So my car nearly caught fire tonight, something with the starter refusing to turn itself off and messing up stuff internally. But this article is not about the drama (everything turned out ok).
What amazed me though was the speed, response, and ultimately how smooth the towing went. And it’s largely because of tech.
Think about how towing happened thirty years ago. First of all, you were screwed if you weren’t near a phone, and that’s even if you could flag someone down to go and call a towing company and hopefully remember your vague location. Cell phones help _a lot_. Second, AAA is computerized now, so even though I called some dispatch in who knows where, they were able, after giving my location and AAA number, to dispatch a local towing company with relative ease. That company then called me and told me how far they were in route. Even then, since I was in downtown Palo Alto and my car wasn’t in an obvious place, I still had to flag him down somehow. Thanks to my cell phone, and his bluetooth setup, that was super easy; as I was running out of the office to find him, he was driving around and we could talk smoothly until we saw each other. When I caught a ride up with him in the cab, he didn’t have to intimately know the area to find my dealer: he had GPS. And some other GPS-like device that I believe was a queued dispatch list from AAA. Pretty slick.
Overall, the process worked. It’s also fun to think of the next few tech leaps that will be made. One, cars will just be more robust and less prone to breaking down so epically. And they’ll have better sensors and diagnostics to let you know of issues way earlier (think preventive care like in the health care industry). Further, with geo-locator units both in my car and in my phone, they could have found me even easier than they did, and not have to rely on error-prone directions from people who can be quite flustered when their car goes all crazy.