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The Evolution of Vehicle Forensics. A fresh approach

The Evolution of Vehicle Forensics. A fresh approach

A few weeks ago we had read a big and interesting article. It’s entitled The Evolution of Vehicle Forensics and you could find it here. Its authors suppose that the evolution of vehicle forensics will take us to examination of not digital devices installed in a car, but mobile apps, installed on suspects’ phone. The authors select the following apps, some are already available for analysis, others will be available soon:

  • Location-based Applications
  • Phone Applications
  • Messaging Applications
  • Music & Audio Applications
  • Voice Control
  • Car Diagnostics Applications

We aren’t fully agree with the authors. In our opinion, the evolution of vehicle forensics will force examiners to investigate different electronic components of cars, including those that are not connected to the on-board computer, which may contain important evidence. And we couldn’t use methods suggested by the article’s authors for such analysis. We think, that examiners should use special hardware and software, provided by the carmakers.

To give you a clear understanding, here is an example. In 2012 an RTA was commited by a Toyota car.


Figure 1. A Toyota car commited an RTA

To evaluate action of the driver, the court wanted to know, what he was doing during the last seconds before the RTA. What actions did he determine to avoid RTA? Or, maybe, he wanted to commit it? But how to do it? It’s impossible!

After consultations with the carmaker’s employees we found out, that this car model had special air bag sensors with memory, which saved some parameters of the car for five seconds before the air bag activated. So, it’s like the flight recorder in planes.

air bag sensor forensics

Figure 2. An air bag sensor

We extracted the following parameters from the sensor (the parameters values are changing dynamically during last five seconds): speed, brake pedal (stepped on or not), accelerator pedal (the parameters value shows applied affort), engine rotational rate (rpm).

On our opinion, the answers to the following questions are extremely important, especially if pedestrians were harmed:

  • Was the brake pedal stepped on at the moment of RTA?
  • Was the accelerator pedal stepped on at the moment of RTA?

We answered these questions and gave our report to the court.

As you can see, even considering the fact, that a lot of important evidence could be extracted from mobile apps, both now and in the future, we mustn’t forget about the analysis of special electronic devices of cars, data from which could be used in courts as evidence in RTA cases.

About the authors:

Igor Mikhaylov

Interests: Computer, Cell Phone & Chip-Off Forensics

Oleg Skulkin

Interests: iOS forensics, Android forensics, Mac OS X forensics, Windows forensics, Linux forensics

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