When I was younger, the big screen movies were full of sci-fi styled vehicles; of course we had James Bond in his tricked out DB5 or Lotus Esprit, there was Michael Knight with his Knight Industries Two Thousand (KITT), and of course the time-travelling DeLorean from Back to the Future, to name a few.

Of course, as any youngster might, I wished them to be real – to be able to talk to my car, push a few buttons and light up the built-in TV screens, heck, even have a ‘live’ rolling map … just what wonders would await us in the future?

A great many of these sci-fi wonders are now upon us: we’re on the edge of full autonomy, we have full HD screens, TVs, satnav, Wi-Fi connectivity, and interior ‘mood’ lighting for ambience. What a time to be alive.

When good tech goes bad

But keeping with that theme – movies and sci-fi, have none of the manufacturers learned anything from out cinematic history? About how technology can be used against us, to monitor our movements, ensure that we’re behaving correctly, or even God forbid, just stop us having fun?
For that age is also upon us.

We recently told you about plans to have Intelligent Speed Assist fitted to all new cars from 2022, and how those systems will interact with our driving, physically altering our behaviour and driving style, all in the name of safety.

In that article, I made the point how companies, or the authorities, could use such technology to monitor and report our movements and behaviours, how it’s possible that tracking technology may be used against us, and that really, it’s an infringement on our civil liberties.

EU Council

The EU Council have stated that along with Intelligent Speed Assist being mandatory from 2022, they would also like to see tracking devices fitted to all new cars, which will monitor and report back on driving behaviour and speed, making prosecution all the more likely.

Currently, a great many new cars are technically capable of doing such, even without the driver’s knowledge, and just this last week, Mercedes-Benz has come under fire for using just this sort of technology in all their new and used vehicles sold through their official dealer network.

Mercedes say that they don’t use real-time analytics, but that all their cars are fitted with tracking devices which can be switched on remotely, in the event of the owner failing to keep to a finance agreement, and details can be shared with a third party, such as a bailiff or recovery company.

While their customers may not know anything about it and disagree vehemently, it’s all in the small print when signing up for finance; the terms and conditions include a clause on ‘vehicle location sensors’.

Other brands

Mercedes Benz aren’t the only ones that seem to be pushing the boundaries of privacy – the EU’s new data protection laws make tracking a car without the owners knowledge illegal, so it seems to be a grey area as to whether Mercedes et al are within the law when it comes to privacy.

BMW have been a little more coy – they’ve absolutely denied sharing any tracking data with third parties, but haven’t denied collecting it. Honda do have the technology installed in their CR-V, but insist that it can only be activated by the driver, in case of an emergency situation. Suzuki are looking at plans to offer something similar next year.

Brexit isn’t a cure

For those of you that think Brexit will put an end to this type of intrusive legislation, unfortunately you’re mistaken. All cars that are manufactured within the European Union, that are used on Britain’s roads, will need to comply with the EU Council’s directive.

And it continues … the black boxes used with such tech are just part of the suite of features that could be implemented – the intelligent speed assist is definitely happening, but there’s also talk of the boxes being linked to pre-wired in-car breathalysers, reporting tech for irresponsible driving, and of course, speed detection and reporting.

It would seem that the age of technology is here, but rather than improve our lives, it will be used as a larger stick to make us comply with the ever increasing and absurd motoring laws that at best, are draconian and unforgiving. Think of it in terms of a ‘safety’ camera – no judgement, no consideration of circumstance, nothing other than “You’ve broken the law, you will pay”.

It’s easy revenue generation, and if there’s one thing we know about ‘the government’ (whoever that may be), fleecing motorists seems to be their sport, so you can guarantee this will happen.

What do you think to the latest legislation? Will it make the world a better place? Or is it simply about fleecing the motorist for yet more money? Let us know in the comments.
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