Friday, December 31, 2010

Sounds like Science Fiction

Originally published March 13, 2008

Sounds like Science Fiction

mood: crappy

Another part of The Road System I posted about last night is an almost George Jetson automotive autopilot.  That’s a wrinkle I hadn’t predicted in my original Orwellian Nightmare post.

5. Go ahead, take a nap. Your car will drive itself

Futuristic cars tricked out with their own ATMs and self-maintenance features sound nice, but for many engineers, that's just the tip of the iceberg. The real holy grail? A fully automated, driverless car.

Shining a big spotlight on such efforts is DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), a Department of Defense organization aimed at perfecting the robotic technology needed for safe, autonomous military vehicles.

Conceivably, this would allow drivers to sleep through long stretches of highway -- or at the very least read the morning paper and drink their coffee. Another advantage is that these routes could have less restrictive speed limits -- likely well over 100 mph -- which could redefine the morning commute for many Americans.

Put another way: The Road will drive your car for you.

You go out to your car in the morning, swipe your Real ID card in the reader, punch in your PIN and tell the car’s voice-activated computer “take me to work.” And off you go. Using a combination of improved GPS and DSRC technologies along with an onboard inertial navigation system the car makes its way quickly and efficiently to your place of employment without any further input from you.

Isn’t that convenient?

Sounds great to me – except…

[LJ Cut]

Say the night before you had a nasty break-up with your Significant Other.  SO has a long weepy conversation with her big brother, the Geek.  Unbeknownst to you, the Geek has a secret little hobby and amuses himself in his off time from work in the IT department of the local community college by breaking into government computers.

Now I know where you expect this to go next.  Well, that wouldn’t be anywhere near subtle enough.  Besides, the Road System is protected almost as well as the computers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.  *ehem* 

No.  SO’s big bro The Geek’s best buddy was just bragging this very afternoon about hacking his way into the records computer at the local court house.  A couple of quick text messages later and our nefarious Geek has the access codes and is in.  Hmmm…  This could be useful.  Here’s a warrant for the arrest of some creep that’s accused of being a serial child molester.  Tap tap tap on the Geek’s keyboard and in a very few minutes the suspect’s personal information has all been replaced with yours.  Little Sister will be avenged!

You walk out to your car the next morning, swipe your Real ID card in the reader, type in your PIN on the keypad on the dashboard and the car wakes up.  As it says “Good morning” to you it’s also saying good morning to The Road.  The Road goes through its usual new flight plan in the system start-up procedure and checks for clearance from all of its computer friends.  And finds a warrant for your arrest on file at the local court house.

Thunk.  Your car doors just locked in ‘child guard’ mode.  They can’t be opened from the inside.

That’s odd you think to yourself, but don’t give it a second thought.  Until your car turns left instead of right at the end of your street.  Alarmed you call your mechanic to see if she can figure out what’s going on.  She dials up your car from her laptop only to find that she’s denied access.  The code says it’s because of a court order.

Your little adventure just took a turn for the worse.

You can’t for the life of you figure out why there would be a court order on your car.  Well, you’ll get it sorted out with the police when you get to the station. 

But your car goes right by the local precinct without so much as slowing down.  You don’t stop until you get to the County Sherriff’s office since he was charged with enforcing that arrest warrant.  The car goes through the automated vehicle trap and into the secure back lot where you are met by several sheriff’s deputies who, for some reason, seem to have a particularly nasty opinion of you.

If you’re lucky, these guys who’ve developed a reputation for not giving even a first thought to the concept of “innocent until proven guilty in a court of law” will only use you for their mornings tazer practice.  They’ll tell the judge at your arraignment that the bruises were the result of you resisting arrest.  Since the security cameras were ‘down for routine maintenance’ when you arrived at the station there will be no video evidence to the contrary.

Eventually things may get sorted out – assuming you survive being in lock-up after the charges against you were ‘accidentally’ leaked to the other detainees.  But your reputation will be ruined.  I suppose you could move to another state and start over.  Of course all those computer records of your being pilloried in the press will still be out there.

Isn’t this a wonderful system they want to implement for us?  I’m so looking forward to it.

OK, so most of the worst of this scenario could happen today even without The Road System.  At least we don’t have our own cars becoming an extension of law enforcement, turning traitor and delivering us to the police.


I’ll be back with more on the problems I see with this whole concept in future posts. But for now I’ve gotta go to work. I don’t think Galileo will turn on be during the ride…

Original Comments:

Big Brother is coming to a highway near you!


As I read this article all I could think of was how each of the "wonderful" new things that were coming in the near future could almost in every case be abused by people in authority, or as you pointed out, by anyone with the ability to hack into the system. Not only to send someone off to jail but even worse to send you off the nearest cliff. Even if that was made too difficult the Orwellian possibilities boggle the mind. Systems like this put entirely too much power in the hands of people who have proven time and again that given the opportunity they will violate your rights without a second thought.

Re: Big Brother is coming to a highway near you!

- HerrBGone

It really is scary. But I don’t know what we can do about it – other than point it out to as many people as possible whenever we see it. That’s what I try to do with my blog. I’m open to suggestions regarding what more can be done.

The present batch of candidates running for CEO of our 200+ year political experiment don’t strike me as all that interested in preserving the Liberty of The People. Certainly not the Democratic (Socialist) candidates. I don’t know that John (the First Amendment shouldn’t apply to elections) McCain is much better.

And thoughts of how truly dangerous things like what I call The Road System will become aren’t even on the radar. I’m afraid I’m really becoming quite pessimistic about what should be the golden age of mankind may soon become.

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