This isn’t a security story, but it easily could have been. Last Saturday, Zipcar had a system outage: “an outage experienced by a third party telecommunications vendor disrupted connections between the company’s vehicles and its reservation software.”
That didn’t just mean people couldn’t get cars they reserved. Sometimes is meant they couldn’t get the cars they were already driving to work:
Andrew Jones of Roxbury was stuck on hold with customer service for at least a half-hour while he and his wife waited inside a Zipcar that would not turn back on after they stopped to fill it up with gas.
“We were just waiting and waiting for the call back,” he said.
Customers in other states, including New York, California, and Oregon, reported a similar problem. One user who tweeted about issues with a Zipcar vehicle listed his location as Toronto.
Some, like Jones, stayed with the inoperative cars. Others, including Tina Penman in Portland, Ore., and Heather Reid in Cambridge, abandoned their Zipcar. Penman took an Uber home, while Reid walked from the grocery store back to her apartment.
This is a reliability issue that turns into a safety issue. Systems that touch the direct physical world like this need better fail-safe defaults.