Products > Dodgy Technology

John Deere tractors are coming with a kill-switch

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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:

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."


What an ugly dystopia!  :--  :rant:

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.  :-//

This is old news.

Farmers Are Hacking Their Tractors Because of a Repair Ban

There have been two threads on this in recent weeks irrc. They both turned political and got locked / deleted.


--- Quote from: BU508A on May 10, 2022, 07:40:08 am ---they are bound by the terms of service they have to click “OK” on every time they switch on their ignitions."
--- End quote ---

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:

--- 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.
--- End quote ---

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.


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