Business Insider reports that Ford executive Jim Farley stated, in a panel discussion:
We know everyone who breaks the law, we know when you’re doing it. We have GPS in your car, so we know what you’re doing. By the way, we don’t supply that data to anyone.
He later retracted that, saying Ford doesn’t routinely collect GPS data about its drivers, but that he was just “imagin[ing] a day when the data might be used anonymously and in aggregate to help other marketers with traffic related problems.” I’m happy to accept that clarification.
Yet the point remains that Ford could technically gather this information, and could use it to prevent injuries. For instance, if GPS data shows that someone is speeding — or the car’s internal data shows that the driver is speeding, or driving in a way suggestive of drunk driving or extreme sleepiness, and the data can then be communicated to some central location — then Ford could notify the police, so the dangerous driver can be stopped. And the possibility of such reports could deter the dangerous driving in the first place.
Ford, then, is putting extremely dangerous devices on the road. It’s clearly foreseeable that those devices will be misused (since they often are misused). Car accidents cause tens of thousands of deaths and many more injuries each year. And Ford has a means of making those dangerous devices that it distributes less dangerous; yet it’s not using them.
Sounds like a lawsuit, no? Manufacturer liability for designs that unreasonably facilitate foreseeable misuse is well-established. And the fact that the misuse may stem from negligence (or even intentional wrongdoing) on the user’s part doesn’t necessarily block liability, so long as the user misconduct is foreseeable. [UPDATE: I should note that I’m not wild about these […]