European nations have a long history of conquering and being conquered. Countless battles have been waged by people and nations in the name of territory, freedom or control. But are people any safer, freer or more secure than they used to be? Let’s not let the people using technology to track, control and legislate behavior answer the question for us.
You may have heard about a recent proposal in Europe that would use vehicle technology and satellites to put the brakes on speeders – literally by putting the brakes on.
The technology would work by using GPS to track a vehicle’s location and compare the vehicle’s speed to the posted speed limit. Once the system senses a speeder, it would alert the driver with a dash light or audible beep. If no action is taken, or if the speed is too far above the limit, the system could actually apply the brakes and slow the vehicle down.
The commission proposing this approach believes it would put a serious dent in the 28,000 vehicle-related deaths each year in the European Union.
In my opinion, this proposal could also put a serious dent in a lot of vehicles.
Think about it. Let’s say you’re driving at approximately the speed limit, and you come up on a slower-moving vehicle. This might be a commercial vehicle that recently entered the highway or is getting up to speed. Perhaps it’s a vehicle that is already speed-limited via its own computer at or below the flow of traffic.
You decide to pass the vehicle, and as you get into the passing lane and accelerate, this so called safety technology cuts your engine power or actually puts your brakes on for you.
We hate to even think of what could happen. A spokesman for the Automobile Association in Britain was quoted in one article as saying: “If you were overtaking a tractor and suddenly needed to accelerate to avoid a head-on collision, you would not be able to.”
This is serious business, not just from a safety standpoint but also because the tracking methods infringe on personal privacy.
Ideas like this are becoming more prevalent, and not just in Europe.
The computers in all modern vehicles can be set to cap our speed, maintain distances from the vehicle ahead of us, alert us to objects in the roadway, and brake without us even touching the pedals.
The safety groups and policymakers will tell us these technologies are about safety, but does that apply to every single case? By preventing one type of maneuver, the technology creates another, and decreases a driver’s ability to manually and defensively control the vehicle.
At some point, a driver still has to drive the vehicle and has an obligation to do it safely. We should be training drivers, educating people about the vehicles that share the roadways and enforcing existing traffic laws instead of relying on a technological fix to control behavior.
What happens when the technology fails to save a life or actually leads to someone’s death?
Paraphrasing Benjamin Franklin, if you sacrifice liberty for security you deserve neither and lose both.