On-board Diagnostics


    OBD-II, or On Board Diagnostics-II, is the diagnostics system standard to modern automobiles. OBD serves to supply diagnostic information from sensors and memory across the vehicle for any number of reasons. OBD-II allows reprogramming of certain system, data collection, repair diagnostics, fleet management, and more. This is accomplished all via a highly standardized system utilized by all automobile manufacturers.


    OBD-II came into use in the 1990’s. Access to the OBD-II port of a vehicle can allow access to all levels of it. While some access like maintenance is benign, the data collection feature can be used to monitor one’s driving performance for insurance purposes, allowing an insurance company to charge more or less based on the driving style of the operator. Similarly, the ability to reprogram parts of a vehicle’s computer system can have negative consequences for the vehicle. This access can be used to tune the vehicle for efficiency or performance.


    Having access to so much of an automobile has its risks, and modern automobiles are becoming increasingly large targets for hacking. The OBD-II ports do not use any forms of authentication, allowing anyone to access their systems, which leaves the vehicle vulnerable. Researchers have already claimed that current systems can be accessed in order to successfully steal a car without the key. Other concerns include the ability for this information to be used in a court of law. The legal lines regarding how this information can and will be used in the legal system have not been completely defined yet. Future development of onboard diagnostics to OBD-III may easily involve transmitting sensory and diagnostic data to remote servers, which exposes information to potential interception, hacking, or government spying.