Big Brother is sorry, but all we have for you is a hatchback.
June 22, 2001 1:34 PM   Subscribe

Big Brother is sorry, but all we have for you is a hatchback. On the one hand, he knew full well that they were monitoring him. On the other, they took the money out of his account without his knowledge, which could have led to all sorts of problems. Inevitable progress, or invasive technology?
posted by Ezrael (38 comments total)

 
Yes.
posted by dong_resin at 1:36 PM on June 22, 2001


I assume that this is the same as this?
posted by crawl at 1:38 PM on June 22, 2001


Yep.
posted by valerie at 1:39 PM on June 22, 2001


Hey, I searched for it and checked the link. If it didn't come up after all that, what else am I supposed to do, manually search every thread on MeFi? As you just pointed out, there are more than 8000 of them.
posted by Ezrael at 1:42 PM on June 22, 2001


well, either that or search for "rental car", "speeding", etc...
posted by Hackworth at 1:45 PM on June 22, 2001


> the theater box office manager overlooked a clause in
> the contract stating that its vehicles were equipped with
> a Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) system and that
> going over the speed limit would cost $150 per
> infraction.

RTFM
posted by jfuller at 1:47 PM on June 22, 2001


DO NOT DEVIATE!
DO NOT DEVIATE!


A proper MEFI poster should read each and every thread, carefully making proper documentation of each post and inserting it into a reference database powered by SQL under OpenBSD on a Cray mainframe located on an island off the coast of Chile.

Failure to properly research every post will result in swarms of self-replicating mutant leet haxors [builtintaiwan] carving your name onto titanium-clad Cupie Dolls and smelted in effigy on the steps of Virginia state capitol.

And that's just the first hour.
posted by Unxmaal at 1:55 PM on June 22, 2001


Be silent, Number 3232!
posted by waxpancake at 2:03 PM on June 22, 2001


"titanium-clad Cupie Dolls and smelted in effigy on the steps of Virginia state capitol."
hail Caesar.
it does raise the point of legality concerning account access. if someone signed a document, broke the rules, didnt have the money when the infraction was collected resulting in late charges etc. for some thing they better warn about before i put my chesterfield out in the tranny pan and bondo the bullet holes...go ezzy.
posted by clavdivs at 2:13 PM on June 22, 2001


We can't all be Den Beste, Unxmaal.
posted by darukaru at 3:11 PM on June 22, 2001


There's one big reason this should be illegal, and no, "cause it's not fair" ain't it. The problem is that by charging the guy extra for speeding, they are acting as judge, jury and executioner. They have declared him guilty of a crime, when only the state has the right to make that determination. To make matters worse, they declared him guilty without telling him he was going too fast and giving him a chance to slow down. The GPS sensor didn't tell the driver "Hey, according to my calculations, you're going too fast. If you don't slow down within two minutes, the rental agency will be notified and you will be charged." They just went ahead and added it to his bill, and he has no way of really knowing if the thing was even working properly. Unless he was going so fast for so long that his average speed for the entire trip works out to more than 75mph, the rental agent has no way whatsoever of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the machine wasn't malfunctioning or hadn't been intentionally altered to produce incorrect results.

This argument may not be enough for him to win in small claims court, but eventually some victim of this will get serious and take it to a real court, and that person will win.

By the way, I think the fact that they just charged him without telling him is de facto proof that the rental place is doing this to make money, not for safety reasons. If it were about safety, somebody would have said something when he brought the van back: "Hey, listen, we're really concerned about the condition of our cars, and we'd really appreciate it if you didn't speed next time." But they didn't. They just smiled their fake smile and sucked obscene amounts of cash out of his checking account without even bothering to tell him. That's like a cop pulling you over, handing you a ticket for $250 and then driving off without even telling you what you'd done wrong.
posted by aaron at 3:37 PM on June 22, 2001


Hey, I searched for it and checked the link. If it didn't come up after all that, what else am I supposed to do, manually search every thread on MeFi? As you just pointed out, there are more than 8000 of them.

You're actually supposed to read Metafilter. That's the biggest part of contributing. If you read Metafilter, then you'll have an idea of what's already been posted. If you only post new entries but never read the existing threads, then you're not committing yourself enough to the enterprise. And that leads to the Prometheus Syndrome, in which a person thinks he's bringing the rest of use fire in the form of a very special link, as if the person has special, inside knowledge of the Associated Press wire or CNN that the rest of us don't. Bah. There's no excuse for double posting.
posted by Mo Nickels at 3:44 PM on June 22, 2001


They have declared him guilty of a crime, when only the state has the right to make that determination.

Hardly. A private owner can place almost any condition they like on the rental of their property and impose any penalty they like if the condition is not met. (There are some conditions and penalties that courts would find unreasonable, but it would have to be pretty extreme.) This is a civil matter, not a criminal one: the man apparently agreed to pay certain penalties if he used the vehicle in a certain manner, and now he is being required to keep his word. Like far too many Americans, he doesn't like that one bit.

The rental company may well have a public relations disaster on its hands, however. If I were them I would post notice of this policy on the dashboards of all their vehicles immediately, and activate a warning signal whenever the speed limit is exceeded.
posted by kindall at 3:52 PM on June 22, 2001


i agree with aaron... since when did car rental companies gain the ability to issue speeding tickets? (if i wasn't so "tired", i'd think of some witty analogies to help prove this point.)
posted by ggggarret at 4:02 PM on June 22, 2001


If you only post new entries but never read the existing threads, then you're not committing yourself enough to the enterprise.

According to his profile, Ezrael has posted 37 links and 409 comments. So %8 of his total posts are new entries -- that's not a bad ratio. What say we take this discussion here?

Aaron and Kindell: It's not as if they're giving him a actual speeding ticket -- if they were, then, aaron, I think your objections would be warranted. Instead, they are imposing a fine for mistreatment of their property, and if it's in the rental agreement then I think that's probably the end of that. Which doesn't mean that I find ethical, or think that the use of the technology might be in violation of privacy laws ... just that they are not, as you say, "declaring him guilty of a crime" -- they are just soaking him for some extra $$.

That said, I do agree with you, aaron, that this is just that: nothing more than a way to soak the guy for some extra $$. In fact, what do they do if the guy refuses to pay? Tell the police about the spending? Isn't there a name for when you don't tell the cops about a crime in return for payment?
posted by Shadowkeeper at 4:05 PM on June 22, 2001


Well, let me put it another way then: They placed a clause in his contract WRT speeding when they cannot themselves legally prove the condition has occurred, at least not with the device they have installed. It's as if they'd said "no more than three people in the car" and placed sensors under the seats to track it. Then someone comes along, rents the car, and puts himself and 2 other people in the car along with a really heavy box in the other seat. They say "You had four people in the car," he didn't, and there's no way they can prove he did.
posted by aaron at 4:05 PM on June 22, 2001


Mo Nickels: Right on! Your valor and bravery in upholding the fine editorial content of this enclave will earn you a promotion in the ranks very soon, sir!

Rest assured that our crack team of cybernetic winged monkeys are on-course [five-by-five, yessir!] to their doomed target: Mr. Smartypants Ezrael's house! They'll learn him REAL GOOD!

Remember, kids: Metafilter is NOT about free speech, community sharing, or open, intelligent content. We'll have none of that pinko-commie stuff around here. Let this terrifying winged-monkey attack stand as a "shot across the bow" for all those who dare to state their meager opinions on this forum!

On Metafilter, there is no excuse for mistakes.

VIOLATORS SHALL PERISH IN FLAMES!
posted by Unxmaal at 4:10 PM on June 22, 2001


They placed a clause in his contract WRT speeding when they cannot themselves legally prove the condition has occurred, at least not with the device they have installed.

Sure they can. GPS receivers and clocks aren't illegal, you know. That's all you need.
posted by kindall at 4:15 PM on June 22, 2001


You're actually supposed to read Metafilter.

Heh...I didn't even see this post until after responding to kindall just now. That's the problem; our brains are programmed to route 90% of our eye inputs straight to /dev/null. Sometimes we just subconscously skip over stuff.

Also, I think what I was trying to say about the rental place "charging" you with speeding is this: Say one of the clauses in your contract was "Don't murder any your passengers in the car, or we'll charge you an extra $50." At some point during your rental, you bring home a big bag of ground beef for your cookout this weekend, and it leaks blood all over the seat. You take the car back, they have to clean blood off the seat, so boom, here's an extra $50 "murder charge" on your credit card. They're just assuming that they have the right to be the only arbiter of whether or not you've done something that violates the contract. If they say you did it, you did it, and you owe them more money. Pretty convenient, no?
posted by aaron at 4:15 PM on June 22, 2001



ok...

my question is, how do they know when you are speeding? either there is a set numerical value of whatever the highest speed limit in the country is (which happens to be unlimited) or the computer system tracks your position and pulls speed limits from a constantly changing database of speed limits for every mile of road in the country to compare against to determine if you are speeding in that exact location (which would mean you would get a ticket if you coasted past a speed limit sign at one mph over the speed limit while slowing down). so... if they set the assumed maximum speed limit of the nation to be 80 mph, couldn't they just put governors in all the cars and have a 100% guarantee that no one would be speeding? or if the system was of the constantly changing speed limit sort, couldn't the same information be used to inform a "smart" governor?

it sounds to me that they are more concerned with charging fines than they are with safety or wear & tear.


i hope that made sense.
posted by ggggarret at 4:47 PM on June 22, 2001


Uh, aaron ... try to get all your apartment security deposit back, and then come back to us on this "only arbiter" stuff.
posted by dhartung at 4:54 PM on June 22, 2001


Well, if DNA testing revealed it was human blood on the seat, I'd say charge me the $50. Similarly, if their GPS says I exceeded the speed limit, it's probably right. I mean, it's GPS, not some guy divining your speed in the entrails of a chicken, right? This is the same basic technology used to guide missiles, and it is well understood. Calculating your speed based on GPS location measurements from one minute to the next is also not exactly rocket science; I would expect 'most any computer to be able to perform these simple calculations without error.

Not having any way to dispute the accuracy of the speeding determination (or even to know that it has been made) is a PR disaster waiting to happen, to be sure, and that's why it'll get fixed. In other words, the implementation of the feature is customer-unfriendly. That's all that it needs to be in order for the company to realize it should be improved. But the basic idea is not going anywhere.
posted by kindall at 4:56 PM on June 22, 2001


i don't doubt that the technology works... what i'm saying is that if they are honestly concerned with safety or wear & tear on the car... why don't they install governors that regulate speed based off the gps readings?

i'm sure governor technology has been perfected too... right?
posted by ggggarret at 5:09 PM on June 22, 2001


i'm sure governor technology has been perfected too... right?

You're completely right that this would be an even more customer-friendly solution, but I'm not sure how technically feasible it is.
posted by kindall at 5:18 PM on June 22, 2001


It's not as if they're giving him a actual speeding ticket

Correct. In the case of the use of electronic devices to determine speed (radar, lidar, etc.), a driver suspected of an actual speeding ticket has the right to verify the calibration of the device used. Some states (Georgia is the only one I know of for sure) have the inaccuracies of these devices built into state traffic laws.


The thing that scares me about this is that the impact of a speeding ticket is not the (usually nominal) fine imposed by the state or municipality. It's not even the traffic violation record generated by a guilty plea. It's the reflection of that violation in a database such as ChoicePoint's, which then gets passed on to the insurance companies for rate setting and coverage risk analysis purposes. Now let's say that the rental car companies sell speeding data to ChoicePoint, which sells it to said insurance companies. Suddenly, the one check on traffic violation information - the legal process of the municipal and state traffic courts - is circumvented by industry.

Whether or not it's an actual ticket doesn't matter; it's whether it could have the same impact on the accused.
posted by Vetinari at 5:27 PM on June 22, 2001


the article said that when the driver reaches a speed of over 79 miles per hour. i don't know how they know the car is going that fast, but they are applying their standard of speeding, "over 79 mph", not the local speed limits.
posted by centrs at 6:46 PM on June 22, 2001


"There's no excuse for double posting."

What a load of crap.
posted by y6y6y6 at 6:57 PM on June 22, 2001


Once again, I don't even have to respond, because others do it for me. Thanks, Unxmaal, y6y6y6. You've pretty much said everything I would have. Inasmuch as I'm sure Mo Nickles couldn't quote back half of what I've seen posted on MeFi without spending several hours reading it, his double standard is obvious.
posted by Ezrael at 7:25 PM on June 22, 2001


Uh, aaron ... try to get all your apartment security deposit back, and then come back to us on this "only arbiter" stuff.

Uh, dan ... if your landlord fucks you over on your deposit, you take them to court, and they lose if they can't prove you did what they claim you did to deserve to lose it. No only arbiter there unless you're too lazy to fight.
posted by aaron at 9:19 PM on June 22, 2001



Governors work fine. The last truck I rented had one.

It was set at 65. Couldn't even accelerate past 65 for passing. Had to drive like 600 miles with it too.

It was a Ryder truck, if I am not mistaken.
posted by jaded at 9:22 PM on June 22, 2001


If the rental company says it's going to charge you by the mile, you both look at the odometer and agree that the starting mileage is X, and at the end of your trip you look at the odometer again, agree that the ending mileage is Y, and that you therefore owe them Z. No reasonable person would complain about having to trust the odometer or about Big Brother tracking how far the car had gone.

They just need to make the speed monitor equally transparent, so you know when you're busted -- with a warning light or buzzer to warn you to slow down or be prepared to pay for exceeding the maximum speed permitted under the rental contract you signed. That would be more to the purpose, if the purpose is not to collect money from speeders, but to reduce speeding and thereby improve highway safety and reduce the damage you might do to and with the car.

I'm for making it a standard insurance option for all drivers. Let people who drive safely benefit by having lower insurance costs. Let people who refuse to install it pay higher rates.
posted by pracowity at 4:42 AM on June 23, 2001


What's the margin of error on GPS these days? Particularly on a moving target? Probably enough to have its presumption of a particular speed challenged in a court.

If they're concerned about safety, and damage to their property, they install speed limiters: it works on buses and lorries in the UK. Otherwise, it's just a another "additional charge" for which car rental companies are already notorious.

pracowity: we've already turned the credit reference agencies into the de facto police force of our economic lives; are we to do the same with insurance companies? Surely there's already sufficient checks and balances built into the system as it stands: you cause a crash, or get caught speeding, and your premium goes up. Bad drivers are thus penalised for proven bad driving.

Is your life insurance premium (or, in the US, your health insurance premium) to be dictated upon having a monitor that sends back to your HMO how many beers you drink, or cigarettes you smoke, or sexual partners you have? "Didn't use a condom, mister: that's an extra $50 a month." I bloody well hope not.
posted by holgate at 8:02 AM on June 23, 2001


What's the margin of error on GPS these days?

From what I can tell from a cursory Googling of "GPS accuracy," it looks like just a few meters for consumer-grade equipment; for horizontal measurements, almost always under three. (Vertical measurements seem to be less precise.) Assuming travel at 60MPH and thus a mile per minute, this 10-foot margin of error amounts to about .2% of the distance each minute. The faster you're driving, the less effect the margin of error has on the speed calculation. When your speedometer reads 80 MPH, GPS might show you going anywhere from 79.9 MPH to 80.1 MPH.

I don't believe the fact that the vehicle is moving would have much impact on GPS accuracy. The system, after all, is designed for just such a use.
posted by kindall at 9:33 AM on June 23, 2001


Inasmuch as I'm sure Mo Nickles couldn't quote back half of what I've seen posted on MeFi without spending several hours reading it, his double standard is obvious.

You're wrong. You're sure of nothing. Not only do I not post links to Metafilter that've been posted here before, I don't post them here if I've seen them on most other blogs as well. (The only exceptions are low-traffic blogs: I consider it a benefit to not only re-post their super links to MetaFilter, but to hype deserving low-traffic blogs).

My certainty comes from spending two or three hours a day reading the Internet: each day more than 300 sites, about 30 of them blogs, including about 800 headlines from headline aggregators outside of the headlines on those 300 sites, scanning the full text of close to 400 stories (estimated average) and fully reading about 80 stories. I'm good at what I do, and I'm picky about it. So back up, jack.

[I wrote:] "There's no excuse for double posting."

[y6y6y6 wrote:] What a load of crap.


Clearly the best defense of laziness I've heard in a long time. Nice.
posted by Mo Nickels at 6:06 PM on June 23, 2001


Thanks Mo,

I've been struggling recently to read threads and to keep metafilter in a good light. I tried to just avoid anything political outright.

300 sites? What a load of crap! I'm really sorry for you If that's true. What a burden to be so full of it every day. If ever I've seen a reason to spend less time inside, it's now.

I hope things are better in the fall. It's time for my first Mefi vacation.
posted by john at 3:37 AM on June 24, 2001


> Surely there's already sufficient checks and balances
> built into the system as it stands: you cause a crash,
> or get caught speeding, and your premium goes up.
> Bad drivers are thus penalised for proven bad driving.

It's too late after you crash, especially if the crash involves others. I'm talking about building safe cars and rewarding people for driving them.

These things would be, like seatbelts and airbags, a safety feature. Maybe you should be allowed to drive without them, but you should then pay higher insurance rates than people who use them pay. More importantly, if you used a speed control like this, it would considerably improve safety not only for you and your passengers, but for the drivers and passengers of all cars sharing the road with you. You may have the right to decide whether an airbag will come between your own face and the windscreen, but you shouldn't be able to decide how fast and reckless everyone else's oncoming traffic is.

The people who worry about this are generally the idiots who drive very fast. They think of the road as their recreation field and the other cars and the families in them simply as obstacles to their fun. When they are caught, they just pay a fine and speed away. They continue to speed recklessly (i.e., break the law and endanger others) as if it's a harmless game rather than something that good, honest people don't do on public roads.

Under the current system, a very small percentage of speeding infractions are punished. A GPS system would simply ensure that every infraction is detected, and that speeders are punished _every_ time they break the speed limit by a wide margin. If a limit such as 75 or 80 mph were used, most drivers would not even be affected. Only the most dangerous drivers would be punished.
posted by pracowity at 4:45 AM on June 24, 2001


Surely there's already sufficient checks and balances built into the system as it stands: you cause a crash, or get caught speeding, and your premium goes up. Bad drivers are thus penalized for proven bad driving.

This might just be a personal issue with me (having far too many speeding tickets), but I don't think speeders are worse drivers then people doing the speed limit, and especially people doing under the speed limit. Sure, if they get into an accident, there's likely to be more damage, but whenever I sped (I don't drive much at the moment) I paid far more attention to my driving then I do when I'm casually following some other car, driving the speed limit.

Highways are a good example of the higher speeds, closer attention to driving. Driving on big interstates at 55-65 MPH (or higher) people only get into accidents when they either make an abrupt change in velocity or direction (i.e. change lanes suddenly or stop), it seems per capita that far fewer accidents happen on the swiftly moving freeways than on city streets, where the driving is slower and there's constant merging an unpredictability.

In the case of the car rental company, they should have the box warn you when you're approaching fine inducing speeds. People slow down when they see a cop car, they're just a likely to slow down when they hear a "if you do not slow down you will be fined $150".
posted by drezdn at 12:04 PM on June 24, 2001


Hey Unxmaal, y6y6y6, Mo Nickels, Ezrael and John -

Let's stop the fighting and be pals. I'm inviting each of you to a super fun barbeque this weekend. Stop by - aaron is bringing a "big bag of ground beef" and after we drain all the blood out of it, it's time for some grillin'!
posted by lawtalkinguy at 12:39 PM on June 25, 2001


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