We may one day live in a world where hit-and-runs are impossible if all of our cars are programmed like this one.
Last week, a woman in Port St. Lucie, Florida was rear-ended by a black Ford that took off after hitting her. Via WPBF:
Around the same time, police dispatch got an automated call from a vehicle emergency system stating the owner of a Ford vehicle was involved in a crash and to press zero to speak with the occupants of the vehicle.
According to WPBF, the woman driving the Ford, Cathy Bernstein, 57, told police that there hadn't been an accident, but when police went to her home, the front of her car was damaged, her air bag had been deployed, and the car had silver paint on the front, which was the color of the car that had been hit. Bernstein then had to admit to being involved in an accident.
The feature that got her in trouble is Ford's SYNC 911 Emergency Assist. It's a feature that's off by default; Bernstein would have turned it on as a safety precaution so that the car, synced to her phone over Bluetooth could call police whenever there was an accident. A Ford video about the "peace of mind" offered by the feature explains that it will give police the "vehicle's exact GPS location" and then open the line so that you can talk to police, if you're able to.
Ford's website explains that the driver will get a message that the car is going to use her phone to call the police and then has 10 seconds to cancel it. So Bernstein either didn't hear the message, or was too busy making her getaway to hit cancel.
This isn't the first story this year in which a technology a person enabled to make their life better wound up implicating them in a crime. This summer, a woman's activity-tracking Fitbit undermined her rape claim, leading her to be charged with making a false report.
Academics have been talking for years about the privacy implications of intelligent machines with sensors gathering information about us that could be used against us. What they may not have imagined is that the machines would have the police on speed-dial.