies, could open-source a given medical device product, but no one would be able to modify it without going through the whole regulatory approval process, so in practice, this is a lost cause.
 

Offline NiHaoMike

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Re: John Deere tractors are coming with a kill-switch
« Reply #22 on: June 09, 2022, 02:38:06 am »
What we need is open source wheel chairs. You get a kit of parts and have to load the firmware from GitHub written by some dude in a hut in the Philippines between his day job of beating peasants.
Someone already did a proof of concept.

The general problem with medical devices is that they are heavily regulated (for, mostly, a good reason), which makes open-source a very tricky approach.
Of course a company, as long as it fits its policies, could open-source a given medical device product, but no one would be able to modify it without going through the whole regulatory approval process, so in practice, this is a lost cause.
A workaround is to make the "wheelchair" useful for normal people as well. Something as simple as adding a ring on the back to attach a cart to could make it a "micro tractor". Or add an attachment that makes it into a "riding vacuum cleaner". (Might that actually solve another problem the handicapped have? Trying to push around a regular vacuum cleaner while sitting in a wheelchair doesn't sound like an easy task...) In that case, the design considerations to make it usable by the handicapped would be seen as "an act of kindness".
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