Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Satellite control of cars

This is of course insane.

Drivers could have their speed controlled by satellite to stop them from breaking the limit following a Government trial of new technology.

Cars fitted with the system would have their speed automatically monitored by satellites, which would also be programmed with the speed limits for different roads.

The problems range from the merely technical through the conceptual to the civil liberties implications and beyond.

To start with, do we actually believe that the government is competent to draw up a database of all the roads in the country with all of the relevant speed limits on it? Without those little stretches of motorway marked as being in a 20 mph limit by mistake? Anyone?

The stronger version of the system would actually make it impossible for you to break the speed limit. The system would control the fuel flow in your car to as to stop you leadfooting it. But there are times when you both need and want to break said limit: for example, imagine you've been a little silly in trying to overtake. You've got two choices. Break the speed limit to complete the manouvre or get creamed by that oncoming lorry. This system would ensure you get creamed, wouldn't it?

Of course the major complaints are that firstly this is just a stalking horse for road pricing. The second that, guess what? the EU is involved.

Because of the Galileo satellite system of course. Firstly this was to be built by private industry, to provide a European version of the GPS system. When it was obvious that trying to charge for something that others simply give away wasn't going to work the private backers pulled out.

We taxpayers were forced to step in (and I think I'm right in saying that until the Lisbon Treaty passes, the Commission actually has no legal right to spend the money this way) and start paying for it. But still no one can work out what to use the system for. Except that it's already been agreed that any EU nation wanting to run a satellite based road management system must use the Galileo system to do so.

So what we've really got is people desperately dreaming up ways to make use of a satellite system that we don't want but already have to pay for.

Be simpler just to leave them all to it and go our own sweet way, wouldn't it?

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