In recent years, Zipcar has simplified and mobilized car-sharing. Zipcar has designed and implemented a nearly-seamless process whereby a user can make a reservation online, swipe their ID on the windshield, and drive. When the user scans their ID, the car’s computer asks itself: “am I the right car? Is it the right time? Is this the right driver?” Most interestingly, without answering these questions in the affirmative, the car’s ignition does not work. Essentially, Zipcar administrators can disable, and re-enable, the car’s engine.
Car owners can use similar remote technology to protect their vehicles. Lenders now also install starter interrupt devices on vehicles loaned by subprime borrowers. Such technology is certainly useful, but raises broader concerns. Most alarmingly, those in control can remotely disable a vehicle while it is driving.
As remote technology in vehicles becomes more prevalent, manufacturers should be mindful of safety considerations (particularly, preparing options for if the “remote control” falls into the wrong hands). How far is too far? Stay tuned for continued updates on the legal implications of this emerging technology and business methodology – and a possible answer to whether such technology in moving motor vehicles represents a good idea.
Mudd Law represents individuals and businesses in a broad range of legal matters associated with emerging technologies.