Thursday, May 9, 2024

Government Mandates That Your Car Monitor Your Behavior


New technologies that will make monitoring driver’s behavior easy and comprehensive…will soon also be mandatory. H.R. 3684, an “infrastructure” bill passed several years ago, included a provision mandating expanded monitoring of folks as they drive an automobile. And henceforth the intrusive technologies will be required in all new vehicles being manufactured and sold in the U.S.

New vehicles will be required to have passive monitoring systems to assess driver’s behavior. An algorithm will determine if the driver is too impaired to operate the vehicle. If so, the vehicle will either be disabled, or some as yet unexplained system or entity will take control of it.

Several obvious questions arise. What will constitute “impairment?” Who or what might take control of the vehicle, and in what specific circumstances? And how? How long will data detailing driver behavior be stored? Where? Who will have access to it? In what other situations might the government take control of a driver’s vehicle? Is this unconstitutional, contra to protections under the Bill of Rights? And what about hackers?!

We have seen how other government mandates, programs, and policies, almost all supposedly “for our own good,” have worked out. Think of the “Patriot Act,” the Department of Homeland Security, the TSA, or the response to the recent coronavirus pandemic, to name but a few. If you wanted to work out at a gym, attend a family member’s wedding—or funeral—well, sorry.

Is it really far-fetched to imagine that you won’t be allowed to drive if you have exceeded your monthly greenhouse gas emission limit? Or that your car might be disabled if you are on your way to purchase a firearm or attend a Trump rally, or the future equivalent thereof?

In places like California, there is already legislation in the works to mandate that car manufacturers equip your vehicle so as to make it literally impossible for a driver to go more than 10 miles-an-hour over the speed limit, regardless of reason or situation. Perhaps the software monitoring program will similarly decide that it doesn’t care for the way you brake or change lanes. Or for the talk shows you listen to on the vehicle’s radio/sound system.

No one defends drunk driving, nor should they. But this is existentially dangerous. Automobiles granted Americans unprecedented freedom and independence. Now Big Brother will use them to spy on citizens and modify their behavior…removing their freedom and independence altogether, along with their privacy.

The relationship between Americans and their cars is long and deep. That those cars will now be used as witnesses against them is chilling, dystopian.

Sadly, in a sense, all of our vehicles going forward will be “1984” models.




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