London Tries Anti-Speeding Black Box

July 8, 2009
Transport for London's Intelligent Speed Adaption system

Transport for London's Intelligent Speed Adaption system

By many accounts Britain is already a surveillance society, with a frighteningly high level of personal data collection and tracking. So somehow it's not too surprising that the U.K. is considering some of its most drastic, interventionist measures for motorists—including controlling the gas pedal.

AutoWeek reports that a month-long trial, Run by Transport for London on its fleet of Priuses, employs a black box that uses GPS location data to figure speed. The limiters are linked to digital maps of speed limits, and the system has the capability to override the throttle—like a driver's ed teacher—if it decides the driver is speeding.

The reason? Reducing speeding saves lives, proponents of the device say. London has been studying Intelligent Speed Adaptation for many years now and has already employed it in some test fleets. Some of the measures might eliminate the need for some odd calming measures, like speed bumps, that we've come to take for granted.

A transport official already admitted that with this trial the devices are increasing congestion, with a line of traffic building up behind the affected vehicles.

And there might have been some unreported instances of leisurely passes turning into hair-raising close calls.

Beyond the obvious privacy issues, what if any of the issues that are all too common with GPS devices crop up with this enforcement technique? What if it insists that you're on the service road when you're on the Interstate and won't let you go above 25 mph? What if you're in hilly terrain or under the cover of trees or buildings where a GPS signal often blinks out?

What's the best way to put the kibosh on reckless driving? We have our doubts about methods like this, but please tell us what you think.


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