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Hardening vehicle environmental protection systems against tampering


Proposals will have to address all the following technical areas:

  • Independent testing of light and heavy duty vehicles from the field to assess the capability of their OBD systems to detect tampering methods and maintenance issues in real driving.
  • Installation of representative tampering systems on vehicles, identification of their working principles and analysis of their performance.
  • Analysis of vehicle hardware and software by IT security experts and hackers (for instance through a Hackaton or prize) to assess the weaknesses of the employed OBD and protection technologies and assessment of the risk of hacking for each type of application (cars, trucks, non-road) and type of emissions-control system, with priority for truck de-NOX systems and particulate filters on all vehicles.
  • Development and application of enhanced tampering proofing methodologies, coding and electronic component protection systems, both specific or derived from security application from the IT sector to ensure a high resistance to tampering of the whole engine management and after treatment system, while maintaining the capability for certification authorities to assess the software according to upcoming legislative requirements and facilitating quick and safe updates of the system to re-establish its integrity if new tampering systems appear on the market.
  • Improvement of OBD systems and methodologies including use of cheap sensors, allowing the development of a more tamper resistant OBD and possibly On Board Monitoring (OBM) approaches, capable of also providing the basis for the application of ""polluter-pays"" taxation principles.
  • Deriving guidelines for improvements in anti-tampering and OBD legislation in coordination with the relevant bodies when and where appropriate.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU between EUR 3 and 5 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Automotive emissions control technologies have the potential to greatly reduce the impact of combustion-based transport. However most of them, even when programmed for full effectiveness by the vehicle manufacturer, are affected by the risk of vehicle owners modifying or suppressing them for many reasons.

Three way catalysts (TWC) systems in gasoline and natural gas vehicles, Diesel particle filters (DPF), Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) systems have been tampered with since many years because they can limit engine power, create maintenance problems, increase the consumption of fuel or simply because of the high cost of their replacement when they reach the end of their useful life or in case of malfunction. More recently, tampering has also become widespread on Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) systems, particularly for heavy duty vehicles[[]] as the urea-based liquid needed for their functioning is an additional cost for the operator. Finally there are systems providing a remapping of the engine control to increase power and this often leads to strong increases in emissions. For each of these issues there are do-it-yourself as well as 'professional' solutions offered by private enterprises, often on the internet.

In addition, there are also concerns[[]] that On-Board Diagnostic (OBD) systems, that are intended to signal to the user when the after-treatment system is not working properly, are not always properly functioning and this facilitates tampering while allowing environmentally-damaging component aging or failure to go undetected.

Tampering also exist for other important devices, such as tachographs or alcolocks. At the same time, automotive-type de-pollution technologies are applied in other sectors, such as rail, inland navigation, generators, earth-moving machinery, etc and any anti-tampering solution would also be relevant for these applications. In addition synergies can be sought with cybersecurity efforts in other domains.

The challenge is to ensure that all the above mentioned systems cannot be bypassed or modified and therefore maintain their full operational capability through the life of the vehicle, and to provide input to any legislative initiatives that might be needed to improve the implementation of protection systems and the repression of tampering devices in the field.

The developed solutions contribute to the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), in particular SDG 3 (""Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages"") and 11 (“Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”) since they will reduce vehicle emissions by implementing more effective OBD/OBM systems that guarantee that end users are informed timely of any emissions affecting malfunction or tampering and strong inducements (performance limitation) are applied in case of severe emissions increases. This extremely high resistance to hardware and software tampering will ensure a strong reduction or the total elimination of this phenomenon.

These impacts shall be demonstrated by tampering attempts developed by independent teams and by the implantation of artificial defects on the different depollution systems followed by verification of their detection in laboratory test conditions as well as in real driving.

Support for improved future legislative and standardisation actions.