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A cop in your trucnk: mandatory GPS tracking for your car.
December 24, 2005 9:04 PM   Subscribe

Merry Christmas! Santa knows if you've been bad or good. The U.S. Department of Transportation wants to know where you're driving. Where you're driving, right this very minute, tracking you in real-time using GPS. If the GPS signal is obstructed, your car's engine will turn off, Citizen!
posted by orthogonality (97 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
DOT claims, this will allow taxes to be calibrated to road usage. Of course, a gasoline tax already does that.

But there's much more than just taxes at stake. DOT won't restrict government access to the data. Of course, cops never misuse government databases for personal stalking. And the government never singles out non-criminals for tracking. And government employees never use government data to blackmail or harass enemies. And besides, you have nothing to hide: you're as innocent as a fifteen year old girl! You never park near a strip club, a gay bar, a gun show, a mosque, or a political demonstration, right? Right? Well, you won't now, Citizen!

Don't worry citizen! You'll like being tracked by GPS; DOT plans to spend your tax dollars buying editorials to tell you you do! And real-time GPS tracking is much shinier than old-school Russian internal passports or Apartheid-era passbooks or other paper documents!
posted by orthogonality at 9:05 PM on December 24, 2005


Hey, a few things to keep in mind:

1. If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear from having the government monitor pretty much anything about you.

2. Any civil right (e.g., privacy) that is not specifically enumerated in the Constitution is assumed not to exist.

3. The government has a legitimate interest.

4. It's for your own good.

5. We're at war.


At least, I think those are the basic arguments going around right now...
posted by darkstar at 9:18 PM on December 24, 2005


Don't forget:

6. Constitutional amendments don't apply unless you're in criminal court.
posted by odinsdream at 9:20 PM on December 24, 2005


7. "9/11 changed everything! 9/11! 9/11! Terror! Fear! Eurasia! Eastasia! Perpetual war! 9/11! Terror!"

They hate us for our freedoms, so we've got to give those freedoms up!
posted by orthogonality at 9:24 PM on December 24, 2005


Add another sickening development to the pile.
posted by papakwanz at 9:24 PM on December 24, 2005


Well, it is now Christmas.

Merry Christmas everyone!
posted by caddis at 9:25 PM on December 24, 2005


Merry Christmas!


Oh, and...

#8. Clinton did it, too. Or he would have, given the opportunity.
posted by darkstar at 9:28 PM on December 24, 2005


I agree with the merry christmas part. Merry Christmas everyone!
posted by justgary at 9:30 PM on December 24, 2005


Merry Christmas. War is over.

Why can't they just put these GPS trackers in our skulls? Wouldn't that solve so many problems? I mean, just think if that girl in Cancun had been outfitted with a GPS brain chip! Or that girl abducted by the weird cultists!

You can thank me later.
posted by klangklangston at 9:36 PM on December 24, 2005


Happy Hanukkah to all the heretical Jews who proclaim the rabbi Joshua bar Joseph the Christ!
posted by orthogonality at 9:38 PM on December 24, 2005


So, we now have our fourth federal department advocating a warrantless surveillance program:

1. NSA wiretapping pretty much everybody,
2. DoD surveilling quakers and gay lawyers,
3. FBI and NEST sniffing Muslims,
and now...
4. USDOT hoping to GPS-track everyone's car.

Which leads me to ask three questions:

a. Who had DOT and December 25th in the pool?

b. When did we elect Snoopy Snooperson to be Emperor?

c. How long will it be until we learn than the US Department of Education is launching a program to have school nurses implant RFID chips into all 8th graders as part of their Civics class?
posted by darkstar at 9:40 PM on December 24, 2005


One of the things driving this is that, because of higher gas prices, revenues from gas taxes are declining a little already. And most everyone is projecting that as the price of gas goes up the gas tax revenues will continue to decline. Alternative fuels, electric-powered cars, transit, and other alternatives are going to increase. None of these currently have "user fees" attached to them as gasoline does and in many cases it is going to be difficult to add a user fee.

Most state depts. of transportation are already strapped for cash. So a decline in gas tax revenue is just what they didn't need.

All this means they are going to be desperately looking for some kind of a solution--as the gas tax becomes less & less a fair user fee, proportional to road use for almost all users, what will replace it?

(Not saying THIS is a good solution, BTW, just saying, there is a strong motivation to find SOME solution.)
posted by flug at 9:43 PM on December 24, 2005


One of the things driving this is that, because of higher gas prices, revenues from gas taxes are declining a little already.

...which...also means road usage is declining by exactly the same proportion...sooooo there's no problem.
posted by odinsdream at 9:46 PM on December 24, 2005


Wow. Anyone remember The Prisoner? The Village had a survilance system AND a vehicle disabling system that worked much like this would.
posted by JHarris at 9:49 PM on December 24, 2005


Reminds me of a Doonesbury strip from a while ago.
Reporter: Scott, about the continuing chaos in Iraq...
Scott: 9-11.
Reporter: Scott, with a half-trillion-dollar deficit, does Bush have...
Scott: 9-11.
Reporter: Scott, in regard to the ongoing gutting of our environmental laws...
Scott: 9-11.
Reporter: Uh... Scott, is 9-11 the answer to every question now?
Scott: Yes, it's 9-11, 24-7.
posted by Firas at 9:49 PM on December 24, 2005


Next up they'll ban bicycles and other forms of non-GPS trackable transport, or at least make you register your bicycle at the local government office after a thorough background check.
posted by Meridian at 9:51 PM on December 24, 2005


Cool, FASTPASS for everyone!

I hate pseudo-lawyers:
The Fourth Amendment provides no protection. The U.S. Supreme Court said in two cases, U.S. v. Knotts and U.S. v. Karo, that Americans have no reasonable expectation of privacy when they're driving on a public street.
See, this is the problem we've gotten into conflating personal privacy with specific protections from search & seizure afforded by the 4th.

The 4th should cover physical search, not amorphous "privacy" feelings. For that, we've got a 9th amendment right to be let the hell alone.

And I really hate this crap that just because the constitution doesn't prevent it the Executive can do it. Congress has great powers to grant and remove authorities to the Executive, especially where civil liberties are concerned.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 9:57 PM on December 24, 2005


Feliz Navidad, bitches.
posted by ph00dz at 10:01 PM on December 24, 2005


Imagine the day when you are looked on with suspician if you ride a bicycle or dissapear off the government radar for a day or two. It is inevitable that the survellience agencies will implement some form of abnormal or suspicious behavior spotting program (like banks already do with credit card transactions). Computer technology is increasing at an exponential rate making this more and more feasible at less and less cost. At some point it will become irresistable.

Anyone remember this video about ordering a pizza in a Total Surveillance Society? It was funny a year ago but maybe it doesn't seem so funny anymore.
posted by Meridian at 10:03 PM on December 24, 2005


DOT claims, this will allow taxes to be calibrated to road usage. Of course, a gasoline tax already does that.

Not really. Fuel efficiencies vary. I think what they're really worried about is hybrids. Hybrids use less gas for the same amount of driving, sending tax revenues down.

One of the things driving this is that, because of higher gas prices, revenues from gas taxes are declining a little already.

This is probably also a factor but could be alleviated by making gas taxes a sales tax, so as the price goes up so does the revenue collected per gallon.

In any case, GPS can't be used to track vehicles remotely in real-time anyway. GPS can only determine the location of the receiver; vehicles would thus have to periodically broadcast their location to terrestrial receivers for it to be any kind of "real-time." This would have to be based on existing cell phone infrastructure, probably GPRS or pager technology. As such, I doubt it will ever be extended to private vehicles; it would use a lot of capacity, and who would be paying for it?

However, I can certainly see GPRS "black boxes" being mandated in cars -- store the last few minutes' worth of GPS data, freeze collection when the airbags are triggered. This could help accident investigation a lot and would be reasonably supportable from a privacy standpoint.
posted by kindall at 10:08 PM on December 24, 2005


The idea that we need to track every movement of every car in order to 'calibrate road taxes' is absolutly insane. Have you ever heard of this new thing called an 'odometer'?

And in any event, why not just tack it to someone's salary? We don't 'calibrate' education taxes to how much money your kid costs the state...
posted by delmoi at 10:12 PM on December 24, 2005


Wow. Anyone remember The Prisoner? The Village had a survilance system AND a vehicle disabling system that worked much like this would.

Ah yes - but the Prisoner also had giant white balls were born from the beautiful bubbles of a lava lamp, then merrily floated around and "sexacated" you (I prefer to think that the screaming face whose life was being strangled out was orgasming to death) ushering in eternal life.

Now, if disabling my GPS tracker will dispatch one of those beautiful babies in my direction, count me in.

Oh, and I'm drunk on eggnog.
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 10:13 PM on December 24, 2005


And I really hate this crap that just because the constitution doesn't prevent it the Executive can do it. Congress has great powers to grant and remove authorities to the Executive, especially where civil liberties are concerned.

Huh? weren't you arguing the exact opposite position the other day?
posted by delmoi at 10:14 PM on December 24, 2005


delmoi writes "Huh? weren't you arguing the exact opposite position the other day?"


Bush flip: I will not sign a too short six-month extension of the Patriot Act.

Bush flop: I will sign a one-month extension of the Patriotic Act.

delmoi, why hold Heywood Mogroot to a higher standard of consistency than the Pres'dint of the Unites States?
posted by orthogonality at 10:22 PM on December 24, 2005


Huh? weren't you arguing the exact opposite position the other day?

absolutely not. I was arguing that Congress can't screw with the President's constitutionally-mandated duties, but it's safe to say putting a fucking tracker on my car is not in the constitution.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 10:26 PM on December 24, 2005


Positive uses of this:

intelligent stoplights and traffic marshalling that minimizes stops. Though really GPS is overkill; a network of RFID sensors in the road or on lampposts would be better perhaps.

*really* good safe driver discounts. Hell, they could charge insurance by the day, depending on how & where you drive, with this.

user fees for roads. De-externalize the costs of driving, use the money to fund better mass transit. Make driving the luxury it should be, not the necessity it is in most areas -- mass transit is pretty cool when it's a middle-class thing.

that's about all I can think of.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 10:34 PM on December 24, 2005


Positive uses of this: the roads will run on time!


posted by orthogonality at 10:42 PM on December 24, 2005


>One of the things driving this is that, because of higher gas prices, revenues from gas taxes are declining a little already.

...which...also means road usage is declining by exactly the same proportion...sooooo there's no problem.

Not necessarily. A good part of the decline is because suddenly people are now motivated to drive vehicles that get better mileage. So--same mileage but less gas used.

This can be as simple as choosing to drive more often the most fuel efficient of the vehicles you already own (squeeze the family into the car more often and leave the van at home). Or buying a new vehicle that gets better mileage, or buying a hybrid or whatever.

Also, lots of DOTs around the country have a big backlog of road maintenance. Here is Missouri they've neglected road maintenance scandalously, while continuing to build new roads.

The upshot is, right now even if they dedicated 100% of the state highway budget to maintenance and upkeep only, they would still be falling behind on maintenance.
posted by flug at 10:49 PM on December 24, 2005


> DOT claims, this will allow taxes to be calibrated to road usage. Of course, a gasoline tax already does that.

Not really. Fuel efficiencies vary. I think what they're really worried about is hybrids. Hybrids use less gas for the same amount of driving, sending tax revenues down.

For fairness, we probably should be taxing fuel, not mileage. If you're burning more fuel (while meeting emissions standards), you're polluting more. Heavier (lower mileage) vehicles produce far more wear on roads. Heavier SUVs are more likely to kill and injure people than lighter passenger cars. Lower mileage cars help maintain our dependence on foreign oil. These all seem like things we'd want to tax to discourage. Turn up the tax rate if revenues are down.

Also, as delmoi pointed out, all they need for tax purposes is an odometer, and guess what? Cars all have one already, and you're already not supposed to tamper with it.

I don't think it would be very hard to produce a GPS spoofing device that produces GPS signals that make the GPS unit appear to be wherever you want it.

Also. I hope the guy who proposed the ignition interlock parks his car in a concrete parking garage sometime and can't get out.

I think this issue will probably turn out to be like speed limits. If the DOT were serious about them, cars would all come with a 75 mph governor, but that hasn't happened yet, at least.
posted by surlycat at 10:58 PM on December 24, 2005


The idea that we need to track every movement of every car in order to 'calibrate road taxes' is absolutly insane. Have you ever heard of this new thing called an 'odometer'?

As detailed in the article, though, it is not just how far you travel that matters, but when and where.

Road tend to be built to peak demand, even if that demand only lasts a small portion of each day. So if you can lower the peak, spreading the traffic more evenly throughout the day, you can save quite a lot of billions on road construction.

Again, I'm not saying the proposed solution is a good one (it isn't). But, as the article points out, there are really good reasons for charging different amounts per mile depending on when and where that mile is driven, not just a flat rate based on total mileage.
posted by flug at 11:04 PM on December 24, 2005


As someone who manages an AVL system (automatic vehicle location) for my employer, I will say its pretty expensive. The box with the GPRS modem and GPS reciever is $750. The new EVDO-based models are closer to $1000 each. Each box requires a $60/mo fee to access the internet. The plus side however is that you also get internet in the vehicle.

Here is a far easier and cheaper solution: every time you get a smog chceck, you get the odometer read, and the amount of miles you've driven multiplied by vehicle weight (road wear) is factored into your renewal fee.

The largest downside is that if you drive outside of the jurisdiction of the people assessing the fee, you get screwed. Say this is the federal DOT and you make many trips to Canada or Mexico - you get double taxed (Canadian gas tax, plus milage tax). Or if you live in NJ and commutte to NY or PA or something.

This, of course, is their excuse to go GPS. One would figure this to be more appealing if it were to only transmit less granular data - state/county as opposed to 115W 12' 33.45" 35N 3' 56.43". Kinda like my Tivo - it transmits my viewing and recording habits in aggregate, by zip code. Of course, who will make sure it transmits what the gov't really says it is (I sure as hell dont trust those fuckers).
posted by SirOmega at 11:06 PM on December 24, 2005


For fairness, we probably should be taxing fuel, not mileage.

Interestingly, the now dramatically higher gas prices and corresponding huge oil company profits actually make it a smart time to increase the tax on gas and/or crude oil.

With the markets the way they are now, such a tax would come mostly at the expense of lower oil company profits rather than higher gasoline prices at the pump.

However--gas taxes have been increasingly unpopular with voters.

According to a study by Martin Wachs of the Brookings Institute, between 1995 and 1999 local general tax revenues spent on highways grew three times as fast as user fee revenues (gas taxes, registration fees, etc.). My guess is that trend has continued and accelerated since 1999.

This is a bad situation all the way around.

The "motorist subsidy" encourages people to drive more than they would drive if they had to pay the full costs. And the extra driving in turn increases road maintenance costs and create pressure to create more bigger, wider, faster roads.

The fact that the shortfall in the transportation budget is made up from general funds means that other needed programs are cut.

[For reference on the Brookings Institute study, see page 6 of this paper (PDF format)].
posted by flug at 11:19 PM on December 24, 2005


You yanks are fucked. Thank yehova for the freedom of the good ol' EU.
But then again, there are groups of powerful politicians within the EU working for the very same kind of monitoring laws right now. Thank god for the good ol' south-east asia.

But then again, Indonesia is in the process of being taken over by Islamic extremists. Good thing we have Australia.

Which is basically the 51st state, and recently outlawed a popular peer-to-peer network.

All right, we're all fucked.

Merry Christmas.

posted by spazzm at 11:22 PM on December 24, 2005


Jesus christ, the economic threat of this alone is insane. Say some 13 year old hack brings the whole system down; then nobody can get to work while they repair it! Fortunately, given how many people do go to strip clubs secretly, or second wives, or whatever, and since this includes people in power, I don't think it will come to pass... I'm sure people in The Administration don't want to be watched either...
posted by Citizen Premier at 11:33 PM on December 24, 2005


Oh, and it's a bit odd to have a FPP that seems to be written directly to me.
posted by Citizen Premier at 11:33 PM on December 24, 2005


Here's an even more frightening article that suggest this is a small part of a much larger program designed to capture "the identity... of transportation system users."
Sensors deployed in vehicles and the infrastructure could "identify suspicious vehicles," "detect disruptions" and "detect threatening behavior" by drivers, according to the addendum. Those who take public transit wouldn't escape monitoring, either. The addendum suggests "developing systems for public transit tracking to monitor passenger behavior."
posted by orthogonality at 11:45 PM on December 24, 2005


Reading mefi the last few days has made me suddenly very afraid.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 11:48 PM on December 24, 2005


[insert clever name here] writes "Reading mefi the last few days has made me suddenly very afraid."

Thanks, that was my purpose in posting this.
posted by orthogonality at 11:51 PM on December 24, 2005


Got on-star or a similar tracking system?

You bet the feds can activate it remotely.


David Sobel, general counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information Center, called the court's decision "a pyrrhic victory" for privacy.

"The problem (the court had) with the surveillance was not based on privacy grounds at all," Sobel said. "It was more interfering with the contractual relationship between the service provider and the customer, to the point that the service was being interrupted. If the surveillance was done in a way that was seamless and undetectable, the court would have no problem with it."



This technology is in use as we speak. Panopticon etc......
posted by lalochezia at 11:58 PM on December 24, 2005


"Reading mefi the last few days has made me suddenly very afraid."

Thanks, that was my purpose in posting this.
posted by orthogonality at 8:51 AM CET on December 25 [!]


orthagonality posts a FPP about a system which tracks users' usage and whereabouts and implies it could be misused, in order to engender fear and doubt - ironic (in the modern sense) really...
posted by benzo8 at 12:46 AM on December 25, 2005


delmoi, why hold Heywood Mogroot to a higher standard of consistency than the Pres'dint of the Unites States?

Hmm, as far as I can tell, Bush has already failed every single standard that I could think to set.

I don't think it would be very hard to produce a GPS spoofing device that produces GPS signals that make the GPS unit appear to be wherever you want it.

I think it would be possible to come up with something to fake a static location, but coming up with one that would give your car the illusion of being somewhere it wasn't, at a speed it it wasn't, on a totally different path that matched real roads? Sounds pretty challenging.

Also. I hope the guy who proposed the ignition interlock parks his car in a concrete parking garage sometime and can't get out.

Better yet, Iran builds a powerful laser and blows up the GPS satellites, completely distroying our newly GPS dependant transportation infrastructure. AWSOME!
posted by delmoi at 2:07 AM on December 25, 2005


Anyone see that BMW (or whatever) commercial where the car calls BMW and complains about the guy not changing his oil enough so a disembodied voice suddenly contacts the dude and asks him if he wants an oil change?

I don't want my car crying home to mommy if I don't change the oil enough. Fuck that. What's wrong with an oil light?

They'll probably use it as an excuse to void your warranty as well.
posted by delmoi at 2:11 AM on December 25, 2005


Anyone can track your movement by looking at which cell town your phone is currently nearest.
posted by about_time at 3:22 AM on December 25, 2005


Apparently, here in Belgium, they succesfully completed a test to check road congestion by tracking cellphone activity at highways.
All the cell phone companies simply pass on the amount of active cell phones in a given area to a highway control center. It's cheaper then building and maintaining sensors in the roads themselves. The plus side is that the cell phone users remain annonymous.
Information on road congestion and traffic works are already made public and there is already a highway control center in place that is capable of redirecting traffic through radio broadcasts and signs on the road.
The next logical step would be to work with the industry by creating intelligent GPS systems that are capable of choosing alternative or faster routes to a particular destination depending on the global traffic situation. The user can still ignore what his GPS system has to say, but most people probably won't bother if the system is capable of getting them faster to a particular place then without.
Then set higher tolls for roads that are frequently congested during peek hours.
posted by Timeless at 4:06 AM on December 25, 2005


just curious about this since there seems to be some disagreement so maybe someone here has some numbers, but if gas tax revenues are going down is that predominately because a) people are driving less or b) people are driving more efficient vehicles?

My personal hunch is that it's (a) because, well, new cars are expensive and even in multi-car households it's not that easy to carpool. I expect people just aren't driving as much right now. Ultimately, though, hybrids and other more efficient vehicles will start eating into gas tax revenues.
posted by gambit at 4:32 AM on December 25, 2005



benzo8 orthagonality posts a FPP about a system which tracks users' usage and whereabouts and implies it could be misused, in order to engender fear and doubt - ironic (in the modern sense) really...

Good observation ! If anything it shows that fear suggestion can be used in at least two ways : one to keep people afraid of boo boos like Osama Bin , another to keep people afraid of the government abuse and to have them look suspiciously at some government
activities. The latter activity seems more potentially productive of desiderable results.

I wonder, how could I make people fear being in fear ?

Could it be that the fear of fear is rationalization and debunking of irrational fears ?
posted by elpapacito at 6:04 AM on December 25, 2005


So this guy at the DOT is hunched over a surveillance computer and sobbing into his GPS monitor. His comrade at the next station asks "What's wrong?" He says "My driver died."
posted by hal9k at 7:19 AM on December 25, 2005


(A helmeted person on a motorcycle is speeding down the road. His tags get scanned because he is going 164.6 MPH.)
(Police Station)
Woman: Attention vehicle number 32189, travelling 64 miles above accepted speed allowances.
(As she speaks the motorcycle slows down.)
Woman: Infraction Level 7. $913 dollars has been deducted from your social security account.
(The driver of the motorcycle hits the handle bar in irritation.)
Woman: Thank you.
(seaquest dsv ep24 ~1994)
posted by suni at 7:23 AM on December 25, 2005


I don't know where my trucnk is, but, like the rest of you, I'm pretty sure I don't want to wake up one day and find a cop inside it.
posted by notyou at 7:30 AM on December 25, 2005


just curious about this since there seems to be some disagreement so maybe someone here has some numbers, but if gas tax revenues are going down is that predominately because a) people are driving less or b) people are driving more efficient vehicles?

I suspect it is a combination of both. From the Dec 8, 2005 USA Today (an extremely reliable source, I know . . . ):
Driving in summer 2005 through August increased less than 1% — half the usual rate. Growth that slow hasn't occurred since the 1991 recession, according to the government's latest data, which are subject to revision.

The population and workforce grow by a bit more than 1% annually, meaning more people drive to work, so annual gains of less than that indicate a decrease in miles driven per person.

...

The institute . . . found that 81% of people it polled this fall combined errands and 45% eliminated some non-work trips. Nearly 90% said they'd driven to work the previous week, but 40% said they had carpooled or used mass transit in the past year.

"Most Americans don't have a choice of how they get to work. They have to drive," says the institute's Ed McMahon. "So they've decided to eliminate optional trips (or) double up errands."

Subway, bus and train systems saw growing ridership in the first half of 2005 as gas prices climbed, says William Millar, president of the American Public Transportation Association.

Incidentally, the FHWA also reported that miles driven was down 1.5% in the midwestern U.S. (August 2004 compared to August 2005) so that would account for the fact that the Missouri DOT is telling me that their gas tax revenue is down this year.

A Washington Post article (from August 2005) details the problems local governments are having with declining fuel tax revenue:
In June and July, when prices started jumping and drivers started changing habits, total gas tax receipts dropped by nearly $1 million in Virginia compared with the same months last year.

The same was true in the District, where gas tax revenue dropped sharply in June, to a level nearly $1 million less than last year. June also was disappointing in Maryland, where taxes came in $1 million less than projected.
posted by flug at 8:06 AM on December 25, 2005


"Reading mefi the last few days has made me suddenly very afraid."

Are you new?

Giving up more freedom for freedoms sake. Go Bush!

Why the hell don't we just tag the terrorists. Track 'em like geese or an endangered species (they are endangered now, correct? I mean...we're winning right?).
posted by j.p. Hung at 8:07 AM on December 25, 2005


Note : speed limit problem (enforcement of law)

Solution: build an orwellian-style control system that will be abused by any corrupt cop or delusional omnipotent ape boy.

Solution2: build cars that can't go over speed limit

Simple ? Yeah simple ! Cost to taxpayers ? Zero, nada.Privacy problem ? Zero, nada.

Objection: speed is not the problem
posted by elpapacito at 8:19 AM on December 25, 2005


So, the idea is to turn off engines when GPS signal is not present?

Will tunnels get clogged with motionless vehicles?
Will it be impossible to drive out of an underground garage, because your engine won't start?
How about thick woods, urban canyons, those cloudy days?

I wouldn't worry about this, they'd sooner ban all traffic or assign one 'road marshall' per vehicle.
posted by Laotic at 8:31 AM on December 25, 2005


Every time I hear that old bit "if you don't do anything wrong, you don't have anything to fear," (even where it's being used sarcastically), I always think of of Cardinal Richelieu's comment, "If you give me six lines written by the most honest man, I will find something in them to hang him."
posted by kimota at 8:40 AM on December 25, 2005 [1 favorite]


Their sense of timing in announcing this is impeccable.

A little sales tip: When announcing a new invasion of privacy, don't wait until everyone is up in arms about privacy.
posted by fungible at 8:53 AM on December 25, 2005


Don't know if I have it in me to be mad at this regime anymore. I just get depressed.

And, uh, I'm mildly amused at the fact that one of these shiny new doo-whackers is probably twice the value of my old beat up car.
posted by cmyk at 8:55 AM on December 25, 2005


elpapacito: Solution2: build cars that can't go over speed limit

They already did; they were called Yugos.

More seriously: define "speed limit." You're in Italy; what would happen when you go over to Germany and onto the Autobahn (no speed limit, if I'm not mistaken)? I could see setting up a system of transponders that sets the car's speed limit based on the road, but again you'd need to build it into every new car and retrofit the old ones - expensive. And who's to say it would be hack-proof, or that the road's speed-setting transmitters would be (acceptably) failure-proof?
posted by hangashore at 9:01 AM on December 25, 2005


You know, the reason this and other privacy rights (communications, etc) is not protected by the constitution directly is because the authors did not have a clue this kind of thing could and would ever happen. I truly believe this, and can't imagine anyone being honest with themselves saying that the same group of people who founded this great country with a belief that all men have the inherent right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" would be okay with the government monitoring their every move. I mean, when we look at the constitution as a guide for issues not covered, are we not supposed to look at the spirit of the document? Isn't it pretty obvious that if privacy of its citizens thoughts, words, and movements was an issue when it was written, that the constitution would have explicitly protected that as well?

But who am I kidding? The constitution, the government originally set up by the founding fathers has always been doomed to failure. Even Benjamin Franklin assumed our government would fall into the hands of manipulating tyrants, and James Madison believed the country would be taken over from within.

I read an article recently, probably linked from mefi as well, about how a growing number of highschool students don't think giving up certain rights afforded by the constitution is a bad thing. It seems that as injustices creep in, one generation may be outraged, but the next just learns to accept it. Maybe we won't allow ourselves to be monitored 24/7, but will our kids? (and who the fuck is teaching these kids its okay to give up your god damned inalienable rights?!?)
posted by [insert clever name here] at 9:32 AM on December 25, 2005


Brilliant timing. Overwhelm the population by announcing all the privacy-invading crap all at once. You just watch: nothing much is gonna happen, because people are just too overwhelmed by it all. And, of course, because US citizens are slugs about taking an active role in their democracy.

people are driving more efficient vehicles?

IIRC average fuel efficiency has decreased this past decade or so. Most vehicles today get about the same mpg efficiency as vehicles build fifty years ago, give or take a few mpg. It's embarassing.

Goddamn, but you Americans are going to be royally fucked up the ass by the time this is all over. Land of the free? Nope.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:37 AM on December 25, 2005


I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that the only way everyone's going to appreciate their freedoms and liberties is if those freedoms and liberties are occasionally taken away. I guess this means I've decided history is a cycle, not a progression.
posted by chrominance at 10:01 AM on December 25, 2005


You're next Canada.
posted by birdherder at 10:01 AM on December 25, 2005


It occurs to me that governments should set policy based on the imaginings of sci-fi futuristic movies.

If laws had been put into place to prevent Minority Report, Bladerunner, Robocop, etc. from happening, the problems today wouldn't exist.

I should think it is entirely possible for bright people to see that the governments depicted in these movies are terribly broken, and lay the groundwork to prevent them from becoming reality.

'cause sure as shootin', it seems that Hollywood accurately predicts these sorts of things.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:04 AM on December 25, 2005


Art imitating life imitating art imitating.........
posted by IronLizard at 10:06 AM on December 25, 2005


the tech is still 5 to 10 years away from it being cheap enough to install in everyone's vehicle (unless the goverment simply says "you shell out $700 for this electronic gadget or we take away your right to drive"

that said, it's on its way and everyone should stop expecting to have personal secrets. My thought is to wonder if this is such a bad thing, one of the biggest problems with humanity is we constantly have to have secrets...maybe it's time we simply owned up to the crap that we pull. I'm sure we'll find this tech can be used in both directions (think the city councilman didn't deserve to be found?), and hacked in all directions.
posted by NGnerd at 10:28 AM on December 25, 2005


My thoughts about this is they have a federal system in place now to prevent anyone on a 'no fly' list from using the airlines. Who's to say this same system could not be abused by telling someone they are only approved for travel within a certain zone? Would you be restricted to your own state? Your own county? Your own city or town?
As far as what NGnerd says about watching our city councilmember (or president), they have no accountability now, giving them the tools to abuse even more citizen's freedom is not the direction any government needs to go. More freedom, not less for citizens, more monitoring and surveillance of our government officials. Let them live with a GPS and other monitoring equipment shoved up their poop chutes.
Must we all live in nations of subservient, mewling cattle in fealty to our godlike master? Or are we instead free individuals with the absolute right to our freedom and destiny as we chose it?
For those who advocate subservience to a corrupt and unaccountable power, please feel free to stop in the local hardware store, pick up an awl and give yourself an icepick lobotomy. That's what you're advocating for everyone else.
posted by mk1gti at 10:56 AM on December 25, 2005


Am I gonna have to build my own fucking car just to live in the United States without being under constant surveillance everywhere I go?
posted by wakko at 10:56 AM on December 25, 2005


Its only a matter of time before they try to mandate personal GPS tracking units that have to be machine-shoved into your ass and disable you if you try to remove them.

They will, of course, be voluntary for members of the Republican party.
posted by fenriq at 11:19 AM on December 25, 2005


surlycat writes "I don't think it would be very hard to produce a GPS spoofing device that produces GPS signals that make the GPS unit appear to be wherever you want it."
And:
delmoi writes "I think it would be possible to come up with something to fake a static location, but coming up with one that would give your car the illusion of being somewhere it wasn't, at a speed it it wasn't, on a totally different path that matched real roads? Sounds pretty challenging."

This is trivial to do actually. 10 years ago my employer had a commercial device that would plug into a GPS unit instead of the external antenna. This device would send the right signals to the GPS to spoof any location. We used it for testing and calibration purposes.

SirOmega writes "Here is a far easier and cheaper solution: every time you get a smog chceck, you get the odometer read, and the amount of miles you've driven multiplied by vehicle weight (road wear) is factored into your renewal fee. "

This is easy to defeat (and probably cheaper than the fees you would otherwise pay) with a spare computer or odometer cluster (depending on where the mileage is stored).
posted by Mitheral at 11:35 AM on December 25, 2005


Was riding in a rental car with my boss in downtown Seattle, lost for a good 20 minutes because the "NeverLost" system, which is GPS-based, couldn't get a signal for all the buildings.

It would have been much more fun if the engine quit.
posted by Foosnark at 12:34 PM on December 25, 2005


They will, of course, be voluntary for members of the Republican party.
--------------------------
Voluntary as in: If you don't allow installation you are no longer a member of 'the party' and are now 'a liberal'.

"Please comrade, it will not hurt. . . much. It has now been reduced to the size of a softball! Now bend over, allow us to lube your conservative poop-chute and now we sshhhovvve it in. . .

"Yeeeeeeaaaaaarrrrrrrgggggggghhhhhh! ! !"

Followed by stifled sobs and much whimpering in a cold dark room in a basement . . .
posted by mk1gti at 12:58 PM on December 25, 2005


coming soon, people trackers, gps of all pedestrians...
oh what a world we live in
posted by beachgrrlmusic at 1:05 PM on December 25, 2005


This will be fun until some well-heeled terrorist figures out that by launching one orchestrated attack on the GPS system he can bring the US economy to a literal standstill.

Lenin used to say that the West would sell the communists the rope that the latter would use to hang the former. With hindsight, plus ça change plus c'est pareil.
posted by clevershark at 1:26 PM on December 25, 2005


I'll bet Lenin, Stalin or Mao never thought the americans would adopt their practices and methods, then turn around and brainwash the public into accepting them, then accuse anyone who questioned their methods of 'being a communist' (or a liberal). . .
posted by mk1gti at 1:48 PM on December 25, 2005


Motorcycles get better mileage than hybrids, will they make a waterproof one too? My non-motorcycle commuter (for rainy days) is 50 years old, it'll be pretty hard to make an effective ignition lockout for it. And who is going to pay for these things, at $100-$1000 a shot, you will have to drive a lot of miles to pay for one, what about vehicles that don't get driven much (RVs, collector cars, 4x4s that some people keep to just plow snow...). I've had as many as 11 vehicles registered at one time, (most costing less than the estimated cost of a gps), I'd hate to shell out for each one.
posted by 445supermag at 1:50 PM on December 25, 2005


my other car is a faraday cage.
posted by isopraxis at 1:52 PM on December 25, 2005


Think I'll attach mine to a city bus or something.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 1:53 PM on December 25, 2005


Motorcycles get better mileage than hybrids, will they make a waterproof one too?

making ~yourself~ waterproof is the better option.

Problem with motorcycles in the rain is that bikes are inherently unstable, and their tiny contact patches means you can't put a lot of trust in your tire's grip when manuevering on rain-slick roads.

Plus absent ABS you can't use the back brake to stop a bike in the wet -- ~90% of the weight of bike goes to the front in a quick stop, and once the back tire locks up, unlocking it by releasing the brake is a quick trip to high-siding (getting bucked off over the top) should the sliding back tire be tracking out too much.

plus bikes are harder to see in the rain
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 2:03 PM on December 25, 2005


Heywood Mogroot writes "making ~yourself~ waterproof is the better option."


But that won't stop the GPS gizmo from malfunctioning if it is sensitive to moisture.
posted by Mitheral at 4:26 PM on December 25, 2005


hangashore: you make some sensible arguments in favour of an engine that is dynamically limited according to street..but as you notice doing that means giving control of engine to some agency or even black hat hackers.

Point is if you build in control (in a way that makes it inconvenient and relatively time/resource expensive to change) by limiting top speed of engine (or max power per weight) you don't have to worry about hackers or government spying upon you or stopping your engine..or even worry about engine producers make your engine stop for "safety mandatory checks" which are just
another way to overcharge you for a perfectly good engine.

What's your point ? Inconvenience ? Need to have a different engine for each country ? That can be addressed IF we find that by reducing speed limit to a certain speed then incidents decrease.

If this is true (and it probably is in many instances) we could insert different passive security devices and, for instance, classify cars with ABS and other technical solutions as permitted to drive up to certain m/s.

Then we could implement this open source, scientific approach solutions to a continent, like U.S. or Europe.I guess this is good enough even for the most avid drivers, whose right to drive or to drive the way I like I don't recognize to begin with.

Let the private enterpreneurs find way to make cars more secure and faster ,instead of creating another way financiers can tax us or spy upon us.
posted by elpapacito at 5:28 PM on December 25, 2005


This will never happen as long as:

1. There are hundreds of thousands of salvage yards where you can buy a carbureted engine - no computer.

2. There are thousands of AutoZones, PepBoys, etc., where you can buy new carbureted crate motors - no computer.

(Nothing says you can't buy a new car and rip the engine out of it and replace it with a non-computerized one ... if you're that worried about it. This device would have to be part of or connected to a computer box to perform its intended function.)

3. GPS relies on the current satellite technology. There are too many underground and multi-level concrete parking garages in use.

I don't think it would work anyway. The way things go these days, whenever a new technology is introduced to keep someone from doing something it's reversed engineered in a matter of days to allow people to do it. I mean look at how relatively simple it is just to override speed and/or rev limiters on cars.

I guess what someone could do is mount devices that transmit laser guided EMPs are intersections for the red light runners and on speed limit signs for the speeders. heh Of course the cops have already tried a similar approach with devices embedded into the road that basically shock the car from underneath when deployed or activated by a cop. The solution for true criminals ? Thick, rubber undercoating. Same with run-flat tires to counteract spike strips.

No matter what anyone tries to put in place someone will always build a better mousetrap.
posted by madderhatter at 6:02 PM on December 25, 2005


Down in his barn My uncle preserved for me, an old machine ---
For fifty-odd years, To keep it as new has been his dearest dream

I strip away the old debris, that hides a shining car
A brilliant red barchetta, from a better, vanished time
I fire up the willing engine, responding with a roar
Tires spitting gravel, I commit my weekly crime...

posted by Heywood Mogroot at 6:36 PM on December 25, 2005


madderhatter
My thoughts on what you had to say about substitutions for non-GPS devices is this: If everyone is expected to have GPS devices installed as a mandatory practice, what is to stop the feds/corps/creeps from introducing a system to identify those vehicles that do not have a mandatory GPS system installed and intercepting and confiscating those vehicles? What if they were to install a system countrywide that sent an alarm for every unchipped vehicle? Don't think they are not thinking about this already. Everyone must have the tracking chip installed up their poop chute. All must live in slavery or the free and rebellious must die.
They are actively and knowingly doing everything they can to subvert freedom and democracy and institute a world of nations of subservient, unquestioning cattle and sheep.
How are you going to work around that? That is the most important thing to consider today. Not how to remove a GPS but how to work around it to guarantee your own freedom amongst sheep and cattle.
posted by mk1gti at 7:31 PM on December 25, 2005


Heywood Mogroot
You and I might know what a barchetta looks like, but does everyone else?
posted by mk1gti at 7:35 PM on December 25, 2005


Ou! Ou! I do! :)
posted by Mitheral at 8:09 PM on December 25, 2005


dang, your rush tops my seaquest :D
posted by suni at 8:24 PM on December 25, 2005


madderhatter : Most cars with carbureted engines built after 1980 had computers - they couldn't meet the emission standards without them. These were typically simple, 8 bit processors, with 4K - 32K of ROM.

Of course, it wouldn't be hard to come up with an self-contained GPS system that had an ignition system interlock that was required to be retrofitted to older cars before they were allowed on the road. The only connections to the vehicle this system would need would be power, ground, and a set of relay contacts in line with the power feed to the coil.
posted by rfs at 8:53 PM on December 25, 2005


So what should we be looking at here, purchasing any model car made before, say 1978 in the hope we could somehow 'shake the system'?
posted by mk1gti at 9:15 PM on December 25, 2005


Just because something "has a computer" in it doesn't mean that computer can be used for just any purpose.
posted by clevershark at 9:30 PM on December 25, 2005


I have to say that though there is excellent discussion going on here, the idea of a GPS system is totally unfeasible, for the reasons madhatter lists as well as others in the thread have mentioned. It would just be far too unstable a system to be governing whether your car runs or not.

That cell phone monitoring idea was interesting, getting primary information from secondary sources like that is a great way to go.

If I were going to create an all-seeing-eye type system like this, I would use a network of small cameras like they had in Minority Report. Retinas, perhaps not, but license plates, hey, easily discerned. Get IDed on a peak hour highway and get your taxes bumped a tenth of a point. I don't know.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 9:32 PM on December 25, 2005


...not that they won't try to pull this shit off anyway.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 9:33 PM on December 25, 2005


Retinas, perhaps not, but license plates

RFID means we don't even NEED license plates any more.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 11:38 PM on December 25, 2005


You know, the reason this and other privacy rights (communications, etc) is not protected by the constitution directly is because the authors did not have a clue this kind of thing could and would ever happen.

Especially since the one communication they had around at the time, postal mail, is actually pretty well protected.
posted by Afroblanco at 1:48 AM on December 26, 2005


Mmm...red barchetta. Yeah, fucking with the authorities is quickly becoming an appealing looking hobby.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:43 AM on December 26, 2005


It really wouldn't be practical to reprogram any existing engine control computers, as they have only had flash memory for about the last 10 years, and alot of them wouldn't have the extra memory for any new functions or serial data messages.

For the older ones, it's getting hard to find EPROMs in quantity anymore, and the older ROMs would be even worse. This would have to be rolled out in new vehicles, which wouldn't help sales at all, so I don't think the auto companies would go along willingly.
posted by rfs at 8:12 PM on December 26, 2005




First: if this has a chance in hell of being mandatory for new cars, I'd better buy the car I want to be driving for the rest of my life now.

Second:

Make driving the luxury it should be, not the necessity it is in most areas -- mass transit is pretty cool when it's a middle-class thing.

Trouble is, will mass transit be ramped up appropriately? This very morning I tried to take the bus to my new job in Burbank (from Los Angeles), only to discover that I need to take at least two buses to go less than four miles, and...

1. If I want the trip to take 30-35 minutes (which is more than three times as long as it takes by car), I have to leave the house half an hour earlier so I don't miss the last bus of the final leg, which means another half hour of pay for my nanny to watch the kids, and if she's late, I'm in trouble;

2. If I want the trip to have no time dependencies, I need to stand on a street corner for half an hour every day each way, bringing my one-way commute time up to an hour or so -- more than six times the commute time by car;

3. The cost per month will vary between $200 and $400 a month in transit fees, whereas my gas cost is approximately seven gallons ($21 dollars at $3 per gallon), which means I won't save any money even with a car payment and insurance.

Mind you, I generally love public transportation, but I was raised in Chicago, where it works; here in Los Angeles, it's a joke, with buses running all over the place but none able to get you where you need to go in a timely and cost-efficient fashion.

Third:

Considering how anti-tax convervatives are in general, and how anti-privacy-invasion liberals are, it will take a miracle to sell this one to the public.
posted by davejay at 10:56 AM on December 27, 2005


For fairness, we probably should be taxing fuel, not mileage. If you're burning more fuel (while meeting emissions standards), you're polluting more. Heavier (lower mileage) vehicles produce far more wear on roads.

Again, hybrids throw this all outta whack. Batteries are heavy, but they allow the vehicle to get good mileage. If the purpose is to fund road maintenance and improvement, rather than social engineering, gasoline tax is becoming even less approximate than it already was.

I'm all for an annual mileage-based tax (factoring vehicle weight into the equation), but only if they do away with gas taxes entirely. However, taxes are rarely repealed, so we'd probably have some of each in most states, and I can't really get behind that.
posted by kindall at 7:12 PM on December 27, 2005


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