I just got some first-hand experience of what many of you soon will – speed limit “assist” – in plainer language, automated speed limit enforcer – which is a new feature (as these things are styled) of the new BMW I’m test driving this week.
This is the tech just mandated by the EU – to be installed in all new cars sold there by the 2022 model year – which tech is all-but-certain to be coming here, too – for reasons I’ve already written about at length but which come down to manufacturing considerations as much as political ones.
A third of all new cars are made by European companies (e.g., VW/Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Fiat/Alfa, Volvo, Jaguar/Land Rover) which means they’ll have to install the tech in their new cars – at least, the cars they build and sell in Europe. Since those cars are also sold here, it isn’t likely they’re going to make “Version A” for the home (European) market and “Version B” for here, even if the tech isn’t mandated here.
They will make one version – with the same tech. Just as DRLs – which were first mandated by Canada – became de facto standard here. It’s just easier for them to build cars one way rather than multiple ways.
The system isn’t merely a speed limiter.
It is a ride-along enforcer of the speed limit.
The difference being that instead of preventing you from going faster than “X” MPH, the system prevents you driving faster than whatever the speed limit happens to be – whether it’s 70 MPH or 15 MPH.
It works like a choke chain on your dog – and on the same principle.
When engaged, the car doesn’t exceed whatever the sign says. It reads the signs – or rather, it is aware of what the signage says (via GPS mapping) and prevents you from driving faster by electronic (and software) means.
Here’s where drive-by-wire throttle comes in.
Your right foot is no longer in control of the engine. The computer is. Your foot pushes down on the accelerator pedal and the deflection is parsed into code which is interpreted by the computer – which then decides how much acceleration it will allow.
Tie this in with real-time computer awareness of what the speed limit happens to be at any given moment.
And I just felt the future.
On the Blue Ridge Parkway – which I drive almost every day – the speed limit is 45. The BMW obeyed, even if I didn’t want to. Downward pressure on the “accelerator” pedal resulted in no further acceleration.
It is like a perpetual speed trap. Or will be, when this tech becomes as common as air bags – which only took a few years from the initial fatwa’ing.
Imagine it: Everyone driving suddenly slowly – permanently. Instead of a temporary pretending to obey an idiotic law for only as long as it takes to get out of sight of the armed government worker, the AGW is built into your car.
You never get out of his sight.
Or rather, his control.
For now, it is possible to override the “assist.” In the BMW, it can be turned off – kind of like the Telescreen in Inner Party member O’Brien’s office, which astonishes Outer Party member Winston Smith in Orwell’s 1984.
Or, you can “push through” the limiter – by applying more and more pressure on the accelerator. The computer eventually – grudgingly – gives way and the car is allowed to go faster than the speed limit.
It doesn’t require paranoia to envision what’s in store. Why should it ever be possible to break the law, it will be argued? We have the technology to prevent anyone from “speeding” – which is (ipso facto) “dangerous.”
“We want to start a conversation about whether car makers have the right or maybe even the obligation to install technology in cars that changes their driver’s behavior,” he said a few months ago.
Others will say so, too.
Including others who are “the government” – i.e., the people who wield power over the rest of us, via offices and regulations. These are the same people who post speed limits in the first place – and punish us for “violating” them (how a sign – or an arbitrary number – can be “violated” is an interesting topic for another time).
And bet your bippe – as my high school history teacher used to say – other aspects of our driving will be “assisted” as well.
Such as excessive acceleration “assist” – which is probably what it’ll be called. And cornering “assist” – whoa back, son.
Your lateral Gs are too high.
The end game here isn’t really speed limit – or acceleration – enforcement. Those are merely some of the tools being used to make driving as miserable as possible. In order to get us to stop driving.
This agenda – in play for at least a generation – ought to be as obvious a this point as an eight month tummy bulge is a clue about an impending birth.
Only the thing that’s about to be born isn’t reason for celebration.
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