Saturday, February 11, 2012

"Waze" to Get In An Accident

If there is an award for the most horrifically counterproductive software products, "
Waze" has to win for 2012. Waze is a smartphone application that offers GPS mapping and turn-by-turn directions to your destination. The routes are automatically updated based on traffic conditions, including data from other Waze users in your area--if another Waze user gets stuck in a traffic jam, the application updates your route accordingly. Waze also encourages users to manually contribute information to other Waze users, including taking a photograph of whatever road ailment you think other drivers ought to know about. These include the traffic jams and accidents, police officers, construction, and a general "hazards" category. The program also features a "Chit chat" function, presumably for a new era of road rage and commiseration.

We all hate traffic. We all want to get to there sooner, faster, easier, while braking as little as possible. But, we have to ask, do we really want drivers around us:
  1. constantly peeking down at their smartphones for real-time or close to real-time updates, just to save fifteen seconds?
  2. looking down at their phones and suddenly making last minute turns and lane changes because some other guy with his iPhone reported an unidentified hazard?
  3. reaching for their phones and attempting to take a picture of road hazards?
  4. relying on anonymous Waze users posting a picture of a clown in the road and claiming it was taken on I-5?
I hope the answer is a resounding No.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Toyota Can't Get it Right

According to The Associated Press, via NPR, federal investigators are looking into fires in 2007 Toyota Camry and Rav4 vehicles. Where is the fire? Naturally, the driver's side door. The probe could affect 830,000 vehicles nationally.

For other driving safety information, check out the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Cruise Line Forum Clause

I'm sure you've heard of the cruise ship that sunk off the coast of Italy after the captain ran the ship aground, and then bailed before passengers and had a chance to get on life rafts. The Carnival Corp. owned Costa Cruises (owner of the Costa Concordia cruise liner) offered each uninjured passenger a full refund and $14,400 in cash.

Those who were injured (or lost their lives) and need more than Costa Cruises' cash offer are running into a ship-sized roadblock. Costa Concordia is based in Miami. Ordinarily, this would mean that an injured passenger could file suit against Costa Cruises in Florida. However, the small print on each Costa Concordia ticket includes a "choice of forum" clause, requiring any lawsuits against the company to be brought in Italy. As you would imagine, the cost and practical hurdles of filing suit in Italy deter many legitimate claims.

Though passengers probably did not consider the possibility of town-size ship running aground during their vacation when signing below the small print, the clauses will probably be upheld based on multiple prior Supreme Court decisions. See this Seattle Times article for more.