As if NSA spying scandal revelations weren’t enough to make 2014 feel like 1984, European police officials want to put kill-switches in all modern cars. While this could put an end to high-speed chases, it once again brings up the spectre of privacy and personal transportation.
This idea first reared its ugly head when it was revealed that French automaker Renault could manually “brick” electric vehicles owned by deadbeats who miss a payment. Because Renault sells EVs like the Zoe with a battery-rental plan, since it technically still owns the battery, it can do pretty much whatever it wants if you don’t pay the $100 or so a month for the battery lease.
This plan by top European officials to put a kill switch in every car, however, is fraught with both privacy and practical issues. The justification for such a system is obvious and nearly unlimited, as a police-controlled kill-switch could effectively end the era of high-speed chases, could help prevent carjackings or hijackings, and make it impossible for a terrorist or criminal to make an escape via automobile. No longer would police need to drive large, powerful cruisers, but could instead get by with efficient electric cars.
Of course these increasingly-connected cars could also be open to hacking from skilled computer wizards, a scenario of unbridled carnage in my over-stimulated mind.
Such systems are already available on GM vehicles equipped with the OnStar system, and U.S. police have used “bait cars” to fool unsuspecting criminals into stealing cars. Those cars can then be shutdown and locked from the inside, safely stopping what could be a dangerous car pursuit. A remote kill-switch in every car would be a remarkably effective tool to add to the holster of police officers everywhere, and in my opinion, far too many people take the privilege of driving for granted. The amount of power and energy contained in even a “small” car is enough to do serious damage to anyone in the way, and plenty of police pursuits have ended in tragedy for both guilty and innocent victims.
Seems to me the inclusion of such systems is inevitable, and the only real question is when does it come to America?