Tracking your tires
January 22, 2003 9:13 AM   Subscribe

Michelin plans to embed trackable microchips in tires. The US tire manufacturer has begun testing electronic transponders that are "strictly for identification and tracking. " Congress passed the TREAD Act (Transportation, Recall, Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation) in response to the massive recall of Firestone tires on Ford Explorers and requires tire makers to more closely track their tires. Is this a legitimate use of technology, or does it present another opportunity to erode privacy? [Via /.]
posted by maniactown (24 comments total)
Yeah, a little disturbing, but what WON'T microchips be embedded in soon? (hot dogs, twinkies, corn chips, EZ wipes, condoms, Q-tips..........) Me?...I'm just watching that cockroach on the wall that's watching me, wondering.......
posted by troutfishing at 9:22 AM on January 22, 2003

I'll give this thread ten posts before the term "slippery slope" is used.
posted by bondcliff at 9:24 AM on January 22, 2003

It seems to me that it is inevitable that this type of technology and many, many other forms of potentially invasive technology will come into being. The key is not to resist the tech itself, but to come up with ways that preserve privacy while allowing the good points of these kinds of products and services. I do not trust the bought-and-paid for congress to do this on their own, it must come directly from the people.
posted by cell divide at 9:25 AM on January 22, 2003

Personally I won't mind tracking. As long as it means I can get my defective tyres fixed on my SUV before I drive down those dunes in Iraq... those are some slippery slopes!
posted by twine42 at 9:26 AM on January 22, 2003


The full text of the article linked in that link is here.
posted by NortonDC at 9:26 AM on January 22, 2003

Is that a microchip in your pocket, or is everyone on the other end just happy to see me?

Get a horse.
posted by LouReedsSon at 9:28 AM on January 22, 2003

Privacy? C'mon. These chips are trackable in the sense that the tires themselves "store information about when and where the tire was made, its maximum inflation pressure, size and so on." They are NOT trackable, in the sense that they keep, for example, GPS coordinates of location. Further, these are not trackable at distance. "Michelin claims to be the first to meet the Automotive Industry Action Group's B-11 standard for North America, which calls for a read distance of 24 inches." (emphasis added).

This is basically an electronic serial number.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 9:30 AM on January 22, 2003

can I get a prize for mentioning Iraq, SUV's and slippery slopes? Oh please...?

Being serious, I don't see the problem. who's going to track you? The motor companies? They already have a fairly good idea of what you do. The garages? Why the hell should they care? The only 'worry' is that your movements could be tracked by the authorities, but your car already has this thing called a 'license plate' on the back and (probably) front of it.

But then I'm one of these people who thinks the only thing the French got right was making everyone have an ID card on them at all times...
posted by twine42 at 9:31 AM on January 22, 2003

"This is basically an electronic serial number."

For now.

Tag. You're it!
posted by LouReedsSon at 9:34 AM on January 22, 2003

Forget tires. Our company already uses a black box in all our vehicles.
posted by oh posey at 9:41 AM on January 22, 2003

TREAD Act details
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:47 AM on January 22, 2003

Bondcliff - Two posts! - even better than your prediction.
posted by troutfishing at 9:57 AM on January 22, 2003

FLASH - "PATRIOT Act says don't TREAD act on me!"
posted by troutfishing at 9:58 AM on January 22, 2003

Fantastic. Now when I steal a car and run over someone's dog with it they can track both at the same time.

That said, I'm sort of mixed on the privacy tracking issue. I'm against the implants in animals and humans more as a living rights/ ability to override it issue. But I also remember how EZ-Pass and MetroCards were introduced in New York City about 7-8 years ago to the same complaints of "possible tracking." To the best of my knowledge, neither of these have led to the Minority Report yet.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:59 AM on January 22, 2003

So why not--and call me silly--have a die with a serial number on it either in the mold or in an after step to mark the tire with a serial number. It uses existing technology and adds next to nothing to the cost of the tire. Redunancy in the imprint (ie, imprint it several times), will suffice for identifying the tire after blow-outs.

This type of numbering is already done on foods, pharmaceuticals and many electronic compnents. I mean, heck, if hard drive companies can do something like this without having to add a chip, you'd think tire companies could.
posted by plinth at 10:15 AM on January 22, 2003

Privacy? Where? Who wants it? It's too lonely.
posted by semmi at 10:16 AM on January 22, 2003

I wrote about this myself the other day. The thing is, your set of tires (of any other RFID-tagged products) forms a unique signature that can be used to track you (or at least your vehicle, your clothing, the contents of your briefcase, etc). 24 inches may sound nice and short, but it would be awfully easy to scan those tires at a stop sign, toll booth, drive through, etc. As for items on your person, any doorway or security checkpoint is more than close enough to scan you, as are most cash registers, automated teller machines, pay phones, and so on.

That said, I have an EZPass myself. Sure, they can figure out where my car has been, and in principle they could use the thing to nab me for speeding, but I've accepted the risks for the convenience of dodging some traffic.
posted by Songdog at 10:16 AM on January 22, 2003

If it works, it will make catching and levying fines on speeders easy. Put two sensor strips in the road a short way apart from each other and *bingo*.

Cheaper than cameras, less obvious where the speed zones are, easier identification then a human parsing license plate numbers on a video screen.

Since they are unique serial numbers, they can be easily linked to your purchasing information. Expect your speeding ticket via email, payable with a credit card.

Wee hee.
posted by moonbiter at 10:21 AM on January 22, 2003

24 inches is the read distance for the stated query signal power *and* receiver sensitivity. It's pretty trivial to boost the read distance with sensitive equipment and more powerful query transmitters.
posted by Cerebus at 10:38 AM on January 22, 2003

This is why I've been storing old tires on the roof of my trailer since 1982. I figure they'll be worth a fortune someday.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 10:42 AM on January 22, 2003

I'm not too worried about police or the government using this to track me, since they already require me to mount a licence plate to my car. I can see many avenues for abuse, but they all seem like a real stretch.

However....... How is this going to be used for recall purposes? I as a consumer I can't read the chip. So I'll have to drive to the dealer and pay them $20 to read it if there is a recall? Seems like a number on the outside would be best for consumers, but a chip requiring me to return to the dealer over and over is ideal for manufacturers.

On my trust meter tire salesmen are just below get-rich-quick spam.
posted by y6y6y6 at 10:44 AM on January 22, 2003

"...strictly for identification and tracking."

Whew. As opposed to other, nefarious purposes like... what... singing and dancing?
posted by Tubes at 12:57 PM on January 22, 2003

Tires already by law have to have a serial number on them (the "DOT Safety Code") which indicates, amongst other things, the week and year of manufacture. It's no big stretch to add an ordinal number to that to make each code a unique serial number... there's no need to use transponders to track this any more than there is a need to put a transponder in your refridgerator so you can get warranty service on it.

Details on the DOT code here.
posted by jammer at 2:20 PM on January 22, 2003

PATRIOT Act says don't TREAD act on me!

Man, I hate acronyms that are designed to form words.
posted by kirkaracha at 2:25 PM on January 22, 2003

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