Oregon’s program of collecting a mileage fee instead of the gas tax is catching on more slowly than I had thought. But one of my concerns — that it might be vulnerable to computer hackers — appears to be unfounded.
ODOT is authorized to sign up up to 5,000 vehicles under the program, known as OReGO, which started in July. The idea is to show how a mileage fee can work on a scale far bigger than previous experiments and tests had shown.
Michelle D. Godfrey of ODOT told me Thursday — before the news became dominated by the Umpqua Community College massacre, which makes all other public issues temporarily irrelevant — that 908 participants had enrolled. My 2007 GMC truck is one of them. So there’s a long way to go before the participation goal is reached. If you want to try it, go to https://www.myoregoaccount.org and sign up.
Over the last few weeks, I had read or heard news reports of the possibility that today’s increasingly computerized motor vehicles could be hacked, that is manipulated by outsiders who gain access to the onboard computer systems.
The mileage fee program works with devices that are plugged into vehicles’ data ports and report the number of miles driven via the mobile phone network. I wondered whether the devices could also be used to send commands to the vehicles and would be open to potential hackers. I asked Godfrey about this, specifically in regard to the mileage rercording device installed in my truck, which is managed by a company named Sanef ITS America in conjunction with Intelligent Mechatronics Systems.
Godfrey’s reply: “Sanef/IMS and ODOT have worked together to ensure the security of the driving data Sanef/IMS collects and transmits through the MRD (mileage reporting device). The MRD is intentionally locked into a single dedicated communication channel that can exchange data only with IMS’ secure infrastructure. No communication can be initiated into the MRD from an external source or outside party. In addition, the vehicle interface used by the MRD is strictly controlled and no vehicle safety/control systems are accessible by the MRD.”
As technical as that sounds, the answer is that no, I don’t have to worry about some hacker taking control of my truck. (hh)