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Hertz Puts Cameras In Its Rental Cars, Says It Has No Plans To Use Them 188

schwit1 writes Hertz has added a camera to many of its newer cars that uses the "NeverLost" navigational device. So why is Hertz creeping out customers with cameras it's not using? "Hertz added the camera as a feature of the NeverLost 6 in the event it was decided, in the future, to activate live agent connectivity to customers by video. In that plan the customer would have needed to turn on the camera by pushing a button (while stationary)," Hertz spokesperson Evelin Imperatrice explained. "The camera feature has not been launched, cannot be operated and we have no current plans to do so."
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Hertz Puts Cameras In Its Rental Cars, Says It Has No Plans To Use Them

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 16, 2015 @12:06PM (#49267801)

    "The camera feature has not been launched, cannot be operated and we have no current plans to do so."

    So we're to believe hertz put the cameras there for no reason other than to hurt their business by scaring away customers, because may be someday they may want them?

    • by meerling ( 1487879 ) on Monday March 16, 2015 @12:42PM (#49268135)
      And at a huge cost. There's no way they did that without planning on using them for something, and that something wouldn't be a vague might happen kind of thing either, but a concrete we "need" this from the higher ups.
      • There's no way they did that without planning on using them for something, and that something wouldn't be a vague might happen kind of thing either, but a concrete we "need" this from the higher ups.

        Have you ever attended a meeting? One where decisions were made? Why do you think that Hertz is less dysfunctional at planning and making logical and well thought out decisions than your organization?

        • I'm thinking along the line of thought that there are people that want to be photo graphed, when they are lost? Is this some new kind of social media, one that caters to folks in unfavorable events then displays the victims reactions on YouTube or what ever?
        • by bluefoxlucid ( 723572 ) on Monday March 16, 2015 @03:10PM (#49269275) Journal

          When planning a project or choosing a strategy, risk must be assessed. Risks come as both threats and opportunities.

          You can handle a threat in many ways: Avoid, by taking actions which do not allow for that particular risk; Mitigate, by taking actions which minimize the probability or severity of the risk; Transfer, by purchasing insurance to cover the risk; or Accept, by budgeting for the risk. You can similarly handle an opportunity: Exploit, by taking actions to 100% guarantee that particular risk will occur; Enhance, by taking actions to increase the probability that the risk will occur; Share, by taking actions with a third-party that increase probability of the risk occurring, but share the benefit with another party (lottery pool); or Accept, by doing nothing and hoping it happens.

          With many plans on the table, you often have to select which risks to accept in exchange for opportunities to enhance. Adding extra, unused hardware for a possible future strategy can save you from missing out on that strategy, or from higher expenses to add the hardware later.

          • When planning a project or choosing a strategy, risk must be assessed. Risks come as both threats and opportunities.

            I am sure that this is what they teach in MBA programs. It has little to do with how real people make decisions in real organizations. I doubt if the cameras are part of a vast conspiracy. It is far more likely that someone came up with the idea for no particular reason, and while others thought it was hare brained, they went along with it to avoid losing support in some other idiotic bike shed argument [wikipedia.org].

            For some reason people accept that their own team or small department can be dysfunctional at decision

            • I am sure that this is what they teach in MBA programs. It has little to do with how real people make decisions in real organizations.

              What are you talking about? I don't have an MBA, dropped out of college for CompSci because I was working as a computer security engineer, and I make decisions like that in real organizations. People don't listen to me, million-dollar problems happen, I continuously grind on them for not listening to me when I warned them, and they eventually get it through their heads that they shouldn't just do whatever the hell seems cool at the time.

              but somehow as organizations get bigger and bigger they magically figure out how to be competent.

              No, this is why we have project management, and project managers w

      • Even if someone higher up at Hertz had a devious plan to install these cameras into every vehicle and covertly film all their customers, there is no way in hell that any rental car company I know of could implement such a system. Most of the time they can barely get you the car you supposedly booked for the price you were quoted. I once got stuck in a huge mismanaged queue at Avis for an hour and when I finally got to the front they told me a car was not available. When I said I had booked one so how could

        • by hawguy ( 1600213 ) on Monday March 16, 2015 @02:47PM (#49269095)

          Even if someone higher up at Hertz had a devious plan to install these cameras into every vehicle and covertly film all their customers, there is no way in hell that any rental car company I know of could implement such a system. Most of the time they can barely get you the car you supposedly booked for the price you were quoted.

          I've never had a problem getting the rate I was quoted. It's common that they are out of the particular car class I ordered, but that's to be expected, they don't have unlimited room to store each of a dozen car classes. They've always either upgraded me for "free" (except that the upgraded car often uses more gas, so it's not really "free", but I've had good luck talking them into giving me a Hybrid when that happens if they have one available), or gave me a discount for a downgraded car.

          I once got stuck in a huge mismanaged queue at Avis for an hour and when I finally got to the front they told me a car was not available. When I said I had booked one so how could this be, the customer service person informed me that I was half an hour late so if I wanted to ensure I got a car I should turn up on time.

          Rental agencies overbook just like the airlines, but it's harder for them to ensure supply when people don't return cars on time, at least an airline knows that they can seat 300 people on a 300 person aircraft, the rental agency isn't sure if they'l have 0 or 50 cars on the lot by the time you get there because some people may be late, or they may have sent a lot of cars on one-way trips. It's a tough logistical problem.

          I also have no idea why my collecting a car I have booked requires so much typing on their behalf. It is like they are writing a short dissertation on me, every time I rent a car. Surely if I rent another car the same month the amount of typing can be reduced. I have caught a glimpse of their green character based IT terminals and I am pretty certain there is no secret skunk works at Hertz HQ working on anything other than more confusing ways to charge collision damage waivers.

          If you rent a car regularly, sign up for the rental agency's premier club. When I used to travel a lot, my company rented from Avis and Hertz almost exclusively, I was in both of their permier rental programs, and when I got to the car lot I could just find the car with my name on it, and drive away, showing my ID to the guy at the gate. The other advantage is that my premier reserved car is *always* there, even if they have to turn away other customers to make sure the car is there.

          • I've never had a problem getting the rate I was quoted. It's common that they are out of the particular car class I ordered, but that's to be expected,

            I am not going to use Hertz again.

            In the past, one paid extra for the convenience of an on-airport car-rental location and perhaps a nicer bus. Now, all the car rental locations are in the same building (unless you are using a small, local company) and at some (many) airports, the busses are also pooled. So the primary advantage of Hertz is gone for me.

        • by u38cg ( 607297 )
          Couple of factors. One is typically the agent is using several systems that don't talk to each other, at least one of which dates from the 70s. Two is regulatory and risk requirements that mean you are forced to reenter data instead of checking it.

          The other thing is that most of the efficiency from the poibnt of view of the customer is down to the local management of that rental location. Well managed places will zip you through, badly places won't.

      • They could have considered a future business opportunity at a cost of some dollars per car, versus the cost of missing the opportunity, versus the cost of a future retrofit, and decided to exploit the opportunity. Opportunities are risks, and are handled accordingly.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 16, 2015 @12:50PM (#49268209)

      "The camera feature has not been launched, cannot be operated and we have no current plans to do so."

      So we're to believe hertz put the cameras there for no reason other than to hurt their business by scaring away customers, because may be someday they may want them?

      I'm just guessing here, but I'd bet that their hardware manufacturer has been marching forward and may have added the camera to the "latest" model and Hertz is just buying the hardware off the shelf from them. The camera may have some prospective future use which has not been fully defined, but the main reason it's there is it came with the off the shelf hardware. Getting something without a camera may now be more expensive, at least something with the other features they want/need like more memory, better CPU's and more storage.

      Custom hardware is insanely expensive to develop and it's way cheaper to go off the shelf in most cases and if the off the shelf offering has a camera, you get a camera. It's not like Hertz is buying these things by the tens of thousands, but likely only a few hundred a month in specific high volume markets to replace older and ailing units as they come out of service.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I for one lost my blind trust of the american corporation years ago. but good for you its nice to see some haven't

      • by BronsCon ( 927697 ) <social@bronstrup.com> on Monday March 16, 2015 @12:59PM (#49268279) Journal
        That was my initial thought. Hertz isn't a TLA government agency, so why the conspiracy theories from everyone? Glad to see some people here still have a level head.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          It's not a conspiracy to be put off by someone installing a camera in a space that one typically expects a degree of privacy.

        • by Gr8Apes ( 679165 )
          Well, considering Samsung's cameras on TVs pretty much give Orwellian access to anyone stupid enough to hook their TV to the internet, along with several other pieces of info about cameras, such as on phones or computers being used without their users' awareness, I'd say you're lacking a level head if you didn't think "conspiracy" the moment you see a camera in an unexpected place.
          • by BronsCon ( 927697 ) <social@bronstrup.com> on Monday March 16, 2015 @01:26PM (#49268511) Journal
            Here's the difference between businesses and TLAs, though: A business will tell you about the features it is offering, the TLAs will deny they're doing anything at all. Samsung made it clear they put cameras in those sets, and that those cameras (and microphones) were used to control the TV by means of transmitting recorded data to a third-party server for processing. There's no conspiracy there, they told you as much when you bought it (whether you listened or not is another issue). Plus, as you said, the cameras are obviously visible. Hertz's cameras are likewise, and they say they're not using them (yet), which I tend to believe; they have to know that a lie today will be found out tomorrow and I don't think they're that stupid.

            The only instances I recall of a company lying about surveillance have involved them behaving in an entirely covert, non-obvious (am I being redundant, here?), manner, with the idea that, by drawing no attention, they would not be found out. This is the antithesis of that. I'll let you put that together for yourself.

            What's the quickest way to go out of business today? Tell customers you're not spying on them, then spy on them anyway. People are very much apathetic when it comes to security (a-la "oops, we didn't realize the data we told you we were collecting and sending over the internet could be read by anyone), but not so much when it comes to targeted surveillance of themselves and their families, so lying about this at this juncture would would be Hertz's death knell.
      • You are suggesting the car makers build custom cars for the rental company. It's more likely a theft deterant system, combined with a way to prove who stole/vandalized their car.
    • Just put a piece of electrical tape over the goddamned thing if and when you have to rent a car from them and forget about it.
    • If the cameras are even in use, sounds more like something for car thieves to steal and the car renter to be on the hook for (or their insurance company...)

  • Duct tape (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Peter Simpson ( 112887 ) on Monday March 16, 2015 @12:08PM (#49267829)
    The Handyman's Secret Weapon.
  • No plans ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Archangel Michael ( 180766 ) on Monday March 16, 2015 @12:11PM (#49267847) Journal

    You don't do something unless you have plans to use it. I call bullshit.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The Internet says Hertz keeps cars for an average of 18 months.
      So installing these things only makes sense if they have plans to use them within that timeframe.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by jratcliffe ( 208809 )

        These things can be (and are) removed from the cars and moved into new ones. It's not a permanent installation.

      • by kogut ( 1133781 )

        The Internet says Hertz keeps cars for an average of 18 months.
        So installing these things only makes sense if they have plans to use them within that timeframe.

        I think they strip and re-use all the NeverLost equipment when they ditch a car. At least that stuff isn't sold when the cars are sold off.

    • they said 'no CURRENT plans'.

      isn't that enough wiggle room to create NEW plans, later?

      what this will mean is that the 'field test' shows we are not passive enough to accept this surveillance. they'll try again in n+1 units of time and see if we've become more passive and are willing to tolerate it.

      if that fails, there's always hiding mics and cameras inside the dash. I'm sure they have spent some time in boardrooms discussing exactly that, too.

      • Hertz: "We have no plans to use the cameras!"

        Consumers: "Thank goodness! We were worried!"

        Hertz: "Well, shit, it looks like we've got a plan!"

    • Re:No plans ... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Mr D from 63 ( 3395377 ) on Monday March 16, 2015 @12:21PM (#49267947)

      You don't do something unless you have plans to use it. I call bullshit.

      No necessarily true. If you are investing in hardware for a fleet, some future proofing can make sense even if you don't have a specific use in mind.

      • by houghi ( 78078 )

        In general I would agree. e.g. if you have some sort of socket, like USB, you might not have use for it now, but might want to use it for future use.

        However a camera has an extremely limit use. It captures images. So if you buy a camera, you do it with the intend to capture images.

        It might well be that they are not yet sure about the details. e.g. keep only the last 30 minutes, the last person who drove it, have it turned on and of depending if you take insurance or whatever, but the intend is clear: to ta

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      “We do not have adequate bandwidth capabilities to the car to support streaming video at this time,”

      Notice that this doesn't mention *local* recording - say, a snapshot every 30 seconds or so. Then auto-upload via WiFi when the car returns to the agency. This might be very valuable for corporate marketing research, and to catch people doing things in the cars that their contract frowns on :-)

      • “We do not have adequate bandwidth capabilities to the car to support streaming video at this time,”

        Notice that this doesn't mention *local* recording - say, a snapshot every 30 seconds or so. Then auto-upload via WiFi when the car returns to the agency. This might be very valuable for corporate marketing research, and to catch people doing things in the cars that their contract frowns on :-)

        Or as a separate venture to capture and broadcast "in-car pr0n" - they don't have to be pictures - HD space is cheap... I wonder if that's covered in the rental agreement fine-print.

    • You don't do something unless you have plans to use it

      I suppose if people start snipping the cables to the camera, Hertz will have trouble proving damages.

    • I bought a laptop with a forward facing camera that I never intend to use. It was just cheaper than getting a laptop that didn't have one.

      The same can be said for any off the shelf hardware. Sometime you are just stuck with what they make.

    • Either they're using an off-the-shelf device and it would take a custom build to get it without the camera, or it barely cost them any more to get the camera so they included it before deciding whether they were going to bother with that feature. In the end they decided to skip it because they'd have to show you call center employees, and that was recognized as a terrible idea.

    • You don't do something unless you have plans to use it. I call bullshit.

      I see you have little experience with decisionmaking in corporate America.

  • by redmid17 ( 1217076 ) on Monday March 16, 2015 @12:11PM (#49267857)
    I've gotten a few rental cars from Hertz with the GPS devices. You can only turn the brightness down a bit. They cannot be turned off. I did notice the camera, so I just tossed my jacket over over it. I just request a car without that device now. Besides I have phone GPS which frankly is easier to use.
    • I've gotten a few rental cars from Hertz with the GPS devices. You can only turn the brightness down a bit. They cannot be turned off. I did notice the camera, so I just tossed my jacket over over it. I just request a car without that device now. Besides I have phone GPS which frankly is easier to use.

      Seconded. I tried to use NeverLost once. UI was terrible, and the turn instructions were either late, or unclear, resulting in my getting...lost. Next rental, I had my Garmin with me. Worked like a charm.

    • by jratcliffe ( 208809 ) on Monday March 16, 2015 @12:14PM (#49267883)

      You can just turn them off. Button's on the side or top. Takes two seconds, although you do have to do it every time you start the car, which is kind of annoying.

    • I came here to say just this...I had one of these systems in a car I rented from Hertz in October. Aside from the fact that they wanted you to check in via video conference and the system was down yet the staff didn't want to help... And aside from the fact that I actually asked for a car without GPS... The most annoying part of the experience was this damn system. It had an off switch/brightness switch that was deactivated, and it was positioned in this particular car in such a manner that it completely bl
      • And I wondered about the camera. The staff said they thought maybe they would try unattended checkin right from the car. And I believe Hertz . That much that they have no intention of using the cameras. I'm just shocked there isn't a forward facing one too.
    • Besides I have phone GPS which frankly is easier to use.

      That is pretty said if they have developed an in-car device that is less useful than a phone. Why don't they just buy cars with GPS? Just about every car has it at least as an option these days. You get a much larger screen, no worrying about batteries dying, usually a much less dangerous UI than a phone or other separate GPS, and some models even have limited inertial navigation for when you go into tunnels or are traveling in mountainous areas.

  • by Iamthecheese ( 1264298 ) on Monday March 16, 2015 @12:11PM (#49267859)
    I'll just leave this [hertz.com] and this [dod.mil] here.
  • by bengoerz ( 581218 ) on Monday March 16, 2015 @12:12PM (#49267865)
    We had plans to launch the camera feature. At least, enough to actually bother paying for cameras to be installed. But (now that our intent has been covered in the media), we no longer have such plans.
    • lmftfy...

      No plans to do so

      Hertz said, "No current plans to do so." [emphasis mine]

      .
      There's nothing to say that plans to use the camera may appear later today, tomorrow, next week or next month. If Hertz had not intended to use the cameras, they simply would not have put them in the vehicles.

    • "That's for the hackers to figure out!"
  • by rogoshen1 ( 2922505 ) on Monday March 16, 2015 @12:16PM (#49267905)

    I just had a rental from them while my car was in the shop -- Chrysler 200 -- it had the annoying as feck GPS / nav unit.

    On vehicle start up, after about 5 seconds it would play a super annoying jingle followed by "Hertz!". No way to turn down the volume, disable it, or turn off the nav unit entirely.

    Starting the car.. I felt like Peter on office space preparing to get shocked by the door handle.

    Methinks that they went this route to stop people from going postal on that fucking thing, and destroying it. (After a week I was about to.)

    • by cyn1c77 ( 928549 )

      I just had a rental from them while my car was in the shop -- Chrysler 200 -- it had the annoying as feck GPS / nav unit.

      On vehicle start up, after about 5 seconds it would play a super annoying jingle followed by "Hertz!". No way to turn down the volume, disable it, or turn off the nav unit entirely.

      Starting the car.. I felt like Peter on office space preparing to get shocked by the door handle.

      Methinks that they went this route to stop people from going postal on that fucking thing, and destroying it. (After a week I was about to.)

      I always figured the GPS unit in the Hertz cars was a theft deterrent.

      When I rent from Hertz, I personally hate being in the same space as the GPS unit. It would definitely make me find another car to steal.

  • OnStar (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 16, 2015 @12:17PM (#49267913)

    Do you recall OnStar? They would let the FBI listen in on car conversations without the passengers being aware.

    http://subliminalnews.com/archives/000119.php

    Of course they would NEVER use these, no way, go about your business citizen.

  • What? Then rental cars? We don't plan on using them either now.
  • Use PostIt notes to cover the camera lens, until _you_ chose to allow yourself to be video-ed.

    • by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Monday March 16, 2015 @01:03PM (#49268309)

      I have an evil-genius 2-step plan on how to fight this.

      first, you need to have a small a/v player. hey, smart phones can play audio and video! now, we need a reducer so that we can 'pipe' the video into the camera, optically, to create the illusion that the car is empty (or in any state we want). easy to pipe in audio, simply by putting the phone spkr near the mic.

      2nd part of the plan is to edit the contract (adding a section) that says you may, at your option, provide 'performance art' inside the car. something to that effect.

      now that you've set it up, have some fun! what could you record that would be great for playback, for them to see? fake a murder? fake a corporate take-over? fake a plot of some kind? some other kind of intentional mis-direction?

      you already covered yourself by the performance-art clause. you can laugh it off when you sign their contract and just make a joke about the camera. if done properly, they won't know what you have in mind.

      the rest, as they say: 'hillarity will ensue'.

      and unless its illegal (its not) to pipe in any video stream you want in front of a spycam, you can do this and mess with their data collection while having some well-earned laughs at their expense.

  • by EmperorOfCanada ( 1332175 ) on Monday March 16, 2015 @12:32PM (#49268049)
    I love these MBA types who come up with these pretty much psychopathic ways to make a few extra bucks and don't realize that people will have a violently negative reaction.

    I call this spreadsheet thinking; that is where a person has a spreadsheet showing the millions of car rentals and then adds a new line item where they make a few extra pennies per rental and it makes the bottom line go up by a nice jump. Then the MBAs give each other nice bonuses based upon this "brilliant" plan. What they don't have is a line item where their customers will actually pay more to use a different rental company that doesn't have cameras in their cars. The MBAs will just call them a few "irrational" actors who need to "get a life". Then when the media gets a hold of this they will say that "It was blown out of proportion" and eventually they will retreat saying that they need to "reposition" the technology.

    The lesson the company won't learn is to stop hiring psychopathic MBAs.
    • by dcw3 ( 649211 )

      Do you really think they give a shit, when 99%+ will not care, and the overall impact still is in their favor? Or, when all of the other rental companies pile on, and you have no other options, will you boycott them all?

      For the record, I'm against this move, and would likely stick electrical tape over any camera.

  • There's probably lots of things certain people won't do with a camera pointed at them, even if it's supposedly disabled. This will probably end up saving them some money on hijinks related car damage.

  • Cars don't stay in a rental fleet very long. If they are installing them today they must be looking at activating them in about a year; by then the entire fleet will have them installed.
  • Not like there aren't competitors, who I avail myself of at all times. I made a mistake recently of attempting to book a car through them. Didn't process and there was no car for me at the other end. I found someone else to rent from, and haven't regretted not even considering them for many years.

    • by Obfuscant ( 592200 ) on Monday March 16, 2015 @02:38PM (#49269033)

      Not like there aren't competitors, who I avail myself of at all times.

      The car rental universe is going the way of broadband internet, don't you know? There are three major companies now operating under several names each. Like: [independenttraveler.com]

      - Avis owns Budget and Zipcar

      - Hertz owns Advantage, Dollar and Thrifty

      - Enterprise owns Alamo and National

      All told, these three companies own 94% of the car rental industry in America.

      If you want to avoid one company, you need to know all the players and who they play for.

      • by HBI ( 604924 )

        I knew about the Alamo/National relationship but not the rest. Educational. Thank you.

  • by sunking2 ( 521698 ) on Monday March 16, 2015 @12:56PM (#49268255)
    "This week I got an angry email from a friend who had just rented a car from Hertz: “Did you know Hertz is putting cameras in rental cars!? This is bullsh*t. I wonder if it says they can tape me in my Hertz contract.” He sent along this photo of a camera peeping at him from out of his “NeverLost,” a navigational device that the company has started putting in many of its cars:"

    Here's a crazy idea, read the contract you signed.
  • This was in a country where there was tempting, illegal offroad driving.
  • It isn't expensive to start rolling out as part of the new generation of Neverlost hardware. Eventually they'll check on who's driving ("You only paid for one driver and signed for one insurance coverage, but we see that both of you were driving..."), once their lawyers have finished changing the microprint that nobody reads before they sign.
  • Have sex.
    Unless you are planning on becoming a pr0n star.

  • Rental agencies need to think in terms of simplifying. Automobile dashboards already have far too much frivolous crap. That's bad enough if you own the car and can spend 15 or 20 minutes learning everything, but it's a real hazard for a car you've only been driving for 10 minutes when you realize you can't turn off heated seats or turn on rear window defrost. The last car I rented had a mute button but no way to turn off the radio (really - I pulled over and spent five minutes reading the owner's manual

  • The complete exterior of every rental car being checked out should be photographed in high resolution, so that if damage is reported on checkin, the check-out record can be compared. Naturally, a time-stamped copy of the checkout photos should be emailed to the customer right after being taken. A damage assessment would legally be made if and only if the checkout images clearly showed no damage at that location.

    Up to now the customer has been responsible to taking checkout photos, but what that has led to i

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