Posted by: bridget | 20 February 2007

Not A Complete Luddite…

…just a complete libertarian.  The Washington Post reports that Virginia has issued a challenge to private companies to improve traffic flow: the idea is to allow drivers to find out, via cell or GPS, the best route around a traffic jam.  Currently, traffic is monitored via cameras in the highways or helicopter.  Suggested new methods include using cell phones or EZ-Pass transponders to track individual motorists (in the aggregate) to determine speed and concentration of drivers.

“Additional tag readers placed over highways would read E-ZPass transponders without deducting a toll. Tracking the time it took a tag to travel between two readers would help determine cars’ speeds. Sixty mph, no problem. Ten mph, time to find a different route.”

This pachyderm is all in favour of reducing commutes, improving fuel economy, and helping out the environment.  Yet, she questions whether this is the best method to achieve those goals.   GPS tracking for felons has been suggested for use on ill-behaved children; how long will it take for someone to use this technology to track individuals?  To give out speeding tickets without so much as a police car in sight?  After all, if 60 mph is fine, why not just send fines to people who are doing 80?  To determine, via cell phone location, what people are leaving bars and driving home?  The potential for intrusion into personal lives is limitless.

Why not simply have a series of cameras that track the number of cars that pass each location per time unit?  With a sufficient number of cameras (on a regular stretch of highway and on exit ramps) and some math, an algorithm could be used to determine the same information in a significantly less intrusive manner.

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