May 18, 2016

If Uber can find you from your cell phone, why can't the 911 system?



This is John Oliver, who has an obligation to be funny, and he is, even as he's explaining something truly horrific.

39 comments:

damikesc said...

This is government for you.

Every cell phone bill has 911 fees on it to pay for the upgrades to allow 911 to track your phone when you call in.

That all cities cannot is just because the government utterly wastes your tax dollars.

damikesc said...

Note: The private entity is set up to do that without forcing every cell phone user to pay a fee to allegedly do precisely that.

The government, which DOES require you to pay a fee, does not.

There is little the government does better than private industry.

tim maguire said...

I watched that last night and, as usual, it's a bit overstated. For instance, Uber and Dominoes don't need to know where you are to the precision of the 911 system--they just need to be able to pull up out front. The paramedic needs to know what floor you're on.

There isn't one 911 system, there are thousands. The fact that, by examining these thousands, you can assemble a horrifying-sounding parade of horribles doesn't get you very far in terms of identifying an actionable problem.

And that was my last issue with the bit--the actionable problem. Sometimes he'd talk about what Uber can do as though it were directly applicable to the 911 system. Other times he'd talk about what the 911 system can't do and leave it to you to assume Uber can.

Curious George said...

I love it when these liberal assholes like Oliver bitch about the failings of government, but never ever think that the answer lays anywhere else.

damikesc said...

I love it when these liberal assholes like Oliver bitch about the failings of government, but never ever think that the answer lays anywhere else.

It's always we need to do MORE government.

Look at your cell phone bill. I guarantee you will see e911 fees. Those fees are to pay for this. If they aren't doing so, somebody should ask the government why they cannot.

wildswan said...

Call Domino's and have them call 911

Curious George said...

"damikesc said...
Look at your cell phone bill. I guarantee you will see e911 fees. Those fees are to pay for this. If they aren't doing so, somebody should ask the government why they cannot."

Yeah, and Social Security deductions should go to Social Security. But...

wildswan said...

That way you can have pizza ready for your first responders

Phil 3:14 said...

Because I may be calling 911 for the accident I just witnessed but was not a part of.

wildswan said...

They can't fix roads because the gas tax is diverted; they can't fix 911 because the 911 tax is diverted. And they won't stop diverting because the issue isn't raised by the 27 year-old repeating towers in the mainslime media. But at least the transgenders have been diverted into the little girls bathroom.

David said...

This is the rule. A competent to date program run by government is literally exceptional.

Curious George said...

Frankly, I would model the 911 system after Jimmy Johns.

damikesc said...

People are stunned when I refuse to support any tax hike for a specific purpose. There was a referendum for a penny higher tax to pay for roads. I said I opposed it before I heard the reason...because it is never used for that reason.

tim in vermont said...

All the cell phones support it, they turn on your GPS if you call 9-11. The cellular networks all support it, it's in the telecom standards. If the local authorities have software that doesn't use that info effectively, you can blame whoever selected the vendor. Of course bribery in issuing contracts by local governments is unheard of.

Carol said...

tim in vermont wins. The 911 and computer aided dispatch system should be able to find you through cell tower triangulation. But E911/CAD systems are local & regional and different and some GIS are not implemented well though, it's getting better all the time. And I'm not sure of the degree of accuracy in feet..

I used to bid these systems, and it seemed like data & politics back East especially were really fucked up.

MadisonMan said...

There is little the government does better than private industry.

I would put weather forecast modeling and satellite observations of the Earth on that short list. But that might change in the next 5 years.

Ann Althouse said...

"I watched that last night and, as usual, it's a bit overstated. For instance, Uber and Dominoes don't need to know where you are to the precision of the 911 system--they just need to be able to pull up out front. The paramedic needs to know what floor you're on."

That excuse about what floor you're on is talked about in the segment. The desire to have that specificity does not explain the failure to find people who are in a car sinking in a pond. We hear the voice of a woman calling from a car that she died in because she wasn't able to tell 911 the street address of the accident.

Ann Althouse said...

"Look at your cell phone bill. I guarantee you will see e911 fees. Those fees are to pay for this. If they aren't doing so, somebody should ask the government why they cannot."

Watch the video and see how Andrew Cuomo reacts when confronted. It's gruesome.

Quaestor said...

Why? Because the 911 system is run by governments. Anything run by a government is a moribund institution. I think it was the late Milton Friedman who quipped that if the Sahara Desert was run by the Federal government in five years there would a shortage of sand. Now imagine every of government with its fat, greasy, maladroit fingers in the pie.

911 is probably a good idea horribly mismanaged by the usual suspects. If effective and timely management of emergency services was really the goal then private contractors would run the system. But that's not the goal, is it?

Ann Althouse said...

If I remember correctly, 10,000+ people die a year because 911 operators can't figure out where they are. These are people with cell phones, not people out without a phone and dying. You have your phone. You think they will find you when you call. But you may be dying (or suffering horribly) while having a conversation with someone about where exactly you think you are. It's terrible for the operators too. It's not like they don't care.

Xmas said...

Ann,

That call with the woman drowning in the pond is actually worse. The victim as telling the 911 dispatcher she was near "The Fairway Street" and the dispatcher said that there was no "Fairway Street" in her system.

tim maguire said...

Ann Althouse said...That excuse about what floor you're on is talked about in the segment.

It was mentioned once, early on. Never to appear again. Yes, a woman drowned because they couldn't find her car, for that I would refer you back to my statement about parades of horribles. I'm much less interested in sensationalistic scare stories and much more interested in a sober analysis of the possible amidst the reality that when you get millions of calls for millions of emergencies, some will go bad. That I did not get.

MadisonMan said...

As I was driving back to Madison last week, I was pondering that if I saw an accident (I saw one -- almost) and called 911, I would have no idea where I was. I'm on the interstate in the middle of Iowa. I don't know the mile marker because I've not been paying attention.

There's the same problem with tornado warnings -- if I'm in OK listening to the radio and a warning comes on and mentions counties, I have no idea where those counties are. I know there are apps now that follow you, and let you know of warnings that occur where you are -- because your phone knows your lat/lon and it can match that with the warning polygon. That would require my getting a smart phone though. Maybe for Father's Day.

tim in vermont said...

Even the oldest cell phone can triangulate your position within a couple hundred meters except in very rural areas. Even without GPS built in. If I weren't on my smartphone, I'd mansplane how.

Fred Drinkwater said...

MadMan: There are any number of startups proposing to fly privately developed cubesats or something similar, using commercial launchers, precisely to do detailed realtime observation of earth. They typically list government agencies as CUSTOMERS for their data, not competitors.

Roger Sweeny said...

MadisonMan, one of the great things about the Interstates (everywhere but the northeast) is that exits are keyed to mileage. So you may not have noticed a milepost but if you just passed exit 71 going east, you are at milepost 71 or 70. Mileage goes up east to west and north to south.

Roger Sweeny said...

Oops! Mileage actually goes up west to east and south to north.

damikesc said...

Even the oldest cell phone can triangulate your position within a couple hundred meters except in very rural areas. Even without GPS built in. If I weren't on my smartphone, I'd mansplane how.

As somebody who works for a very large cell provider, I can say the FCC forbids us from putting non-GPS phones on our network. If you had one, you can keep it (they'd likely be dead as they haven't been made in about 10 years)...but you cannot change it for another non-GPS phone.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Ann Althouse said...It's not like they don't care.

I'm sure that's true, but as a legal point they don't have to, right? I mean, if they just didn't care and someone died as a result, the dead person's family wouldn't have much legal recourse, would they? Isn't that what Warren v DC held--that the 911 operators & police don't have any specific duty to provide services to individual members of the public?

The reason I think that matters, for this discussion, is the way legal liability might drive the actual standards that are upheld. If your cell phone or GPS guarantees that it can locate you and then fails to do so in a way that causes harm to you, you may have a legal case against the device manufacturer (or service provider, or whomever). The threat of such a lawsuit makes companies ensure their products meet certain standards (or, conversely but just as importantly, ensures that they do not implicitly nor explicitly warrant that the device can provide that service).

Many people rely (exclusively) on the government to provide safety or emergency services. The government agencies tasked with providing those services have almost no legal duty to actually do that job competently, though...and I'm pretty sure most people don't realize that fact.

mikee said...

HoodlumDoodlum, Warren v. DC was taught in my concealed handgun license required course, here in Texas. So that is another thing good about getting a concealed handgun license - you learn stuff, and things!

Joe said...

I did some quick searches; seems that the worse 911 systems are in liberal to very liberal cities.

Achilles said...

You can't just locate them with a signal to a tower. You can narrow it down to a half mile or so with a tower signal. We had to have someone one the ground to go the last half mile which was me. Unless you want to give every ambulance team a way to put a cell phone on a call and use RF signal tracing to find people this will not work. Not going to happen.

Instead most cell phones now have GPS apps. The best way to solve this would be a 911 app that activated GPS and sent the GPS location to the 911 operator. Seems like an obvious one.

Darrell said...

I always write--"Fuck You! You had ONE job . . ." in my blood, so that I can get a final dig in on the emergency workers/public employees. It's calming.

CWJ said...

"Watch the video and see how Andrew Cuomo reacts when confronted. It's gruesome."

OK, some indication when this took place in this rather long video would have been appreciated, but I did find it eventually. But gruesome? In what way? All I saw was a politician practicing classic deflection SOP, sandwiched between Oliver snarking before and after. Sorry, it looks to me as a win win. Unless there's some missing context and consequence, Cuomo appears to get away with his bald faced deflection and Oliver gets his snark. Where's the gruesome?

MartyH said...

Just this past Saturday, two cyclists I was riding with at high speeds crashed hard and had to be taken away in an ambulance. This was in the city limits of Sacramento, but in a rural area. The 911 operator could see where I was on her map because of the GPS feature in my phone but she still had me give her the location.

Largo said...

I find that John Oliver is getting more like Andy Rooney.

Largo said...

I wonder if Oliver would endorse mandating that a 911 app be permanently installed *and running* on all cell phones.

I would not like that one bit.

Jonathan Graehl said...

how the F does "needing to know what floor you're on" excuse doing worse in non-altitude location than is EASILY possible?

the trouble is that local government workers aren't competent to manage+procure IT. yet neither is the national govt given a billion dollars (OCare website, which admittedly was not trivial given the parties it was supposed to connect).

i guess nobody wants to develop an E911 suite on spec because there's no guarantee the govt would buy it.

Largo said...

@Jonathan Graehl: developing such an app is near trivial, but there is no guarantee that phone users would *install* it. The only way Dominos and Uber is able to find their customers is because their customers deliberately installed the relevant apps.