The Federal Communications Commission has been asked by the Palo Alto, California Police Department to look into why a mobile device assigned to a totaled car flooded its emergency communications center with repeated calls for assistance.
The offending device was traced to a Mercedes-Benz that was totaled and temporarily stored at a repair shop in a neighboring town. The Palo Alto police received 566 calls over a five-hour period in the middle of January. The Mercury News reported that a device with the same electronic serial number was also responsible for calling the California Highway Patrol's dispatch center 2,225 times later that month.
The vehicle was identified by Continental Automotive Group, the manufacturer of the device, who matched the serial number to the vehicle. The second round of calls was triggered when the Mercedes-Benz was towed to an auto auction site for eventual disposal.
Events surrounding the crash are not known as the police have no record of a collision involving the car and the owners have not been contacted.
Mercedes-Benz has offered an OnStar-type telematics system since 1999. Known as TeleAid, this system did have the ability to call 911 directly according to a Mercedes-Benz spokeswoman.
In 2009 the carmaker introduced mbrace, which does not call emergency services directly but rather uses a third-party call center to get help.
Mbrace is the first telematics system to be smartphone-compatible, allowing owners to perform tasks like lock and unlock doors from a iPhone or a Blackberry. The carmaker intends to periodically make new apps available.
The technical services director of the Palo Alto Police Department said that he hoped to find out why the device malfunctioned, if it has happened elsewhere and a possible remedy. He said that the FCC was "very responsive and interested in the issue."
The disposition of telematics devices in salvaged vehicles may become more important in the future as the devices are able to store more personal information and perform more operations.[Mercury News & Edmunds]