By on November 12, 2010

George Orwell said it would happen in 1984, but better late than never. The European Commission decided that from 2013 on, every new car sold in the EU must have a system called eCall. What is eCall? Think of it as a government-mandated OnStar. If your car crashes, eCall will automatically send an S.O.S.  to emergency centers. It will send your GPS-derived coordinates, the number of people on board, impact sensor data, airbag deployment and other data which probably only the EU and the carmakers know.

eCall is for the common good, of course. Supposedly, it will cut the number of people who die on Europe’s roads in half, just like that. Automobilwoche [sub] reports that the number of seriously injured will be reduced by 15 percent. (With a black box in the car? That squawks after you got hit or did hit something? Interesting) The system will save €26b, prognosticates a study.

Unsaid, but inevitable: It will make some people rich. Most likely the electronics manufacturer NXP, who offers a module the size of a coin that can easily be integrated into on-board systems.

Of course it’s not just there to summon help. Systems like these are a juicy invitation for other uses. Wikipedia prognosticates that “once in active deployment, other telematic services are expected to explode such as route advisories and traffic information.”

A government mandated system can also tell the mandating governments where their citizens are. It opens the way to be-taxed-as-you go on a European level. Speeding tickets? No problem. Nothing is more precise that GPS when it comes to speed. With a permanent on-line connection, the ticket can be deducted from your bank account before you even have arrived.

They will emphatically deny that any of that kind is planned. Just wait.

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37 Comments on “Mandatory As Of 2013: A Snitch In Every Car...”


  • avatar
    philadlj

    Can we skip all these unpleasant Orwellian advances in technology and concentrate instead on flying cars, transporter technology, cancer cures, and faster-than-light propulsion? Pretty please?

  • avatar
    ash78

    Sounds like the next step beyond mandating brightly colored vests and warning triangles, something the US has never known (heck, a large number of states have no form of vehicle inspection, either, but that’s a different rant).
     
    In the overall scheme of Big Brother, this one sounds like it should do more good than harm IF AND ONLY IF it’s used for its intended purposes–and that’s the key. Many of us voluntarily offer up our whereabouts and habits via credit cards, cell phones, facebook/foursquare, etc. But naturally we don’t want that forced upon us, especially those of us who try to avoid those voluntary provisions of info.

  • avatar
    Stingray

    FAIL. Will that rubbish be removable from the cars?
     
    I’m starting to think that keeping that old beater is a good idea. Powertrain may be updated from time to time to keep pollution checked

  • avatar
    92golf

    I know it’s an overused phrase but does the term “slippery slope” come to mind?

    I agree with ash78, it may do good if that’s all it’s used for.

    But of course that won’t be all it’s used for, because some bright spark will decide that it can do all kinds of other things, so they might as well do them as well. Because it’s in the best interests of the public, don’t you know!

    And just thinking about it makes my grumpiness level go up a notch.

    But it’s Friday, and it’s sunny outside so I’ll focus on that instead.

  • avatar
    John Fritz

    So what sort of draconian punishment awaits those anti-statist miscreants who dare tamper with the state-mandated tattler? No mention of that anywhere? I’m disappointed.

  • avatar
    FleetofWheel

    Eventually, your driving patterns will be matched against two algorithms:
    1) Aggressive driving
    2) Social and energy efficiency

    You’ll see helpful reminders via the in-dash screen that your route is served by public transportation alternatives or delivery services.
    ‘Smart’ fees imposed instantly, as noted by Bertel, not only for fines but also driving in congested city centers or simply driving alone.

    Pleasure driving is not part of the efficient progressive future.

  • avatar
    roverv8i

    While I do not disagree with most of the above comments lets not forget about a possible future of robocars were all of this will be true anyway.  So, maybe it is better to see some of these monitoring technologies make their way into cars now so we can work through these issues before we go whole hog with robocars.  The more we don’t do things for our self the more everyone will know your business.  How many people (middle class) have a maid service come in a few times of the month now days.  Think how much info they have on your movements and what great things you have stashed in your house!

  • avatar
    Advance_92

    The old ‘big brother’ technologies have been around for decades.  Back when I used to ride with my parents on the Pennsylvania Turnpike it would have been easy to issue tickets to just about everyone.  All the booth operator at your exit would need to do is look at the time and location you got on the turnpike and compare it to the current time.  When the speed limit was 55 it would have been easy to make a fortune.

    Even today there’s a lot more information about anything you buy with a credit card, view with a web browser or shop for at the supermarket.  All of this is easier to mine for information than your car telemetries, with the same or greater potentials for abuse.  And, of course, if you drive on a tollway now your plates are automatically scanned at each booth.

    It’s not the technology that’s the problem; it’s the will to abuse it.  Rather than oppose something because of what could go wrong, why not instead put in specific limits on what can be done, like we used to have in regards to wiretapping and privacy from GPS tracking placed on us, or proving who’s at the wheel when a red light camera takes a picture.  If there’s no will to enforce privacy, a lack of on board telemetry that could help in an accident isn’t going to save you from big brother.

    • 0 avatar
      FleetofWheel

      Agreed, we are not against the technology per se and might even opt to install the tracker in our own cars for our own private, car geek telemetry use.
       
      Giving up further levels of privacy just because credit cards and cell phones exist makes as much sense as saying lets do away with requiring search warrants/probable cause since police have had door breaching devices for decades.
       
      The tech tools are good but need to be strictly limited in their use.

    • 0 avatar
      92golf

      Good thoughts, I agree about the will to abuse the technology being the larger problem.

      The question then becomes “how do you enforce any legislative limitations placed on the technology?”.

    • 0 avatar
      V572625694

      The solution is easy enough:  a law saying data about you belongs to you, and only to you. If Visa wants your SSAN before they give you a credit card, that’s your choice as to whether the benefit is worth the loss of privacy–which is more or less the right deal now. But the new wrinkle would be this:   Visa couldn’t sell or give away information about what you buy, what you return, your income, what other Web sites you visit, or any other information about you to anyone else unless you gave them permission. And the government couldn’t get that information without a court-ordered warrant.
      All this would be buried deep in the 3-point gray type of the contract agreement. It may already be there, who knows?

    • 0 avatar
      darkwing

      V5…: +1

  • avatar
    Amendment X

    Technology and freedom are opposing concepts.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      I fail to understand how fire, the light bulb, the washing machine, the car, etc. infringed anyone’s liberty.

    • 0 avatar
      Amendment X

      As man’s ability to solve problems gets better (technology), that ability is inevitably applied to ALL problems. The greater the technological intricacy, the more complex our systems to deal with it. Complexity creates further restrictions on freedoms and it leads to an overall loss of it.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    I see a great opportunity for hackers, here . . .  ;-)
    Seriously, though, are there any statistics — especially in Europe, which is densely populated — that support the idea that people in car crashes experience significant delays from emergency responders because of a delay in notifying those responders?
    With everyone having mobile phones, I have a hard time accepting that idea.  Someone sees a car crash, they’re going to call.
    In the US, which has some pretty open and deserted roads, especially in the West, I could imagine it might be a slight problem.
    And, regarding delays, how significant is a delay caused by a delay in notification vs. a delay caused by the emergency responders getting lost, having to work through heavy traffic to reach the scene, or just not being available at that moment (requiring a team from a more distant location to respond to the call?
    The justification for this active vehicle tracking and monitoring sounds paper-thin to me, which leads me to suspect other, less benign, uses of this technology: such as automatic speeding citations and the ability to track the movements of large numbers of citizens. 
    Sure, carrying a cell phone makes you trackable.  But if you don’t want to be tracked, you can leave the phone at home or power it down.
    It’s a little hard to do that with a car.

  • avatar
    RatherRipped

    U.S. states, especially NY, will be at the ready for this speeding citation bonanza. They’re probably already pondering special fees and surcharges to enhance the coming windfall.

  • avatar
    fredtal

    It’s a computer/electronic device it can be hacked and disabled. 

  • avatar
    carve

    I think a system like this would be somewhat useful for emergency response, and VERY useful if it results in a networked navigations system, able to instantly detect congestion and route cars around it.  I wouldn’t even mind if blackbox data (speed, steering angle, brake force, etc.) was used by the manufatrurers to make cars safer.

    That said, the data should not be available to used against you.  You should be able to basically plead the fifth and not incriminate yourself.

  • avatar
    Mr. Gray

    I’ve been predicting this would happen. The difference here in America is that instead of a government mandate, the system will be marketed to us through agressive, fear-based advertisement, until it comes standard on every car and integrated into the car’s computer.

    I’m glad that someone besides me has thought about the automated speeding ticket scenario. Here in Washington State, the public recently voted down critical taxes (that would only have affected the richest 1% of us), leaving the government with a $4 billion budget deficit. The state will get its money one way or another. Hassling motorists seems like a convenient solution, and the in-car GPS is a perfect method.

    Thanks for helping to suck the joy out of my driving experience, ignorant public.

    • 0 avatar
      darkwing

      How dare they not support the confiscation of someone else’s income to support overpaid government workers and bloated unions? Torches and pitchforks, I say!
      I’m sure the state treasury wouldn’t mind if you cut them a check for your fair share — lead by example.

  • avatar
    MrDot

    It’s going to be great when the insurance companies get hold of this information as well.

  • avatar
    kkt

    MarcKyle64:  I’d suggest a mid 60s VW. Why?  The six volt electrical system.  It would be impossible to fit a 12 volt e-Nanny to it.
    Impossible, except that someone invented the transformer.
    Lots of potential for misuse.  Yet it would be very nice to have a clue who the hit and run driver was, etc.
     

    • 0 avatar
      Kendahl

      Transformers only work on AC; this is DC. There are several ways to build a 6 VDC to 12 VDC converter. However, there are so few cars with 6 volt systems remaining on the road that I doubt anyone would make the effort.
       
      Also, I doubt that there would be a requirement to retrofit pre-2013 cars. Therefore, buy a 2012 or earlier and take good care of it.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    IF, IF, IF, IF, IF………………..

    All noble thoughts, but remember, the world has changed after 9/11 and the governments of the Western world, at least, will take advantage of each and every opportunity to track/spy/monitor as many aspects of our movements as possible, all in the name of “terrorism”, and, to a lesser extent, crime. Winston Smith in 1984‘s world just had to worry about two-way “telescreens” and hidden microphones. Remember, the invention of the airplane was seen as a great thing until someone decided to drop bombs from it and mount machine guns on it, oh, and yes, use it as a flying missile. That was just the excuse needed. Welcome to our world!

    Again, I offer some closing words: “It was a bright, cold day in April and the the clocks were striking thirteen.”

    Not a very pretty picture, but life still can be enjoyable if one sets their mind to it!

  • avatar
    Darkhorse

    Ray “The Hood” LaHood must be drooling over this.

  • avatar
    mcs

    Nothing is more precise that GPS when it comes to speed.

    If that’s true, I’ve got a GPS track in my archives that says I exceeded the speed of sound on my bicycle and I now hold the human powered vehicle speed record. You can get bad readings that can place your location a substantial distance from your actual location. When a better reading comes through, the device assumes you actually traversed the distance between the locations and will report the speed the location change occurred. That’s how I managed to clock close to 800 mph on my bike with my GPS. Good thing my device wasn’t monitored – it was a 35 zone and the fine would have been really nasty.

  • avatar
    timlocke

    At least in the USA  there would be a chance, if 1,000,000 or so people wrote to their Senators that such a device and such a law would never be passed. In the EU and Canada the governments are not responsive to public input.

  • avatar
    ixim

    Funny, nobody has mentioned the little black boxes already installed on [all?] new cars that record various data [speed, braking, direction, pedal position, etc.] every few moments; to be evaluated by the manufacturer in the event of an accident. Not to mention services like OnStar, which already know a vehicle’s location and monitor some aspects of engine, which we PAY for! Law enforcement agencies and insurance companies routinely try to access these data for their own purposes.  Add GPS and an internet connection to these gadgets [a very inexpensive thing to do these days], and you’ll have a real Big Brother threat.

    • 0 avatar
      LimpWristedLiberal

      My thoughts exactly.  Big Brother is already in the Japanese GT-R.  Supposedly the navigation system can recognize racetracks and will grant you the privilege to eliminate the speed limiter accordingly.
      http://www.autoblog.com/2008/02/07/nissan-gt-r-cant-take-aftermarket-wheels-unapproved-race-track/2

  • avatar
    Bill Wade

    Mr. Gray
    November 12th, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    I’ve been predicting this would happen. The difference here in America is that instead of a government mandate, the system will be marketed to us through agressive, fear-based advertisement, until it comes standard on every car and integrated into the car’s computer.
    I’m glad that someone besides me has thought about the automated speeding ticket scenario. Here in Washington State, the public recently voted down critical taxes (that would only have affected the richest 1% of us), leaving the government with a $4 billion budget deficit. The state will get its money one way or another. Hassling motorists seems like a convenient solution, and the in-car GPS is a perfect method.
    Thanks for helping to suck the joy out of my driving experience, ignorant public.
    ——————————————————————————————————————–
     
    That hard to cut spending, eh?

  • avatar
    ixim

    Very funny, limpwrist. We all have differing calls as to where loss of privacy goes too far. I believe the European proposal described here does just that. I have no problem with the current, limited use of the black boxes. But, the possibilities for abuse always exist. FWIW, I believe our system will limit excessive use of these and other, unimagined technologies, because we citizens pay attention.


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