Transport for London is announcing a large-scale trial of the Intelligent Speed Adaption system, which uses preloaded road data and GPS to slow speeders. Basically, the future is everything you were afraid of.
The Mail has assembled the above infographic to explain how the ISA system works, but it's fairly simple: Cars are outfitted with computers loaded with speed limit data for public roads, and monitored via satellite. In "Advisory" mode, the dash readout indicates if you need to slow down, and smiles at you if you do. In the hilariously named "Voluntary" mode, the computer will actually seize control of your throttle, letting off the gas until you ease back down to the speed limit.
You can't blame people for having a mid-scale privacy freakout over this one, but a few crucial factors keep it from being downright Orwellian: First, it's being deployed in London cabs, government cars and buses, so it's not being expressly imposed on private citizens; second, the system is local—as in, it reads its own GPS data to calculate speed and decides on a course of action without remote input—and has an override switch, which, based on my experiences with London cabbies, I suspect will get plenty of use. (And serve as a brilliant
rant subject conversation piece).
But still, satellite speed control? That's worse than speed cameras. And the mere existence of this technology—not to mention the government's involvement in its development—certainly feels like a step in the wrong direction, even if this particular use is relatively benign. [Daily Mail]