I Always Feel Like Somebody’s Watching Me

Here in the northeast/midatlantic, we have an automatic toll collection system known as E-Z Pass:

E-ZPass® is an electronic toll collection system, which takes cash, coins and toll tickets out of the toll collection process. Instead, drivers establish an account, prepay tolls and attach a small electronic device to their vehicles. Tolls are automatically deducted from the prepaid account as an E-ZPass® customer passes through the toll lane.

I’ve used the E-Z Pass system since its inception, and cannot envision myself sitting on line to pay a toll ever again.  In that regard, it is a godsend.

I have, however, often wondered when law enforcement might begin to use the E-Z Pass system to target speeders.  Say, for example you enter an E-Z Pass enabled highway at Point X and exit the highway at Point Y.  The distance between Point X and Point Y is 80 miles, but you traveled that distance in only an hour.  Could be a problem, as the E-Z Pass system knows when and where you entered and when and where you exited.  This seems to me like a no-brainer for law enforcement — and it’s indisputable (absent mechanical error) that you averaged 80 MPH.

And, indeed, as I poked around the interwebs today, I came across the following Orwellian Q & A at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (emphasis in the answer is mine).  It appears that point-to-point is, in fact, becoming a reality (via camera now, perhaps via systems like E-Z Pass soon) and, even scarier, there is another system being examined that could work to remotely slow your vehicle down:

21. Are there other technologies that could aid in enforcing speed limits in both urban and suburban areas?

Two emerging technologies are being used to enforce speed limits. Intelligent speed adaptation links a position of the traveling vehicle via Global Positioning System (GPS) technology and computerized maps with speed limits to determine if the vehicle is speeding. The system may work as an advisory system for the driver or an intervention system that automatically reduces the vehicle’s speed to comply with the speed limit. Point-to-point speed camera technology records the time it takes a vehicle to travel between two camera locations to compute an average speed and compare it to the posted speed limit. This system uses optical recognition technology to match the two photographed vehicle license plates. Point-to-point speed cameras are being used to enforce the speed limit on the Hume Freeway in Victoria, Australia. In the UK, point-to-point speed camera systems are known as “Distributed Average Speed” camera systems and have received government approval.

Scary stuff.

On a somewhat related note, I’ve read several stories about GPS-enabled trucks hitting overpasses because the drivers were navigating via the device without regard for the limitations of the roadways (which are always posted) that were being suggested.  It happens in my neck of the woods fairly frequently (many of the roads and overpasses are ancient), and GPS-navigation is usually at the root of the problem.  Unintended consequences.

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