Over the weekend, a trip to the Californian boonies by Guardian journalist Kari Paul turned into a cautionary tale about the perils of the connected car and the Internet of Things. Paul had rented a car through a local car-sharing service called GIG Car Share, which offers a fleet of hybrid Toyota Priuses and electric Chevrolet Bolt EVs in the Bay Area and Sacramento, with plans to spend the weekend in a more rural part of the state about three hours north of Oakland. But on Sunday, she was left stranded on an unpaved road when the car’s telematics system lost its cell signal. Without being able to call home, the rented Prius refused to move.
Adding insult to injury, Paul’s cellphone was not similarly troubled by the remote location, allowing her to express her frustration, but also to talk to GIG’s customer service to try to get the car back in motion. At first, the company’s plan was to send a tow truck to tow the Prius a few miles closer to civilization, but that would be too easy. It appears GIG’s customer service unhelpfully suggested Paul and her companion spend the night sleeping in the car and trying to start the car again the next morning. Instead, after a six-hour wait and not one but two tow trucks—the second of which Paul called herself—plus 20 (!) calls to GIG, the problem was finally solved in the early hours of Monday morning.