The Internet of Roads

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They used to say the walls have ears. Soon, the road will have brains. Well, they’ll be connected to one brain – not yours.

They call it “smart pavement.” Everything is smart these days. Meaning, won’t leave you alone, is peremptory, controlling and most of all, nudging.

Doing what you want to do in a car especially is so 1990s.

So instead of just asphalt, it’ll be asphalt-plus. Sensors and receiver/transmitters embedded in the pavement – like chocolate chips in cookie dough – spaced at regular intervals. These will communicate with your also-“smart” car (you can’t buy a new car that isn’t “smart”) and your “smart” car will communicate with them.

You can image what they will talk about.

But you won’t be included in the conversation.

The Denver Post reported the other day that Colorado will be the first state to embed these little brains (and eyes and ears) in the pavement, ostensibly to “identify and warn drivers of hazardous conditions and sharp curves,” probably via the car’s LCD touchscreen – which in many new cars already helpfully lets you know when you’re speeding via an angry red icon, as well as other such things.

New cars – the “smart” ones, which is all of them – also keep track of your buckling-up habits and the smartest ones also know who you’re talking to on your phone, what you’re talking about and what you’re listening to on the radio, too.

You may see where this is going. . .

The “smart pavement” will in the first place let them know you’re speeding. Maybe even that you’re accelerating “too fast” for saaaaaaaaafety. Slow down – it’s no longer a suggestion.

That you just changed lanes; took Exit 35a.

Where you are headed.

All duly noted, recorded and collated.

Are you driving the King’s highway on out-of-date tags? A “check engine” light on? Naughty naughty! The “smart” road could – and likely, will – instruct your “smart” car to pull over, turn itself off and await the impound truck.

And – in the probably not-far future – they will know you’re driving on the days – or at times of the day – you’re not allowed to. Many areas already have restricted HOV – High Occupancy Vehicle – lanes upon which only cars with a certain number of people on board may tread; the same could just as easily be applied to favor electric cars or cars that are sufficiently “efficient” or don’t emit “too much” C02 and so pass muster with the government bureaucrats who run the roads we paid for.

But it goes deeper than just the usual petty harassment over traffic ukase. They want – cue Iron Maiden’s song, The Prisoner (also a classic ’60s TV series) – information. About everything.

In order not just to control, but to catalog and sell.

Soon – already – targeted ads will be piped into your car, via the LCD touchscreen and the 4G in-car WiFi they’ve been including, so generously, as standard equipment in the latest new cars. GM is the leader here, but the rest will follow. How could they resist? A captive audience of millions, ready to “learn more” about whatever their “partners” are piping into the car via the in-car TeeVee.

Low on gas? The “smart” car knows and so does the “smart” road. Faster than you can say ExxonMobile, a helpful “message” appears, nudging you toward the nearest “partner” station.

Like country music? Your “smart” car knows that, too – and, what do you know? There’s a country store just up ahead!

Just to give you some idea. The possibilities are almost limitless. And of course, we won’t have any choice.

Portrait of a Technocrat.

The system – the grid being erected – is the technocratic wet dream for the future. Total real-time management. It will be a future in which privacy – and control – over not merely our cars but our lives will be rendered as functionally obsolete as the necessity of armed government workers being obliged to articulate probable cause prior to a search, obtain a warrant before a wiretap or endure the bother of needing to convict you of a crime before relieving you of your property.

“Data is the new asphalt of transportation,” croaks Peter Kozinski, who is the head technocrat of the Colorado Department of Transportation’s RoadX division, which is implementing the system.

It’s a big bucks thing, too – the bucks coming out of our pockets, as usual. The “industry” – as it’s styled – already generates some $17 billion in wealth-transferred revenue; funds extracted by unwilling victims and used to fund something the victims never asked for and probably don’t want.

Remember: Nobody – not a single person – voted for this. Unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats simply decided – and their decision will be paid for with the money (and privacy and liberty) of those who never had a chance to offer an opinion on the subject.

Probably because the vote – had it been put to one – would not have gone the way  the technocrats desired.

Ergo the “nudge.”

. . .

Got a question about cars – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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26 COMMENTS

    • Hi Free,

      At some point, when I have the necessary gumption, I plan to address this topic. I think I’ll do so introspectively; ask myself why I don’t. Most of the answers are obvious – but some less so. Bear with…

    • I can’t be the only one that is basically just “dropping out” like an old hippie from the Sixties.

      I drive old cars and trucks, I don’t fly anymore, and I don’t even go to town unless I have to.

      So what are we supposed to do? Shoot up an airport to protest TSA ???????????

      • Same here. I drive an old car, don’t fly, don’t go into debt – basically just don’t participate in the mainstream to the extent possible. One problem though is that the town has come to me in my formerly rural, middle-of-nowhere area and I’m not in a position to relocate unless it’s into a van down by the river scenario.

        Direct confrontation is not going to work since they have virtually infinite resources and firepower on their side. Flying under the radar to the extent possible is probably the best thing to do. That becomes more difficult as more pervasive surveillance technologies are deployed and the war on cash makes more inroads. What’s needed are countermeasures. Daily life more and more resembles a bad science-fiction novel from the 1950s. (There used to be a common saying amongst the proles in the United States – “It can’t happen here.” I have not heard anyone say that in a very long time.)

  1. So Eric, I imagine that for this to work, cars must have a certain minimum amount of built in techno features. Can you give us an estimate of what that minimum might be?

    Hands free phone capacity? Nav system? Whatever that Lojack alike atrocity is called, that has been in GM products for 5+ years? Wifi hotspot? What’s your best guess?

    Obviously there eventually will be regulations in place to force all lower tech cars off the road. But no need to rush into it. Best to avoid this system as long as possible.

    Thanks.

    • Hi Mike,

      Yes, a minimum will be necessary – and most cars already have most of the pieces. For example, the ability to be “connected” – that is de facto standard and has been for several years. The next piece is physical control of the car’s functions by external means. Many cars already have that capability, or elements of it. For example, the 2019 Jetta I have this week has semi-automated steering, automated emergency braking and drive by wire throttle – both of which can be controlled (via “connectedness”) externally.

      They – the OEMs – are bum-rushing this stuff as hard as the government. We are trapped in a pincer movement. I strongly suspect that older cars without the necessary tech will not be outlawed, per se. Rather, they will be attrited out of circulation.

      One way this will happen is via the fuel. See my piece of about two weeks ago in re 15-plus percent ethanol. That is one way. Another way is via economically unrepairable design – already in effect for cars built after about 2005 or so. Cars built since the are designed to be throw-aways after they reach 10-12 years old or so. This process is accelerating. The stuff coming off the lines today will probably be economically unrepairable by ten years old. Wait and see. No one is going to spend $5,000 on a ten speed transmission for a 10-year-old Accord with a retail value of $8,000. Etc.

      • Interesting you mention all of this. I have noticed a dramatic increase in used car prices over the last 3-4 years. Used cars that sold for $7000 three years ago are selling for $10,000 for cars the same age. Mileage on older vehicles is way up as well. I believe that new cars that are prohibitively expensive today will continue to push the prices of older cars up, even those with 8 -10 speed transmissions.

        • Hi Swamp,

          Yes, I am seeing this as well. I plan to write an article about it. Now is a very good time to buy a vehicle that doesn’t have automated emergency braking, Lane Keep Assist and other such saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety technology.

          Because within a very short time – probably three years at the most – it will no longer be possible to buy a new car without those “features” and more besides.

  2. Colorado is booming right now. There’s a lot of pressure to expand and build new roads, especially in the front range (the stretch of land that butts against the eastern side of the Rockies). Of course many of the people moving here came from California, Washington (both DC and state of) and Texas. The only problem is for some reason there’s no money, despite all the new revenue from miles driven and vehicles registered. So the concept of a “smart highway” that keeps them from having to invest in real infrastructure projects that will really increase capacity sounds pretty nice. After all, there’s a fair bit of capacity that can be gained by squeezing a few more cars in. So if you’re comfortable with NASCAR spacing (but with idiot drivers instead of professional racers), you’ll be really happy with smartroads. Of course to counteract the idiocracy the brains have to come from somewhere, so why not the asphalt?

    • The Front Range is the new “Southern California”.

      Somehow, nobody can figure out that when six lanes bumper to bumper try to merge into four lanes that it ain’t gonna work very well.

        • No, I escaped to Montana 21 years ago! We were on the western slope and couldn’t stand it back then even.

          But I still have family (mother in a nursing home) and in-laws in Colorado Springs. Trying to limit to a couple trips per year, but it is torture driving south of Cheyenne.

          • Hi Tall!

            The carpetbagger tide is beginning to ooze into my neck of rural SW Virginia. I see The Signs of it everywhere. I had hoped I could quietly live my life here, but it may not be possible. The idea of having to pick up and start over defeats me. I have a few good friends here and love the area. But all it takes a spoonful of cac-ca to ruin a gallon of the best ice cream.

            • We’re about as rural as you can get here, without owning a working cattle ranch of 10K acres or more. But there is one of those almost right next door where we have permission to hike and ride horses. A few people try to commute to jobs in Billings but the bad roads pretty much wear them (and their vehicles!) out in a few years. The gas is the cheapest part. If I were to move again, I might try Wyoming?

  3. Taxes on everyone will increase. It’s not hard to envision how this will lead to older cars being taxed out of existence so smart cars will be forced on everyone.

    Prison Planet is already here in this country. To legally leave emigrate you now have to give up to the federal robbers a significant portion of whatever wealth they can identify you owning.

    If I believed I’d live a significant amount of time I’d see a “shithole” country in my future.

  4. Where is the money for this coming from? Most places can’t even afford to keep highways repaired or build enough lanes to handle the traffic of ten years ago.

    Our road isn’t even paved and probably never will be.

    • That was my first thought as well, where is the money for the installation even going to come from? That’s putting aside whatever long-term maintenance costs this will require. It sounds like a massive, expensive undertaking that will require almost continual roadwork to simply maintain; are they going to have to shut down roads every time a rainstorm causes electrical failures or communication interference causes peer-to-peer failures? I can’t imagine moving forward on this without a severe cost penalty.

      • Not every road will be modified, just the major thoroughfares one by one. Those with unequipped cars will be forbidden to drive on the smart roads; they’ll have to use inconvenient and slow ways of getting into and between certain cities.

        • And then maybe the people with the new “smart” cars won’t be able to drive out to the back roads in my neighborhood. Hooray – no more townies!

    • Ever notice how they always find money to expand control and management of the population? But for the few things almost everyone expects government to do they can’t find a nickel?

  5. It will help reduce traffic, be more safe, and free up the driver to do whatever he wants!

    -They will tell us, smiling

  6. Agent Smith from the Matrix said to Morpheus that humans ceased being the dominate species once humans stopped thinking for themselves and allowed machines to do for them.

    • Hi Hans,

      Indeed.

      With the caveat that we’re being herded like cattle by a handful of humans. The problem, then, is how to get the cattle to realize this – and gore the “cowboys.”

      • eric, the Stockholm Syndrome. One of the best quotes from Django that shows what slavery does over the long haul: Calvin Candie: This is Ben. He’s a old Joe that lived around here for a long time. And I do mean a long damn time. Old Ben here took care of my daddy and my daddy’s daddy, till he up and keeled over one day. Old Ben took care of me. Growing up the son of a huge plantation owner in Mississippi puts a white man in contact with a whole lot of black faces. I spent my whole life here right here in Candyland, surrounded by black faces. And seeing them every day, day in day out, I only had one question. Why don’t they kill us? Now right out there on that porch three times a week for fifty years, old Ben here would shave my daddy with a straight razor. Now if I was old Ben, I would have cut my daddy’s goddamn throat, and it wouldn’t have taken me no fifty years to do it neither. But he never did.

        That strategy has played out for more than 50 years and probably “because” Negroes have been discriminated against, other races and ethnicity’s are more “slavish” than the Negro and for no other reason than, for the most part, they’ve had a little more freedom but less and less over a longer time span.

        If this shit ever plays out where EVERYONE refuses to keep losing their freedoms it’s going to be a bloodbath unless those gun grabbers, including almost all politicians now including the “orange one”, get their way. Once guns have to go underground……….

        • Hey, 8SM,

          First off, great film reference.
          The problem with old hippies like you and me is that we are too old to provide much in the way of resistance and resistance has been bred out of a significant majority of the “college educated” among the milleneal generation…..I realize it’s selfish, but I don’t care…I thank the stars that I grew up where and when I did…..western civilization is committing suicide and I fully believe that humanity is headed toward another Dark Age, which will last one hell of a long time. Thankfully, I will be dead when it gets really bad. I do have some relatives who will suffer, but as the Buddha was alleged to have said, “It is our privilege to suffer”. Personally I don’t buy that crap, but lots of folks do. Have any of you folkd paid any attention to Jordan Peterson?

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