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Thursday, February 15, 2007

 

Road pricing

It doesn’t surprise me in the least that the incompetent British ‘New Labour’ government is planning to introduce road pricing and ignoring the million and a half opposition. Not at all, not a tad, smidgeon or a single iota. They just see the farcical figures on a spreadsheet and completely ignore the technical and social difficulties it will create.

First point of failure is not the technology itself; GPS is a proven technology. The problem lies in the implementation; what if some clever dicky were to find a way of reprogramming their ‘black box’ (And some clever dicky will - that much is a given) so that it did not respond to the transponder signal and report his vehicles position. His ‘black box’ would not be breaking the law because it would be legally fitted to his vehicle. It would merely be faulty and therefore his ‘road price’ could not be calculated, or wrongly undercalculated. Others would simply fail to have a ‘black box’ installed in their car, and a small growth industry would arise in to disabling / sabotaging the GPS.

One small caveat here; one of my ‘duties’ is to give members of the public directions. It’s a regular occurrence for me to come across a fuming van driver cursing his Sat-Nav for sending him two miles in the wrong direction. The exchange usually goes something like this; I see a van driver sitting in his cab on an active restriction, sometimes in a ‘No unloading’ zone. I wander over and try to catch his eye as he struggles with his paperwork and fiddles with the Sat-Nav box.
Me; “You lost?”
Driver; “Er yeah, d’you know where Other Street is? My Sat-Nav keeps on taking me round the one way system backwards.”
Me; “End of this road, first left at the Island, second right half a mile up.”
Driver; “Oh, cheers.”
Driver buggers off restriction – job done.

Let’s do a little joined up thinking here; guess who gets to chase the hundreds of thousands of vehicles without ‘black boxes’ for non compliance? How many officers is that going to tie up when the rest of the crime stats go through the roof? Could it be our hard pressed Police, who seem to be having a few problems putting sufficient officers on the streets at the time of writing? For the reasons why, just read Dave Copperfield’s blog (I’ve got this awful nagging feeling that we work within twenty miles of each other – don’t ask me why).

Perhaps we should legally limit the decision making powers of government to stuff which they are qualified to deal with? Most Lawyers and Politicians are not qualified to make decisions on the high level use of Information Technology the same way as a high level IT implementation specialist would not be on the finer points of the laws concerning Tort.

From what I can see, the current crop of politicians doesn’t understand the issues involved. They promised us ‘Joined up Government’ (Yeah, right) but seem congenitally incapable of delivering on that promise. Just look at the Hunt ban, a nightmare to enforce, easy to dodge, and has alienated whole swathes of the countryside. How about the handling of the Foot and Mouth outbreak? They had to call in the Army for crying out loud. Just like the Wilson years in the mid to late 1960's and early 1970's. Centralise everything and royally fuck it up.

Just an idle thought on my days off…….

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11 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh yeah - if we're going to be monitored by GPS lets all move to hilly areas and use loads and loads of petrol whilst apparently not going very far - if moving at all...ha ha ha ha (that's me crying by the way)

Bina

Thursday, February 15, 2007 10:01:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Much easier than attacking the unit physically (surely it will be checked at MOT time) simply jame the GPS signal http://computerworld.com/securitytopics/security/story/0,10801,77702,00.html

Elvis

Thursday, February 15, 2007 10:52:00 pm  
Anonymous Dr Dan H. said...

The real situation is actually worse than you say. The system is constrained by EU law to use only the Galileo GPS system, which hasn't yet been fully deployed, and GSM or 5.8 GHz radio for data reporting.

Effectively the system will be a black box which once installed records where you go, and when, and periodically tattles on you to the base stations; this is really the only way it can work and be cheap enough to function.

Once reverse-engineered a box could be made that simply feeds the Government servers a carefully crafted set of lies about where you went, which have you sticking religiously to the speed limits and driving only on rural, bottom-cost roads (and preferably not through large bodies of water).

The other part of the box which has to exist is some way for police to check that it is working and fitted, and matches the registration of the car (read by an automated system). The system is guaranteed to be universally unpopular so it is safe to say these systems will be police vehicle only; roadside installations are certain to get firebombed.

So, how to beat it?

Firstly, a set of repeated Data Protection requests on car data would be effective; nothing like repeated legal threats and fines to gum up the system.

Secondly, driver behaviour alone should clobber the effectiveness. Think about it: motorways and arterial routes in cities will be high-rated, residential streets and country roads will be low-rated. So motorways and arterials will be empty, and all other roads clogged solid.

Nothing like poisoning millions with car fumes and making quiet roads near-unusable to really bring home the stupidity of the system to Joe Public, and that's neglecting the huge extra amount of CO2 emitted and the cost in extra car accidents on the less safe back-roads that will ensue.

Thirdly, the black boxes will likely be fitted only to new build cars. This will greatly discourage the buying of new cars and encourage people to keep bangers on the road. This will depress the motor industry, and increase pollution; it'll also increase the number of cloned vehicles and Jap grey imports knocking about, at a time when police numbers will be even more stretched than normal.

Finally, if you are a company looking for somewhere to invest in, would you choose a country which is about to cripple its workforce mobility and impose huge costs on everybody, including on the lorries you'll be using to ship products about (the rail network being crap due to chronic underinvestment)?

Thought not.

All in all, this is the sort of crap idea only a load of thick socialists could come up with.

Friday, February 16, 2007 11:19:00 am  
Blogger Bill Sticker said...

There is always the simple expedient of good old tinfoil. If it works for RFID, perhaps GPS signals can be 'foiled' (Ouch, sorry) by shielding or simply disconnecting the antenna in the vehicle like this.

Regards

Bill

Friday, February 16, 2007 1:22:00 pm  
Anonymous Das_EEjit said...

The stated aim of charging for road usage is to cut congestion, so we are told. But has it not occurred to the Wazzocks of Westminster that the roads are congested at certain times of the day for a reason, BECAUSE THAT’S WHEN WE START WORK! This will not cut congestion in the slightest; it’s just yet another way of prizing more money from the pockets of motorists and into the exchequer

Friday, February 16, 2007 9:34:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One particular problem will arise when people begin reprogramming their electronic number plates with details of different vehicles.

Saturday, February 17, 2007 1:52:00 pm  
Anonymous chewie said...

why go to the expense above, a cheap bit of lead flashing placed around the unit= end of tracking.
Lots of companies track employees by GPS to PDA. Many carry a little lead box to keep them in to prevent this.

Saturday, February 17, 2007 2:02:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hOW ABOUT SIMPLY VOTING LABOUR OUT COME THE ELECTION?
oR IS THERE MORE PEOPLE ON BENEFITS THAN THOSE WORKING?

GONORR

Saturday, February 17, 2007 7:54:00 pm  
Blogger Bill Sticker said...

Gonorr,

At the moment, with so little separating the three main parties, the likelihood is that 'Road Pricing' will be one of those things that gets passed by the outgoing Govenment and not cancelled by the incoming.

Incidentally, please don't shout in Capitals, you won't wake people up from their social security sedated slumber. They don't read blogs like this. Perhaps they can't.

Regards

Bill

Saturday, February 17, 2007 8:53:00 pm  
Anonymous James said...

I'm all for any idea that will get people out of their cars and onto trains and buses, but this particular scheme has three things wrong with it:

1. It has never been indicated that any surplus revenue will be ringfenced for use in improving public transport infastructure, which I'm given to understand the congestion charge is.

2. I haven't seen any figures on pricing yet, but the projected setup and annual operating expense costs are appallingly high; are they doing this as a Private Finance Initiative or something?

3. I'd very much like to know whether the Department of Transport has considered the mechanical-engineering implications of retrofitting hundreds of thousands of older vehicles with sophisticated electronic devices they were not designed for, especially if they do the sensible thing and combine the GPS locater with a tachometer.

On the other hand, giving any police vehicle the ability to electronically interrogate your car for its tax, insurance and MOT status would boost compliance no end.
Sort out the above issues and this could be made to work, but I'm not holding my breath.

Monday, February 19, 2007 9:39:00 am  
Blogger MuppetLord said...

er...you do know GPS is a US Military system....with error built in for civilian usage...

Wednesday, April 11, 2007 7:13:00 pm  

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Exasperated expatriate expostulations all the way from British Columbia, Canada. As if anyone really cared. Oh, I also watch Icelandic Volcanoes and seismic activity. Don't ask me why.

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