Cars of the future are here!

The inside of a new Ford car which has technology to automatically call emergency services if involved in a crash.
The inside of a new Ford car which has technology to automatically call emergency services if involved in a crash.

While it doesn’t fly or run on a Mr Fusion, a new Ford has made the news by dobbing it’s driver in to the police for a hit and run accident she fled… Now if only they could do something when a driver snipes your parking spot in the mall!

A woman in US has been arrested after her car implicated her in at least one hit-and-run incident.

You read that right.

Cathy Bernstein denied any involvement in the December 1 crash, but police found “extensive front-end damage” on her vehicle and silver paint from the victim’s car on hers. The initial call came from Anna Preston, who said that a black vehicle had “struck her from behind” and then took off. Preston was taken to the hospital with back injuries.

About the same time, police said a call from the 911 Assist emergency system of a Ford vehicle said that it was involved in a crash. Officers spoke with Bernstein, the car’s driver, who told them that she had not been involved in any wreck and was going home.

When officers spoke to her at her home, Bernstein said she “struck a tree.” After further questioning, police said Bernstein admitted to the hit-and-run.

Bernstein admitted to being a part of another accident prior to the hit-and-run with Preston and was fleeing the previous incident when it happened, police added.

The 911 Assist call was part of a safety feature designed to help first responders locate people who may have lost consciousness after accidents. That seems to have given dispatchers all the information they needed to pinpoint the location of the vehicle – and find the alleged hit-and-run driver – without ever having to talk to a person. In fact, talking to a person didn’t help at all: In an audio clip of a 911 call obtained by the Florida station ABC25, Bernstein denied to a skeptical dispatcher that there had even been an accident at all.

The report said the car that tattled on its owner was a Ford.

Alan Hall, a spokesman for Ford, said that the company hadn’t heard of 911 Assist being used in this way. But, he said, from reports he had heard about the Florida incident, it seems that the emergency call feature “worked exactly like it was supposed to.” The vehicle was in a collision, and it called 911 through the driver’s phone, which was paired with the car. When the driver did not respond to the operator, the car appears to have taken over and provided the operator with the information needed to locate the vehicle. That could have been a lifesaver if the driver had been unresponsive after passing out behind the wheel.

Hall said at least 10 million Ford vehicles with 911 Assist capability are on the road. However, drivers should note that the feature is opt-in, meaning that all drivers, including the one allegedly involved in this crash, have to turn the feature on and pair their car with their phone before it will work. This kind of emergency-call technology is also on track to be in every car in the European Union starting in April 2018.

Concerns about cyber attacks that could divulge drivers’ locations or even take over their cars have gotten a lot of attention in the US, as lawmakers and regulators warn of the security implications of putting more smart technology into our vehicles.

But there are other risks to consider. Whether drivers consider it a positive development or not, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to hide your location even when you’re in your own vehicle. This case does raise the point that people may not realise what they’re signing up for when they use the smart features on their cars.

In this case, few people would criticise the software for behaving as it did, or spare much concern for someone apparently leaving a crime scene. You can lump it in with other tech-y “dumb criminal” stories, such as a case in October in which a woman used Twitter’s live-streaming Periscope app to film herself driving while drunk. Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union, also mentioned a case in which a person posted a picture of his illegal marijuana-growing operation, only to be reported to the police by a social media friend.

Those moves may be, well, just plain stupid. But you could also look at them as extreme versions of common “oversharing” mishaps.

Stanley said he doesn’t have sympathy for someone who flees a crime scene but that cases such as this one can illustrate how little people think about how their tech use affects them. And that can give us all pause.

“Technology is moving so fast that people can forget what information is being collected and who it’s going to,” Stanley said.


Article originally published on by Hayley Tsukayama and Zach Dennis (09 December 2015)

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