When Cars Crash Like Computers

When we make pieces of our infrastructure "smart" with computers, we also give them the other characteristics of computers, like bugs, crashes, hackability, and downtime

Yesterday, Daimler's Car2Go, which offers on-demand, one-way rentals to its users, crashed.

Not physically, but in the code that powers the ridesharing service and controls the cars. Would-be drivers in Washington, Los Angeles, Vancouver, Portland, and other cities could not couldn't access the fleet of vehicles, leaving the service's customer-service crews scrambling on social media to explain what was going on. Starting at 2pm, the service's city-level Twitter accounts started warning people that they were experiencing, "a partial interruption and are quickly working to resolve the issue." For about 12 hours, the service appears to have been completely down down.

For those who remember Twitter's fail-whale, it was a familiar scene. But the difference between not being able to send tweets and not being able to drive home from work or pick up your kids is huge.

As with the hackable toilet we reported on last week, when we make pieces of our infrastructure "smart" with computers, we also give them the other characteristics of computers, like bugs, crashes, hackability, and downtime. These tradeoffs might be worth it -- after all, trains and cars break down for all sorts of reasons already -- but the ways that things don't work will be novel.

In this case, Car2Go's Vancouver branch responded to a tweet asking if they'd gotten hacked by saying, "We are still identifying root causes but are taking this very seriously."

Whether it was a bug or an attack, this is also part of the future of mobility, along with the gee-whizness of picking up a car off the street with your phone. 

Via Glenn Fleishman

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