- A little-known federal agency is planning a new
program by which the government would track every car on the road by using
- The agency, the Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint
Program Office www.its.dot.gov, is part of the Department of
According to an extensive report in the Charlotte, N.C., Creative Loafing
http://snipurl.com/9lplhttp://snipurl.com/9lpl , the agency doesn't respond
to public inquiries about its activity.
- According to the report, cutting-edge tracking technology
will be used by government transportation management centers to monitor
every aspect of transportation. Under the plan, not only will movement
be monitored but it also will be archived in massive databases for future
- The paper reports a group of car manufacturers,
companies and government interests have worked toward implementing the
project for 13 years.
- States the Creative Loafing report:
- "The only way for people to evade the national
tracking system they're creating will be to travel on foot. Drive your
car, and your every movement could be recorded and archived. The federal
government will know the exact route you drove to work, how many times
you braked along the way, the precise moment you arrived and that every
other Tuesday you opt to ride the bus.
- "They'll know you're due for a transmission repair
and that you've neglected to fix the ever-widening crack that resulted
from a pebble dinging your windshield."
- The agency's website says its purpose is to "use
advanced technology to improve the efficiency and safety of our nation's
surface transportation system."
- Critics believe the program will be used to line the
pockets of business interests that stand to gain from the sale of needed
technology and that the government will use the data collected to tax
on their driving habits.
- Though the program has ominous privacy implications,
Creative Loafing reports none of the privacy-rights organizations it
were aware of the government's plans.
- The report states that more than $4 billion in federal
tax dollars has already been spent to lay the foundation for the system,
which will use GPS technology and other methods to monitor Americans'
- The plan includes transceivers, or "onboard
that will transmit data from each car to the system, the first models of
which are expected to be unveiled next spring. By 2010, the paper reported,
automakers hope to start installing them in cars. The goal is to equip
57 million vehicles by 2015.
- Creative Loafing quotes Bill Jones, technical director
of the Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office, from a
speech he gave in January.
- "The concept," said Jones, "is that
manufacturers will install a communications device on the vehicle starting
at some future date, and equipment will be installed on the nation's
system to allow all vehicles to communicate with the
- "The whole idea here is that we would capture data
from a large number of vehicles," Jones said at another meeting of
transportation officials in May. "That data could then be used by
public jurisdictions for traffic management purposes and also by private
industry, such as DaimlerChrysler, for the services that they wish to
for their customers."
- The plan sees the federal government working with auto
manufacturers to place the transponders in vehicles at the factory, giving
consumers little chance to drive a new car not tethered to transportation
- One of the program's visions is for transportation
to share collected data with law enforcement, meaning a driver potentially
could get a speeding ticket based on information stored in a government
- Proponents of the system say the safety benefits are
enormous. One goal is to virtually eliminate auto accidents by having
"communicate" with each other.
- Neil Schuster is president and CEO of the Intelligent
Transportation Society of America, a group of government and business
that's the driving force behind the program.
- "When I get on an airplane everyone in the system
knows where I am," Schuster told Creative Loafing. "They know
which tickets I bought. You could probably go back through United Airlines
and find out everywhere I traveled in the last year. Do I worry about that?
No. We've decided that airline safety is so important that we're going
to put a transponder in every airplane and track it. We know the passenger
list of every airplane and we're tracking these things so that planes don't
crash into each other. Shouldn't we have that same sense of concern and
urgency about road travel? The average number of fatalities each year from
airplanes is less than 100. The average number of deaths on the highway
is 42,000. I think we've got to enter the debate as to whether we're
to change that in a substantial way and it may be that we have to allow
something on our vehicles that makes our car safer. ... I wouldn't mind
some of this information being available to make my roads safer so some
idiot out there doesn't run into me."
- At least one proponent of the plan is actually using
the term "Orwellian" to describe it.
- At a workshop for industry and government leaders last
year, the Charlotte paper reports, John Worthington, president and CEO
of TransCore - one of the companies currently under contract to develop
the onboard units for cars - described the system as "kind of an
all-singing, all-dancing collector/aggregator/disseminator of