15 December 2012

In Future Your Car Won't Work If Its Paperwork Is Out Of Date

Car keys
I'm just indulging in some blue skies thinking, knowing full well that somebody on an advisory panel at the Dept of Transport will have already been here!

I got my car back from its MOT test at the garage yesterday (it passed), and I was noticing that the Vehicle & Operator Services Agency (VOSA) which operates the annual MOT system now puts the mileage history (last 4 odometer readings) on the test certificate.

In fact there's an awful lot of data about our cars, our licenses, or vehicle tax and our insurance, all centralised at VOSA, DVLA and the Motor Insurers' Bureau (MIB) databases respectively, which is how - as we see each night in the endless fly-on-the-wall TV cop documentaries on the cableshite channels - the police's Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras can spot a car without insurance, tax or MOT instantly.

Here come the forward thinking...

The latest and next generation vehicles are/will be mobile Internet devices in their own right, with their own IP numbers, like the Chevy Volt.

So, sooner or later some bright spark will realise we don't need to tie up Police resources stopping and processing the drivers of cars without valid paperwork. All we need to do is make it a manufacturers regulation that cars must be fitted with remote disablers. Then, when a certificate, license or tax disc runs out, it will be automatically disabled in its 'off' condition. IE The next time you try to start it, it won't run.

OK, drawbacks and dangers...

Such a system would be a blindingly obvious target for cyber warfare. Imagine the effect of disabling every vehicle in the country. So, the disablers would not be fitted to commercial or military vehicles.

Hard to imagine how it might be wrongly applied, but one proviso must be that the system must be immediately restorable. No filling out a form or waiting for office hours nonsense. If a driver walks out of the cinema with her kids on Boxing Day afternoon and finds her car disabled in the car park because her husband forgot to renew the insurance, she MUST be able to get out her credit card, phone the insurance company, pay, and have her car switched back on instantly, 24/365!

We're not trying to penalise honest motorists, just prevent poorly maintained, un-taxed or un-insured cars from getting on the road.

And maybe the police should be able to restore a car's mobility, at least temporarily, so they can move it if necessary. Eg. from a dangerous place, or a red route.

People won't like the idea of  "the authorities" having the power of control over their vehicles but the benefits seem worth it to me. Motoring is no longer the essence of freedom & independence it was in its early years. However the issue of 'mission creep' may have to be firmly guarded against. The police and other agencies would love the powers to remotely disable any vehicle they choose. And how long will it be before local government wants the power to disable the cars of Council Tax dodgers or other miscreants?

What do you think? Will it happen?

(Image: flickr/mynameisharsha)



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