We have been warned. Now, let’s hope that car manufacturers and rental companies have learned their lesson. Zipcar, a car rental company that operates in 10 countries, suffered a connectivity breakdown that caused a significant amount of its fleet in New York, California and Oregon to halt. Wherever customers happened to be, their cars simply refused to start for about 10% of Zipcar customers.
Boston Globe reports that Zipcars left drivers stranded in various places, and since the breakdown lasted for hours, customers had to organize another mode of transport by themselves. Zipcar could only provide customers a phone number to Avis rental.
The only piece of information Zipcar has published about the cause of the breakdown is that an outage experienced by a third party telecommunications vendor disrupted connections between the company’s vehicles and its reservation software.
So, all vehicles of the car rental company are connected to the headquarters all the time. If something goes wrong, and the connection between a car and the company’s computers is lost, the car stops. This is incredible.
Naturally, there are many good reasons why the rental company wants to know where its cars are located – particularly this one since customers find their vehicles in a mobile app – but there should be a backup system for situations like this. Perhaps another method of communication or simply letting the car move on.
Otherwise, the risks are massive. People can freeze in winter if their car decides to stop in the middle of nowhere. If someone drives far enough to mountains, it is 100 percent certain that all communications will be cut off.
Electric vehicles and autonomous cars will rely even more on live connectivity than traditional cars, making EVs more vulnerable. The problem Zipcar had simply can’t happen to a self-driving vehicle. The car manufacturers and rental companies must have a backup plan because trouble-free computers and networks don’t exist.
At the moment, Zipcar have operations in Belgium, Canada, Costa Rica, France, Iceland, Spain, Taiwan, Turkey, United Kingdom and in the United States. It provides more than 12,000 vehicles for one million members who have joined the car rental program.