John Oliver talked in his show’s most recent episode about the US emergency services phone number, 911. It seems that now nobody uses land lines anymore, sometimes the emergency services have a hard time locating people from their cell phones.
John Oliver: “And if you’re thinking, ‘wait a minute, I can find my location on my cell phone,’ you’re not alone. Dispatchers wonder the same thing.”
Dispatcher: “I can check in on Facebook and it’ll tell you exactly what building I’m in. […] But when you call 911 we don’t get that accurate location information. The technology’s out there, it’s just not getting to us at this point.”
JO: “That’s a good point, because even the Domino’s app can tell where you are, and they’ve barely mastered the technology to make a palatable pizza! So we asked […] why it seems Ubers can find you better than ambulances can, and there doesn’t seem to be a simple satisfying answer.”
Here is my best guess at that answer, as a software engineer. Our industry has a pervasive culture of rush-jobs that get 90% of the way there and then save the rest for version 2; move fast and break things, yada yada. No emergency services provider would adopt it because it would not be reliable.
It’s reasonable to think that 90% would be better than what 911 apparently has now, which according to the video is sometimes only accurate to the nearest cell tower. However, the litigious nature of US society makes that impossible. The first time the software failed, the maker would get sued out of business.
Thus we are stuck, because we teach ourselves not to go the extra mile; and even if we went it, no-one could afford to take responsibility for making things better.