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Cameras, Radar, Laser, Oh My!

David J. Cipolloni
Thursday, March 8, 2007


The "Big Brother is watching you" style of total surveillance is slowly becoming a reality.

Slowly but surely our every move on America’s roadways are being monitored. Although it does not always rear its ugly head, the technology is there to capture our every move. We have cameras to monitor intersections and busy stretches of roadway, we have radar and laser that can record our speed.

We have onboard computer systems that now record vehicle speed, engine speed, brake application, yaw rate, steering angle, etc. All of this obviously paints a clear picture of what you were doing before your car meets with an untimely mishap. We have electronic easy pay systems that are capable of recording your entry onto the highway, and of course your exit. It’s simple math to determine your average speed.

All of this is obviously done in the name of safety. We will be safer if Big Brother can monitor our every move and punish us accordingly. Is this ok, and will motorists just come to accept it? A number of years ago here in NJ the police would implement rolling roadblocks. This was done when the speed limit was 55 and folks were going too fast, using up too much fossil fuel, and endangering the motoring public.

After massive traffic jams snarled our highways the procedure was discontinued. Big Brother needs to find another way of controlling our moves. All one has to do is look at a few horrific traffic accidents and it becomes clear we need safety on our roadways.

With the age of computers upon us the government will be able to monitor and control drivers moves. Electronics now control our braking systems, and in some cases even the steering system. How long before the black boxes will be able to stop and steer us to safety. Won’t that be nice? Instead of sliding on the ice and crashing headlong into a bridge abutment the car will take over control, remove the stupidity, and steer you to safety.

Maybe at some point it will be fun to try and make the car crash, only to have the car override our moronic inputs and put us back on course. I can hear the automated voice warning me now – "I’m sorry driver I cannot progress at the rate of speed you have requested." Mashing the accelerator will simply generate a polite response from the car that it cannot meet your request.

Think you’re going to hit that exit ramp with a good head of steam? Think again, the car will know your position (GPS) and know where you are heading, and know you cannot exit at the speed you are traveling. "Pardon me driver we cannot exit at this speed."

Just think how much safer everyone will be. Here in NJ we have a law that one must wear a helmet when riding a bicycle. There was even a law a few years ago about how your eggs must be cooked, runny eggs are much too dangerous. Maybe there will be a law soon about running with scissors. We just can’t be too safe you know. Why would we intentionally put ourselves in an unsafe predicament if there is a way of avoiding it?

We all want to be safe, and want our loved ones to be safe also. Big Brother is simply meeting our needs. Maybe the whole transportation system will eventually morph into a public mass transit system, with the only accidents being caused by computer glitches.

Let’s be honest, when automobile accidents occur it is typically the fault of the drivers. When airplane accidents occur it is typically the fault of the pilots. Rarely do we see mechanical or computer problems causing accidents these days. When you take a commercial flight the computer does most of the flying, and even lands the plane in many cases. This takes pilot error out of the equation. Who do you trust more, the pilot or the computer?

If your car can drive better than you can are you ready to give up control? Just think of all the things you could get done while your car deals with traffic, detours, weather conditions, etc. Why bother yourself with tedious repetitive motions in order to arrive at your destination. For fun we can sit in a simulator that allows us to drive, it will remind us of how poor our skills are.

When you took that exit ramp at full speed did you know your right rear tire was short 13.5 PSI of air pressure? Your car knew it, and had already made calculations and adjustments once every three milliseconds. You see, the car knows what has to occur, you simply have an idea of what might work. We all see drivers doing really stupid things on the road these days, and our local body shops are raking in the revenues of that stupidity.

It seems as cars get better at what they do, we might be getting worse at what we do. I keep a couple of old muscle cars in the stable, and an old Ferrari. When I take these old cars out for a spin it reminds me of the skills I need to possess in order to drive them well. The muscle cars can get you into trouble quickly, gobs of power and limited handling and braking, it’s a volatile mix.

Come to think of it I like the fact these cars require special skills, I enjoy the element of danger they impose. When I put them away I’m glad I don’t have to drive them every day. Life is going to be different, we will be safer, life will be easier.

We don’t blaze trails out west on horseback anymore, we get on an airplane and complain about the food as we watch a movie. The blazing part wasn’t easy, and it sure could be dangerous, but it was blazing, and it did touch on the inherent human desire for adventure.

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