Mandatory As Of 2013: A Snitch In Every Car

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt

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.

Bertel Schmitt
Bertel Schmitt

Bertel Schmitt comes back to journalism after taking a 35 year break in advertising and marketing. He ran and owned advertising agencies in Duesseldorf, Germany, and New York City. Volkswagen A.G. was Bertel's most important corporate account. Schmitt's advertising and marketing career touched many corners of the industry with a special focus on automotive products and services. Since 2004, he lives in Japan and China with his wife <a href=""> Tomoko </a>. Bertel Schmitt is a founding board member of the <a href=""> Offshore Super Series </a>, an American offshore powerboat racing organization. He is co-owner of the racing team Typhoon.

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  • Bill Wade Bill Wade on Nov 13, 2010

    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?

  • Ixim Ixim on Nov 14, 2010

    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.