Remember a few weeks back when I wrote about the ’14 Lincoln MKZ – and the creepy real-time updating “Speed Limit Currently Is” warning icon displayed in the gauge cluster? The way it knew whether you were “speeding”? The way the car slowed down without any input from you when it felt the need? (Read here for more about that.)
Now comes confirmation – via Europe – where it’s all ultimately headed. You’re not gonna like it. But don’t say I didn’t warn you:
The European Commission’s Mobility and Transport Department – which wields regulatory power over most of Western Europe’s roads – has put forth a proposal under the typically banal-bureaucratic-sounding rubric, Intelligent Speed Adaptation (ISA). It would use the technology I referenced in the MKZ write-up – which endows a car with the power to know the speed limit on any given road, updated continuously in real time via in car-cameras/ GPS – in conjunction with automated braking – to electronically prevent the car from ever being driven faster than the posted speed limit.
News story here.
The hard (and soft) ware would be made mandatory – and not only for new cars. Older cars that didn’t come with the technology from the factory would be required to submit to a retrofitting – at the expense of the owner, of course.
But the most ominous angle is the one not mentioned in any news story. It is, simply, that all cars more than a few years old would be banned from the road if this measure becomes law. Reason? They can’t be retrofitted. At least, not within economic reason.
For instance, if a vehicle does not have ABS – four-wheel ABS (many trucks, even fairly recent models, only have rear-wheel ABS) – it can’t be made to brake automatically, via computer control. The only way to “fix” that would be to gut and replace the factory-installed non-ABS brake system with an ABS system – and now we’re talking money. An ABS pump, wheel speed sensors at each wheel, specialized master cylinder and brake distribution box – plus all the necessary software to make it work – tied into a computer capable of governing the works (the factory unit may not be, in which case, a new, ABS-friendly computer would also be required).
You’d need to address throttle inputs – and that entails drive-by-wire, which most cars more than a few years old do not have. Ditto the GPS unit – necessary for the “real time” updating of speed limit data as you drive.
Holy mother! There is some money to be made.
And control to be had.
But here’s where it gets really clever: If a given vehicle does not have a computer at all, forget it. Such cars also can’t be controlled – at least, not without a wholesale re-engineering of their entire drivetrains at prohibitive cost. This means virtually all cars made before the early 1980s – and almost all motorcycles, for you bikers, made before the early 2000s – would be rendered illegal to operate. You might say: So what? That’s The EU, not the US. To which I’d reply: If only. What’s done in Europe first – everything from the Prussian government school model to the UK’s cameras everywhere – seems to be imitated here within a few years.
I have been ranting about this eventuality like a kind of automotive Savanarola for years now. Perhaps it is because, as an automotive journalist, I have become pretty good at noticing automotive trends before they become obvious to people outside the industry. The way the pieces are going to fit into the puzzle. One such piece of the puzzle is the fact that the car companies have gone completely corporate. They no longer cross swords with government. They might as well be an agency of the government. They have learned it is easier – and much more profitable – to anticipate what government will eventually mandate.
That way, instead of having to sweat, say, a competitor who does not force-feed its customers black box data recorders, they all get together and egg on the passage of a law requiring them to force-feed customers black box data recorders. GM tried to do do this with Daytime Running Lamps, too. And it is exactly how we’ll be force-fed things like mandatory in-car GPS, cameras that can “see” speed limit signs – and automatic throttle control/braking to force us to obey them.
The only way to counteract any of this is to challenge the basis of all of it. Not merely the idiocy that “speed” kills. That’s just Romper Room twaddle and everyone – Clovers excepted – knows it already. The more profound avenue of attack is to challenge the right of our would-be (and, increasingly, actual) controllers to control us in any way whatsoever, absent actual harm done to others – including most of all for our “safety” – which is none of their got-damned business.
When enough of us awaken to this – and get mad enough to insist that our right to be left in peace absent actual harm done to others be respected, that no other individual (or group of individuals) has any right to meddle in our affairs in any way whatsoever unless someone else has been harmed – then the problem will take care of itself.
Our task is to incite rage against any person – inside government or inside a corporation – who thinks he’s got the right to control/restrain/threaten his fellow man for any reason that’s not self-defense.
For his “safety” least of all.
Throw it in the Woods?
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