The UK government today announced a plan to remotely control vehicles on roads using wi-fi technology in order to reduce traffic and offset global warming, the latest manifestation of the ‘Internet of Things’ that will stir up concern amongst privacy advocates.
A report released today by Ofcom, the government-controlled body which regulates communications in the United Kingdom, lays out a blueprint that could be realized in as soon as 10 years where cars would communicate with each other to “reduce congestion”.
The proposals are being billed by some media outlets as a means of solving traffic jams and taking the stress out of finding a parking space, while also serving to reduce “greenhouse gases” and offset global warming.
However, buried in the report is a detail that will horrify many libertarians and privacy advocates. The state plans to achieve this new high-tech solution by fitting sensors in all cars that would wirelessly send information to a “central traffic control system”. The control system would then react by imposing remote speed limits on each vehicle, a “shockwave effect” which would cause each one to brake and accelerate in unison.
In other words, in the name of reducing traffic and helping the environment, the government could at any time seize control of your vehicle against your will.
Such a system would also obviously empower the government to keep a flawless and permanent database of the precise travel details of every single driver in the country, which would likely be utilized for criminal investigations.
“M2M sensors in cars and on the roads monitor the build up of congestion and wirelessly send this information to a central traffic control system, which automatically impose variable speed limits that smooth the flow of traffic,” states Ofcom. “This system could also communicate directly with cars, directing them along diverted routes to avoid the congestion and even managing their speed.”
“M2M sensors could also be attached to the mechanical parts of a car, such as ABS wheel rotation sensors to measure speed. This information could be wirelessly communicated to nearby cars, which have onboard computers that process and react to this information.”
Car manufacturer Nissan is also developing a similar system to be implemented in Japan.
The blueprint was revealed at the same time it emerged that the U.S. Justice Department had built a national database for real-time tracking of vehicles, “a secret domestic intelligence-gathering program that scans and stores hundreds of millions of records about motorists,” reports the Wall Street Journal.
The proposal serves to underscore the privacy and civil liberties threat posed by so-called “smart technology” and the ‘Internet of Things’.
In a 2012 Wired Magazine interview, former CIA director David Petraeus hailed the advent of every device being connected to the Internet as a transformational boon for “clandestine tradecraft”.