Wm December 11, 2015 7:06 AM

I don’t have any kind of tracking devices on my vehicle, but if I get such a car in the future, the antenna will be disconnected or cut. Right now I have three sizes of plastic bowls that are lined within with heave tin foil. Whenever I rent a car, one of these properly fitting bowls covers the outside small roof antenna. I use powerful magnets and tape around the edges to hold it in place. I have suspicions that the rental cars companies are tracking my movements, at least from time to time. In some states, the rental companies restrict your driving to within their state. We used to have to rent a car and promise to not take it out of state, but business would sometimes require it. If the rental company finds out you did this, they will refuse to rent to you again.

Snarki, child of Loki December 11, 2015 8:38 AM

“Florida Woman”, so the story is incomplete. There must be some nudity, large reptiles, firearms or alcohol involved, somehow.

Clive Robinson December 11, 2015 9:13 AM

The article indicates she had two accidents and drove away from them both. The way it’s written indicate sthat they were in the same place.

It begs the question is it one extended accident something like a “bump and bounce” where you clip a car on the pasenger side and due to any combination of events end up moving across the road and hitting another vehicle on the drivers side.

Years ago in London in a place which has part of the “south circular” running through it the roads are quite narrow and people park down both sides I saw a driver bump and bounce three or four times in maybe five seconds. He then stopped his car in the middle of the road, got out into oncoming traffic with his walking stick leaving the car running and hobble around the car looking very dazed and bemused, and very unaware,that he had just had an accident. He was still very much unaware of it in court. Turns out he was in his early sixties and suffering from early onset dementia part of which was that he could not perceive the left hand side of his field of vision but his brain compensated so he was not aware of it. Any way nobody was hurt and they took his driving licence away in court for his own good. The court dealt with it as though it was just one accident with several bumps not three or four seperate accidents, where he had driven away from all but the last.

I guess the question will arise at some point as to the sensitivity and accuracy of these devices. That is will they end up reporting a bad pot-hole thump as an accident.

Of course the obvious answer to that is a dash camera or similar, but that raises it’s own set of questions about privacy and voyeurism etc. It’s not just what we see in “Perps Wildest Getaways” or what ever they call those mindless dirt cheap cop chase shows it’s also the Google Street views etc all rolled into one. I don’t think society is ready for the implications of all that yet, especially if you’ve seen “second guessing” lawyers at work.

John December 11, 2015 9:15 AM

I wonder how this evidence would hold up in a US court, given the 5th Amendment protection against self-incrimination.

zboot December 11, 2015 10:08 AM

@John, she didn’t incriminate herself. She opted in to have her call call emergency services when she’s in an accident. Her car did. They responded, then discovered the accident.

That’s like you calling the police to your house because a friend OD on coke and when they arrive, there’s 10 kilos sitting there in plain sight.

Chris F December 11, 2015 10:21 AM


The article states that it triggers when the air bag is deployed or the fuel pump shuts off. It would have to be a pretty severe pot hole to do that.

choppping December 11, 2015 10:50 AM

“Florida Woman”, so the story is incomplete. There must be some nudity, large reptiles, firearms or alcohol involved, somehow.


SJ December 11, 2015 10:56 AM

For once, Bruce touches on a subject I have some professional knowledge of.

In the Auto Business, most OEMs are trying to supply some sort of Emergency-Assist feature*. The feature is usually baked into the Entertainment/Phone/Nav module.**

Even if the Nav feature isn’t available, the hardware for this module often has a GPS antenna attached.

Thus, the Emergency Assist module can place a call through the BT Phone, and play an automatic “Accident has occurred in VEHICLE near LOCATION” message once the call connects to the Emergency Call Center. Then the system allows the Driver to talk to the Call Center.

Usually, the driver will hear the call being placed over the car audio system. And the phone call won’t disconnect until the driver presses the “End Phone Call” button.

So, this woman ought to have known that the collision occurred, and that the vehicle had placed the call to the Emergency center. Yet when they called her back–because Emergency Call centers do return calls after people hang up–she tried to convince them that nothing had happened.

I understand the privacy implications. And I’m fully in favor of letting the car owner switch the feature off.

But I also understand that most car buyers would love the knowledge that they don’t have a fish out their phone when they might be trapped in a Movie-Plot Car Accident scenario.

Even though accidents which leave the driver incapacitated are rare, most car purchasers think of that kind of worst-case scenario when they think about vehicle safety.

And most parents feel safer if they and their teenage driver know that the car will automatically call for help once an accident happens.

*Not sure if feature is Required by NHTSA, or equivalent EU agencies…but it’s an interesting Feature to put on the sales-sheet.
It’s a recent add-on to Bluetooth Phone support. Though it may have also been part of the OnStar-Services system back when that system was first rolled out.

**I’m working on a project that has this feature. The Test Team has a toolkit which can change the phone number dialed by the feature. And another toolkit that simulates the software-trigger for “Vehicle Collision Occurred.”

Clive Robinson December 11, 2015 11:03 AM

@ Chris F,

I’m aware of what the article said but it was at best vague, because it talked about the results of secondary systems –airbag deploy, fuel system cut off– not the primary sensors that caused the secondary systems to act. We know that similar systems are more sensitive, as well as very occasional complaints about air bags deploying without an accident. Likewise braking systems failing.

There is an old engineering rule of thumb about making an alarm system that works then back off the sensitivity so that you get much fewer false positives. Modern engineers tend to go about things differently now they can hide much of what they do in software, as the Diesel Engine Emition scandal shows. Humans being marginally predictable, I expect similar things with the actual sensor systems in the future.

albert December 11, 2015 11:26 AM

Or, you could just follow the policies of the rental company. Car rental fees are a business expense, are they not?

In the future, it will be impossible to drive a car if those systems are disabled. If we didn’t kill each other 20,000 times in a year on US highways, we may not need draconian measures… but we do.

. .. . .. _ _ _ ….

Sasparilla December 11, 2015 2:04 PM

Article states that the Car needed the owner to opt into this system to begin with and pair it with their own cell phone (which the car uses to call 911).

I hadn’t heard of the use your paired cell phone angle – which gets rid of the need of the vehicle to have a separate mobile connection (which I think the GM and Toyota safety collision systems use) and would make this a much cheaper and widely used system.

Just don’t do hit and runs. Very interesting.

antebellum December 11, 2015 2:32 PM

what’s next? if your car thinks you are a criminal, it will lock the doors and drive you to the police station?

bryan December 11, 2015 2:45 PM

surprised we’ll see self-driving cars before mandatory “drunk/reckless driving detectors” or similar installed in all autos.

John December 11, 2015 3:02 PM

@zboot: yes, but “This kind of emergency call technology is also on track to be in every car in the European Union, starting in April 2018. (From the WP article.) If that happens in the US as well, and there is no opt-out or ability to disable the system, then you essentially have obligated someone to provide evidence against themselves.

Rather than being a service/feature of the vehicle, what if your cell phone was required to log your position and text/call emergency services anytime the internal accelerometer detected a sudden large change in velocity, corresponding to an abrupt stop (crash). Would we accept that? Likely not – it’s an invasion of privacy. I don’t see the difference between the feature as a function of the vehicle or as a function of an individual’s phone.

As an opt-in feature, I think the argument against self-incrimination is weaker. As a mandatory feature, I think there are serious questions.

Jonathan Wilson December 11, 2015 3:13 PM

In addition to the other reasons why making this feature mandatory might be bad, mandating a cellular connection is a VERY bad idea from a security point of view (there is at least one recent hack that used the cellular connection to get into a car and do nasty things with it)

Wael December 12, 2015 2:25 AM

@Clive Robinson,

I don’t think society is ready for the implications of all that yet, especially if you’ve seen “second guessing” lawyers at work.

An insightful observation. Simple, yet profound! Are you suggesting that technology is out-evolving humans? Have we reached the apex of our evolution and finally hit an inflection point where regression is now the expected trajectory[1]? 🙂

[1] I chose the word “trajectory” because it implies it’s out of our hands. There is no self-determination, and this should be the expected path because everything that has a beginning must have an end[2], including our universe (if it has a beginning.)

[2] Huh! A nested reference. I made this as a conjecture since I haven’t proven that. So this statement is debatable.

Clive Robinson December 12, 2015 9:14 AM

@ Wael,

Are you suggesting that technology is out-evolving humans?

In all things physical man was out evolved by other creatures. The invention of the wheel showed brain over brawn was mankinds interim point of aim, as machines out evolved humans and the animals that had out evolved humans…

When it comes to brain power the earlist mechanical calculators outperformed most of mankind. Robots can with the right CPU power and transducers outperform skilled men at mechanical tasks such as glass blowing.

But it takes 10,000 hours for the average human to become a journy man in a skilled task then abother 10 or 20 thousand hours to hone those skills to the best they are likely to be for any given individual so 15years from start to required level of expertise for the average person.

“Men of Skill” can make a robot to do many of these tasks in three months, so just 60 times as fast for the first and a few hours for each subsiquent robot.

Each year that passes the greater the skill of the machines improves, arguably it could double every year and a half untill the laws of physics reigns it back (which started with semiconductors ten or more years ago). But man is an inventive beast at the worst of times (war generaly sees the fastest development of ideas). And the laws of physics can be wriggled around, hence parallel computing etc, which is why there are very few limits to what man and machine can achieve given time.

The only real unknown left is if machines can gain what we call “sentience”, which is another of those ill defined words the meaning of which changes with mankinds knowledge.

Even if machines never gain what we then call sentience or not realy does not matter, at some point they will out perform more than around 30% of the population in real terms when it comes to “work”, the question then becomes “what becomes of mankind”… To slow to learn to feeble to run, is it a life of leisure or contemplating? I would argue neither because the resources would probably have run out by then. So waste away and die out or get of this rock into the solar system.

Which do you hope for?

Wael December 12, 2015 10:21 AM

@Clive Robinson,

Which do you hope for?

I hope for peace on earth, advancements in science and technology, space exploration and extending lifespan so that we can visit other galaxies. I wish I could see what technology would look like in a millennium or two, assuming we don’t annihilate one another before then. And if you’re right that animals out evolved us, then we might wake up one day in the planet of apes…

Perhaps a cataclysmic event will get us out of our misery as a way of “nature” protecting itself from this mistake 😉

BTW: I’m not saying I believe in nature 😉

David T December 12, 2015 9:54 PM

In the Volkswagen implementation, the car checks whether the driver was a government employee before reporting the accident.

SoWhatDidYouExpect December 14, 2015 1:53 PM

@David T:

Do you have a reference for your statement about the car checking if the driver was a government employee? Which government?

Sadly, my expectation is that such systems do (or will) have such liability avoiding conditions built in. That way, the 1%, their associates, and probably government employees (most certainly security, enforcement, administrative, legislative, and other “necessary” dependencies).

This all leads to the decimation of those NOT protected, and ultimatley the decimation of the remaining pecking order working its way up from the bottom. This reflects a statement once made by Frank Barron in an issue of Everyboyd Loves Raymond, something along the lines of…come on comet!

Art December 18, 2015 12:19 AM

This is very useful safety feature. If you are in a serious accident and unconscious, dead or dying, the car will call 911 and that might save yours or someone else (a child or baby in the car) life.

That’s exactly what the card did, as it was designed to do this. Nothing wrong with that.

Turns out that the dumb woman hit two cars and drove away ( a crime). That’s not the car’s fault and doesn’t make this life-saving safety feature “bad”.

Clive Robinson December 18, 2015 3:55 AM

@ Art,

That’s not the car’s fault and doesn’t make this life-saving safety feature “bad”.

That is not correct, the “feature” is “agnostic to use”. That is it can be used for good, bad, both or neither, depending on who has control.

Most of the technology that enables people to track your mobile phone location, turn it into a bug, alow the installation of software to log keypresses and all the other abuses we are only just starting to see deployed by US local cops with DHS money taxed out of the US citizens pocket were put into the phone standards as “Safety Features” just in case…

As I’ve said before the FiveEyes have “friendly” representatives on all the international standards committees they think would enable the long term goals of the IC. Part of this “finessing” is to put holes into standards to enable back doors to be built, under the name of “safety” of either the user or the network etc, knowing that objectors can easily be out voted or silenced by a “plee to think of the children”.

Thus the technology to “backdoor” this system is already in place at some level and no doubt it will have been double or tripely redundant with entry points at various layers of it’s protocol stack.

So at the upper most level there would have no doubt been a plee to think of “abducted chilldren” such that pinging or auto call back etc could be turned on. Because of speed of action required there will be few or no security protocols and the lists of vehicle owners, registration and phone numbers will be fully searchable by law enforcment probably without having to go to the companies and ask…

If you can not see the potential for abuse in such systems, it’s unfortunate, because it only takes a nod from congress to change the rules at any time as we are currently seeing. And nomatter what legal limitations they put in the likes of the IC will always have a “National Security” override. Such is the distopian world technology has enabled that has been eagaly grapped by not just the IC but LEOs and the legislators.

Unfortunately as always, such backdoor enablers are open to all, all they need to exploit them is a little knowledge or, give a little money to those that do exploit them, as we have seen there are plenty of organisations making a nice fat income off of all the dictators, despots, fundamentalist oppressors, criminals and others with the ready cash and the desire to spy on people.

Pretending that such technology back doors are “for the greater good” is to skip lightly down the road to hell that is “paved with good intentions”.

Jackie February 29, 2016 11:45 AM


used your comment here to show my 20 yr old son how people use critical thinking skills in everyday life. We call it “asking the question.” Sometimes coming from other sources like hyper-vigilance, paranoia, personal history/experience with the issue to straight up genius…I make no claim on knowing the reason but wanted to thank you for not blinding accepting someone’s ‘info’ on a subject like in this thread. I have a personal beef with ‘people’ that do the 80-20% rule on anything they wish to skew in their favour without having any real data on the subject besides personal and apparently unsupported opinions. Opinions are totally fine as long as they are identified as such…IMO…lol

Anyways, thanks for the balanced input.

a critical (ly thinking) mother.

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