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Ambulances In Sweden Will Be Able To Hijack Car Radios During Emergencies (digitaltrends.com) 161

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Digital Trends: The Swedish government wants to make it impossible to be caught off guard by a speeding ambulance. Sure, their sirens are loud -- but soon they'll be able to take over your car's radio. Swedish students at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm have developed a way for emergency vehicles to transit radio signals to warn other vehicles of an approaching truck. It's called the EVAM System, according to Phys.org, and it's designed to send a signal over a specific FM radio band that'll interrupt music or radio and display a test message over the system's tuner display -- so long as the car is equipped with a Radio Data System (RDS). The number of crashes caused by muted sirens is on the rise, Florian Curinga, one of the students working on the project, said. That's because of improved sound insulation in cars. Emergency vehicles in Stockholm will begin testing the system this year. The EVAM System can also predict how far in advance the message needs to be broadcast, depending on traffic speed, according to Phys.org. It may also be helpful in warning drivers about upcoming accidents, the students added. EVAM will work on two-thirds of all vehicles on the road, Curinga said. All drivers need to do is have their radio systems turned on. If a message is broadcast then, they'll see it -- and hear it -- from the tuner.
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Ambulances In Sweden Will Be Able To Hijack Car Radios During Emergencies

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  • Haven't listened to the radio in years, it used to be tape, then CDs, now it's a USB stick. I'm far from alone in this.

    So they're going to spend $$$$$ for something of marginal use. Unless they can take over my USB, in which case I'm screaming bloody murder.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Just because you aren't a radio listener, doesn't mean other people aren't. Lots of Swedes uses car radios - it'll work for those. The ambulance then have fewer people like you to navigate around, and will get there faster.

      Lots of people already uses RDS because it is also used to warn them about traffic jams and other road problems. So this use fits perfectly.

      • Years ago, I seem to recall an internet video. Was it Swedes listening to a car radio? I can't quite recall. Two parents in the front seats of the car. Two young girls sitting in the car's back seats. The video was a commercial for learning English. In the commercial, the two children understood the, um, shall we say, not so family friendly lyrics being played over the radio in English. The parents didn't understand the lyrics. The mom began to rock her head and snap her fingers to the music. The t
    • What do you mean this is stupid?

      What you call stupid, I predict will become hours and hours of fun and laughter.
    • Re:This is stupid (Score:5, Informative)

      by uffe_nordholm ( 1187961 ) on Tuesday January 17, 2017 @07:22PM (#53685723)
      It is not as stupid as you might think. Essentially all radios sold for use in cars today come with the RDS system as part of them, although it can be turned off. What this system does is give you some info: the channel you are listening to and so on. It also gives the radio the current time. But most importantly it also allows for interrupting _any_ sound source (radio, CD, DVD, USB....) to force your radio to play the voice message sent through the RDS system (I think it's broadcast on certain FM transmitters, so tuning in to them is no problem).

      These messages are usually only about the situation on the roads: places where there have been accidents that impact the flow of traffic on large roads and so on. And once the message is over, your radio reverts to whatever it was doing before the interruption. I find these messages very useful, even if most of them are not about the roads I am on: the one time I was on a road affected, I was able (thanks to being told well before I got to it) to take a detour around the site of an accident, and save myself an hour or two of sitting in a traffic jam.

      This RDS system can be turned off if you want to, in which case your radio will not play any of the traffic messages broadcast.

      Full disclosure: I live in Sweden. I also happen to love the RDS messaging system, even if I am rarely need the information provided.

      • It is not as stupid as you might think. Essentially all radios sold for use in cars today come with the RDS system as part of them, although it can be turned off. What this system does is give you some info: the channel you are listening to and so on. It also gives the radio the current time. But most importantly it also allows for interrupting _any_ sound source (radio, CD, DVD, USB....) to force your radio to play the voice message sent through the RDS system

        Does it work if your radio is off. I rarely have the radio on. I will ocassionally turn it on for a few minutes on long car rides but almost never when in the city with traffic which is where this type of system would be the most useful.

        • The radio has to be on for it to work, it has to receive the coded FM signal to know when to switch channels.

          I usually just have my radio on, but muted if I'm just driving around.

        • It does not work with the radio off. If you want the traffic announcements without having to listen to the radio (or any other sound source), there is one trick that can be used: turn the radio on, and choose some sound source (you could eg choose to play a CD, and just let the radio wait for you to press the Play button). Then turn the volume down to zero. Most radios with RDS have one volume setting for the "normal" sound, and another for RDS messages.
      • by djinn6 ( 1868030 )
        I think Google Maps already does that when it's navigating, but that actually sounds useful if you're just commuting to work for example.

        We have a similar system in the US called Amber Alert, which broadcasts information on kidnapped children directly to your phone (amongst other things). It sounds great in theory, but then you realize that the alerts goes out to an entire state, and all 38 million people in California can be woken up in the middle of the night for something that happened 200 miles away.
        • In my experience, there are two slightly separate message services on RDS: one set of messages cover the large roads (think interstate in the USA), and another set of messages cover smaller roads. The messages concerning the large roads are broadcast all over the country, but the messages covering smaller roads are only broadcast in the appropriate county. This may be wrong, but it is what I have experienced from driving long distances once or twice a year for the past 10-15 years.
    • Haven't listened to the radio in years, it used to be tape, then CDs, now it's a USB stick. I'm far from alone in this.

      Same. That doesn't mean that my car doesn't get updates via RDS and display them on my dashboard while I'm rocking out to whatever is on my phone at the time. This is how most navigation systems in Europe including some standalone units currently get traffic updates. It's just a logical extension to a very actively used system.

    • Every car needs to allow its audio to be interrupted by emergency vehicles. I mean what happens when there are level 4 or 5 autonomous vehicles? They will need to recognize and pull over when they see flashing lights approaching or hear sirens. Non-autonomous cars can have the same sensors built on the outside to detect emergency vehicles and when it detects an emergency vehicle it should reduce volumes to a reasonable level
      and maybe say "emergency vehicle approaching from behind".

      • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
        And should we make it illegal to listen to anything that isn't RDS compliant? Will we start making phones RDS complaint, so if someone is using a phone (legally hands-free, or illegally hands-on) the calls will be interrupted as well?

        How about people like me that don't even hook up the FM antenna? My "radio" is used primarily as a display for the rear camera, and secondarily for music for long trips, through bluetooth or USB. Am I now an illegal? Does it matter that I drive a special-edition car that
        • by fisted ( 2295862 )

          Yes, you're a very special snowflake. We get it.

          • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
            Lots of people are exceptions. The mechanism given only works if the radio is on and tuned to FM. By a strict reading of the mechanism, AM (popular in the US) would prevent operation of RDS. As well as the growing number of people who play music from devices without using FM.

            That I'm only one example doesn't mean I'm special. I see around 1% of drivers in the morning with headphones on. One would assume they aren't using their car's FM radio with headphones.
            • by fisted ( 2295862 )

              It's a no-brainer if you think about it. If enough people do have a RDS-enabled stereo with an actual antenna hooked up to it, most of them will get the warning. That means that a good portion of the cars in front of you will slow down/form a passageway/drive onto the shoulder/whatever. I'd say seeing that happen in front of you *might* give a subtle hint that something's up which in turn *might* be sufficient motivation to briefly shift your attention from the smartphone to the rear mirror to notice an

              • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
                Have you ever driven? If 80% of the drives in front pulled over, the 20% who didn't would pull into the open space and floor it. I've seen lots of people cut off or tailgate emergency services. I've pulled over, completely off the road, and stopped before an intersection, so I left it clear for the approaching fire truck. The person behind me pulled in behind me, but failed to stop completely, and hit me. He saw the truck, pulled over, and slowed, but missed the car in front, and managed to hit me.

                Per
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Won't that become an extremely dangerous "feature" once people start spoofing the signal for various reasons (such as clearing traffic, or sending someone into a ditch)?

    • by amiga3D ( 567632 )

      If you're playing that stick through the car's audio system then it shouldn't be a problem for the system to flip over to FM and alert you.

    • I'm far from alone in this.

      "Far from alone" != "Majority". Hell, it doesn't even equate to "significant minority".

    • You may be "far from alone" but that doesn't mean no-one else ever listens to the radio. Plenty of people do.

      But I guess it wouldn't be Slashdot without at least one commenter extrapolating from their sample size of one (plus a few) to the entire rest of the population.

      • by ruir ( 2709173 )
        The normal news in the radio or TV are mind numbing.
        They also do not have the wisdom in the radio to including regular updates about traffic to get my interest while driving. Anyway, the technology is making them quickly redundant.
        The music is also pretty insipid/bland and horribly commercial, and there is zero incentives to listen to that garbage...
        • But I guess it wouldn't be Slashdot without at least one commenter extrapolating from their sample size of one (plus a few) to the entire rest of the population.

          • by ruir ( 2709173 )
            It wont be slashdot without idiotic answers like yours. Wise up, it is not the 90s anymore.
            • Perhaps you should wise up to the fact that not everyone is like you, wants to be like you, or should aspire to be like you. People listen to radios in their cars in their millions. Complaining that it's "not the 90s" any more won't do anything to change that fact. Other people have different opinions about things to you. Sounds like you have a problem with that, for some reason.

    • So they're going to spend $$$$$ for something of marginal use. Unless they can take over my USB, in which case I'm screaming bloody murder.

      The student's pitch makes it sound like this is a government backed project. It is not. Right now, it's a student's project, and a potentially future startup idea, but nothing more than that. Whether this idea will be backed by the government is another matter entirely. Also, countries like Norway are already turning off analog FM broadcasting beginning this year in favor of digital FM. The UK and others will follow after that. Even if the AM band remains, this idea can not be implemented on the AM band whi

    • RDS enabled radios usually have an option to pause any playback, and play the RDS stream.
      • by Cederic ( 9623 )

        An option I always disable. The RDS stream was unfeasibly rarely useful that it's not worth the distraction.

        Surely a better answer is to just prosecute drivers that are too fucking stupid to realise that there's an emergency vehicle right behind them, they're in the way and everybody else has already made room.

        • Well, according to the RDS standard, there are different RDS channels and priorities. There's even one for 'catastrophes'.

          And, while I agree that drivers should put more attention on what's happening around them, as the article states, the really good sound insulation of modern cars does reduce the effectiveness of ambulance's sirens. So IMHO, this RDS 'hack' could really help a bit.
    • Most units will interrupt whatever audio source you are listening to if you have the RDS "announcements" function on.
      Handy for traffic accident warnings etc.

    • It is not stupid. All cars our family has owned for the last 20 years (8 cars, 4 different brands) have interrupted USB/BT/AUX/CD when an RDS Traffic Announcement is broadcast as long as this feature has been enabled in settings.
    • And what is your USB stick plugged into? Probably a car stereo, which (if you live in Europe) already has RDS.
      RDS has some handy functions, like the ability for traffic announcements to interrupt anything else you're listening to, including sources like USB.
      This can be switched on/off (look for RDS TA in your manual).

      Why would you be screaming bloody murder when this system warns you of an incoming emergency vehicle?

    • by Builder ( 103701 )

      I don't listen to the radio either - my phone is plugged into the USB cable. However, when driving through the blackwall tunnel in London recently, my radio stopped playing my music and instead broadcast a warning (that was also being broadcast on speakers in the tunnel) over and over.

      So it's definitely possible.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    you can buy one of those devices on a Chinese website for $20 with free shipping so that someone can broadcast a message to the car behind them that they need to stop tailgating.

    • by DickBreath ( 207180 ) on Tuesday January 17, 2017 @06:59PM (#53685541) Homepage
      Gee, if you can display text on the radio's display, or the car's infotainment system, could there possibly be any weakness in individual implementations?

      Maybe the police should lobby to have certain texts that signal all nearby cars to cut engine power.

      Because terrorists.
      • Gee, if you can display text on the radio's display, or the car's infotainment system, could there possibly be any weakness in individual implementations?

        I don't know. Am I hacking your right now through this textbox? Because this text is displaying on your computer RIGHT NOW!

        • You are making assumptions about the implementation of the User Agent with which I read Slashdot.

          Suppose that when you used the capitalized words RIGHT NOW, that the following text would be silently executed as a command due to a bug or deliberate programming vulnerability. Now imagine that a similar bug or vulnerability exists within the car radio when displaying text. Maybe it has a format injection bug. Or some undocumented markup language that it supports, which was poorly implemented with a vulne
          • Well I'm sure if there were major weaknesses with which we could exploit these systems we'd have found them by now. After all we've only been able to write text to radio displays for a good 20 years now.

            You made the same mistake as everyone else posting alarmist ZOMG TEH HACKERS bullshit, that this is new and doesn't use an existing system.

      • RDS radios have been installed in pretty much every car radio in western Europe for what? 10 years? 20 years? Hacking may be possible, but it hasn't been an issue so far, probably because there isn't much that can be done, except provide a minor inconvenience to drivers.
  • by ledow ( 319597 )

    Perfect way to distract a driver with something they've never seen before, just as they need to not be distracted.

    • Re:Sigh. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Tuesday January 17, 2017 @07:34PM (#53685819)

      Perfect way to distract a driver with something they've never seen before, just as they need to not be distracted.

      This is off on several levels.

      a) Getting data based updates through the radio is not something drivers have never seen before. It's actually pretty damn common.
      b) What do you mean with just as they need not be distracted? Distracted from what? From the thing they aren't paying attention to, can't hear and can't see in the first place? I actually have an app on my phone which while providing local traffic info also provides me notification of incoming emergency vehicles including a little radar screen showing where they are coming from. It's a great advanced notice that I get long before I see a siren so I know when to expect a vehicle to whizz past or borderline rear end, or undertake, or cut down the breakdown lane etc.

      • a) Getting data based updates through the radio is not something drivers have never seen before. It's actually pretty damn common.

        Perhaps where you are, but certainly not where I am. I have never seen such a system -- I didn't even know there was such a thing until I read this article.

        • It's common in most of Europe. Even my last 15 year old (I think it would be now) beater had a button on the radio to display traffic delays on the dashboard in a sequential list. The ancient GPS unit which predated displaying maps in cars could route around problem routes even then.

          Unfortunately much of the rest of the world relegated RDS to just displaying the station name on the radio which is a colossal waste of technology.

  • An FM radio signal is broadcast? It silences nearby car radios and displays a message in the cars? What could possibly go wrong. I can't see any potential problems with this plan. No, nosiree.
    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Wait to local gov's, city, state and national bureaucrats around the world get to try this.
      You will be in "insert city name" in 25 minutes.
      Welcome to the city of "insert city name"
      Thank you for visiting "insert city name"...
    • You're just being facetious because you've never seen RDS before. We've had this system for a good 20 years in Europe. It's just a new application of it.

      • by ruir ( 2709173 )
        RDS here does little much more than tuning me into a station that I am tuned that supports RDS when in the hourly news they talk slightly about traffic. Pretty much useless in my 20-minute daily commute around the city.
        If it happens for the times to overlap, and I hear about a traffic jam, by the time I hear it, I am already pretty much in the middle of it.
        • RDS here does little much more than tuning me into a station that I am tuned that supports RDS when in the hourly news they talk slightly about traffic

          For you maybe. Last time I drove in Sweeden my car picked up traffic updates and road blocks via RDS and the GPS mapped around it accordingly accordingly. I can also push a button on my radio to get a current list of traffic congestions on my dash. No listening to news required.

  • so long as the car is equipped with a Radio Data System (RDS).

    So this is just another application of RDS? This is just using an existing system for the purpose that it was designed, with the slight modification that it is installed on an ambulance?

    Film at 11.

    • by I4ko ( 695382 )

      S you are saying I can take all patents that end with "on a computer" and "on the internet" change those words to "on an ambulance" and patent them again? Oh the giggles.

  • Emergency workers have been hijacking sound waves with sirens... the nerve!
  • by Anonymous Coward

    And direct it generally forward (instead of omni) and with more bass?

    In addition, install hydraulics in the ambulance so they can jump and hop. And some gold plated spinner rims. All that always seems to get attention. Arm the ambulance driver with a military grade pistol he can point out the window at others sideways, and they will have no problem getting people out of the way. Might even pick up a few they wouldn't have otherwise.

  • Oh the fun I can have with this!

    Now I can tell other drivers exactly what I think of their driving skills over their radio; because you know this is going to be hacked in like an hour after the first one is sold.

    • because you know this is going to be hacked in like an hour after the first one is sold.

      You may be a bit off. The system has existed for 33 years and it hasn't been hacked or used for fun yet.

  • Careful what you play over that radio. If it's sudden and noisy, a jumpy driver might swerve and actually cause an accident.

  • Just my 2c (Score:5, Insightful)

    by capebretonsux ( 758684 ) on Tuesday January 17, 2017 @07:32PM (#53685805)
    This sounds like a waste of money and likely not that effective. What could work, perhaps, is if you put a dashcam on the ambo and use plate recognition for those assholes who don't make way and simply forward the videos to the police for the application of a heavy fine. Do it enough times and not only would you generate revenue, but those who have to pay the tickets will either learn expensive lessons or not be able to afford a car anymore. Win-win!

    Even though it's for a good reason, I cringe every time I hear something about 'taking over' what's mine, bought and paid for. The root cause of this is bad driving habits, not lack of communication. If a driver doesn't notice the flashing lights and siren they aren't operating the damn vehicle properly, IMO.
    • Oddy they already have a tool for this it's called a microphone. I've ridden in the front seat of an ambulance in city traffic it's a mix of people that are unsure where to go like taking a left-hand turn through a red to let and ambulance behind him through. I don't see this solving that. I watched as a traffic cop made us stop, the crew in the backhoe made room and let us through while yelling at the cop. That's all on a single ambulance run with full lights and sirens.

      Other simple things can help like

    • You seem to miss the point entirely (which most slashdotters tend to do).

      How do you propose the dash-cam make the ambulance reach an accident faster?

      You talk about waste of money - so I have to ask you, what is a life worth in your opinion? Because if the system saves lives, is it still a waste of money?

      And before complaining about "taking over", FFS read up on what RDS is (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radio_Data_System [wikipedia.org]), And if you are driving in a car it is your frickin responsibility to make use of any

      • Changing poor driving habits by heavy fines over time is the idea, speaking of missing the point. Funny you brought up eye contact, when the solution for the driver not having this RDS radio turned on is to make a flashy thing on the display that takes the driver's eyes off the road when the ambo is rapidly coming up behind you. But you seem to know everything... distracted driving laws and the like, pshaw! You're right. Do you have to actually look for the turn signal when you drive? I hope your comm
    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      That's not the problem it is trying to solve. Through no fault of their own, sometimes people don't hear ambulances until they are close by. There is also an effort to reduce siren usage to when it is really needed, to avoid disturbing people who live near hospitals or along the roads they often use.

  • So, the article claims that 'number of crashes due to muted sirens (because of sound insulation) is on the rise'. That's a claim with no numbers behind it, what is this increase in accidents per year - 10? or 10,000? In the latter case, I can see a justification for this research with the (unfortunately not too safe) assumption that people do use their radios often. However it just as likely to be the first case of trivial increase, which might as well be due to higher traffic!, but is used to justify an ex

    • According to https://www.vardfokus.se/webbn... [vardfokus.se] there have been roughly 50 ambulances involved in accidents since 2010, so roughly 11 accidents per year. How many of these where caused by people not paying attention to the ambulance or not it does not say, also it does not say anything about collateral crashes since it only lists the amount of actual ambulances that have crashed.
  • Raspberry pi, no additional hardware required. $35.00USD out the door. OOOOOhhhhhhhhhhh your a government?! I meant to say 3500000/ each. My mistake.

  • A very similar system (also using RDS) was trialed in the Netherlands in 2008, and is in common use these days [sireneradar.com].
    I've heard it in action once or twice, and it works well. Coming up on an intersection, the alert came long before I could see the ambulance approaching (it was obscured by buildings).

  • I hope they are not going for patent on the idea. I got prior art as I presented this same idea back in 1991 as a presentation to a class. This is rather simple idea as well, Authorized Vehicle Interruption System. The thing that was funny was no one I presented the idea to believed it would be allowed by governments because it could be hacked pretty easily as the RF frequencies are not encrypted.

    Anyways, It is always fun to see an idea you had like 20+ years ago start to be implemented. I bet this idea

  • As of 2004, there were ~530,000 deaf and hard-of-hearing people in Sweden (Encyclopedia of Deafness and Hearing Disorders, p.197.)

    So basically 5% of the population isn't going to hear the radio announcements, even if they have their radio on. Which they probably don't, or it's tuned to Sirius Satellite or plugged into their iPod/iPhone.

    About as useful as touch screens for amputees whose prosthetic hands can't capacitively couple with trackpads or iPhones...

    • So?

      Oh no, a system makes an improvement, but not a perfect, 100 percent improvement, so what, lets throw out the improvement it *does* make?

      • So?

        Oh no, a system makes an improvement, but not a perfect, 100 percent improvement, so what, lets throw out the improvement it *does* make?

        It's not an improvement across the board. It's likely not an improvement at all, if you are listening to elevator music to make you calm enough to drive in the first place, and suddenly there's a startling "BRAAAAAAAAAAAAATTTTTTT!" that could just as easily come out of the ambulances horn, but didn't, it came out of your radio.

        Also: call me back when it can turn an off radio to on, or force your stereo away from whatever you're listening to, over to the FM band so the ambulance can scream at you more than

  • Where can I get one for MY car?!
    br> This would be a great tool to clear the idiots out my way, avoiding STUPID drivers!!!

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