I can’t drive (over) 55.

Canada is testing technlogy that will make it difficult or impossible to speed:

The system being tested by Transport Canada, the Canadian equivalent of the U.S. Department of Transportation, uses a global positioning satellite device installed in the car to monitor the car’s speed and position. If the car begins to significantly exceed the speed limit for the road on which it’s travelling the system responds by making it harder to depress the gas pedal, according to a story posted on the Toronto Globe and Mail’s Website.

This seems wrong on so many levels it’s hard to list them all. It is very much within a nebulous zone as far as privacy. It is a very troubling kind of search-and-seizure (with immediate sanctions). It vastly increases the power of the nanny state, all to add a negligible benefit. (Oooh! People will be driving no more than 25 in a 25 zone! That’s high on my priority list! We can catch terrorists later.)

Worse, I have to wonder about the inevitable mistakes that will creep in. What happens when a software bug turns the freeway into a 35 zone? And how will a population of hanicapped cars mesh with the population of unhanicapped cars?

Finally, this one-size-fits-all solution ignores the very real instances in which speeding is acceptable. The system leaves no room for the proverbial rush-to-the-hospital-she’s-having-a-baby. Other medical emergencies are likewise ignored. If my wife or child is bleeding in the back seat with a severe wound, or suffering a seizure, or burning with a 106 degree fever, you had better believe I’ll be speeding.

Maybe even worse, this opens some drivers up to be easier targets for criminal activity. If I’m driving a handicapped car in a rough part of town or a sparsely-used section of highway, I may be targeted by carjackers or worse, who will know that I can’t simply put pedal to the metal to escape them. If they drive old-fashioned un-handicapped cars (which can exceed the speed limit, while I can’t), then I’ll be easy prey. (Would I have a claim against the government?)

All in all, it seems like a change that introduces an awful lot of negatives, just to cut down on speeding.

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1 Response

  1. Bruce says:

    Kaimi, your list of negatives just sound like so many rationalizations to me. The privacy impact is probably the most troubling aspect, but it seems minimal, since it’s an automatic system, and although it could be used to track movement, it’s not really any worse than EZ-Pass.

    I also doubt implementation of this system comes at any significant cost to counterterrorist efforts.

    Your carjacking hypothetical goes more towards acceleration than speed. Most carjackings occur while a vehicle is stopped; accelerating beyond the speed at which a person can sprint (e.g., 10 mph) should be sufficient in most cases, and the system does not control acceleration.

    And the circumstances in which speeding is beneficial are extremely infrequent. In order to determine the value of this approach, you need to balance the .1/million times in which it is beneficial to speed against the thousands of fatalities per year caused by speeding vehicles. My guess is that the lives saved will more than outweigh the loss of the opportunity to drive like Natasha McElhone in “Ronin”.

    I suspect lots of people like to speed, and believe they can do so safely, and the prospect of automatic speed controls bothers them because it would mean no more speeding. In fact, implementation of the system might require some considerable fine-tuning of speed limits, not only by area but also by time of day; many roads are marked too low on the assumption that enforcement is difficult. But even if car speeds were set imperfectly low in most situations, the lives and fuel saved may very well outweigh the inconvenience.