Drunk and irresponsible drivers beware: your smart car can most definitely rat you out. Cathy Bernstein of Port St. Lucie recently learned as much the hard way after rear-ending two vehicles and fleeing the scene. Her Ford vehicle has a built in “Emergency Assist” feature which proceeded to call 911 having satisfied all its requirements that something was wrong: a change in speed, a minor collision.
Bernstein tried to convince 911 that nothing was wrong, repeating that “everything is fine.” The dispatcher even directly asked her if she had left the scene of an accident, which Bernstein denied. Authorities responded the incident and at least one of the other people involved was taken to the hospital for minor injuries. Subsequently, Bernstein was arrested with the help of data provided by her own car.
Whether such data can be used in court against bad drivers will be an interesting question for the courts to decide. On the one hand, it could be seen as voluntary admittance since the drivers know that their vehicles have these features. On the other, it could be seen as a violation of their 5th Amendment right to not incriminate themselves if used in the wrong way by prosecutors. Then again, in such cases there would normally be an excess of other evidence, such that prosecutors might not even need the 911 information. Witness testimony, physical evidence – higher courts might conclude that the bad drivers would be found regardless.
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Drunk driving kills more people annually than other things currently under examination by the culture, such as citizens wielding firearms. According to a 2014 report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a drunk driving incident takes a life every two minutes. If technologies such as Emergency Assist become more prevalent, and first responders are able to get to the scene of accidents faster as a result, perhaps technology could change the situation for the better. Changing the human behavior that causes distracted, drunk, and other faulty types of driving is another story altogether. Some believe it is simply not going to happen, and artificial intelligence seems to be slated to answer that question ultimately.
Prospects such as this have a somewhat onerous implication. On the one hand, it would be great to see more lives saved thanks to the miracle of technology. On the other, there is something scary about the possibility of bugs implicating the wrong people, feeding incorrect data, or otherwise squashing the human ability to interpret events and replacing it with unquestionable facts. For instance, there have long been cases where minor accidents occurred and both drivers decided to settle the matter with cash rather than go through the arduous process of filing insurance claims. Would this still be possible in a world where cars always automatically reported events to local authorities?
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