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Surveillance technology coming to all new vehicles

New autonomous technology is coming to new vehicles. Photo: SH

Controversial ‘driver assistance technology’, including black-box data recorders, which monitor everything from a vehicle’s speed to ‘driver condition’, could become mandatory for all new cars in Europe after an approval from the EU.

Experts have warned that international ‘standard approvals’ will force Australian companies to import most new model cars with the same surveillance technology installed, a result of increased globalization and the destruction of our domestic manufacturing industry.

BIG BROTHER

EUROPEAN CHANGES

The European Union Parliament will soon vote to make pre-crash ‘black box’ data recorders and ‘active safety technology’ mandatory on new vehicles sold after 2022.

In a decision last week, the EU Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) approved plans to make autonomous emergency braking, pedestrian and cyclist detection, intelligent speed assist and lane-keeping assist mandatory on all new cars sold from 2022.

According to reports, changes to vehicle safety are set to force car makers to fit a number of features in every new vehicle manufactured.

The changes include technology that monitors speed assistance, alcohol interlock devices, driver drowsiness monitoring, automatic braking and data recording, which would note just about every detail of a trip, including speed.

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Executive Director of the European Transport Safety Council, Antonio Avenoso, spoke on the changes:

“This legislation represents a major step forward for road safety in Europe, and could save 25,000 lives within fifteen years of coming into force.

But it will only apply to new vehicles. So it’s incredibly important that a final deal is reached as soon as possible, so cars with these new safety features fitted as standard start driving off production lines sooner rather than later.”

Many vehicles already have an “event data recorder” within airbag control units which capture key data leading up to a crash, but there are no universally agreed standards for exactly how much information should be retrained, who should access it, and when.

Pushed for by the European Transport Safety Council, the proposals also include a direct-vision standard for trucks and buses so drivers have a better view around the vehicle.

According to the Euro NCAP, AEB systems help cut rear-end collisions at low speed, which could correlate with around 1000 fewer deaths on European roads every year.

Data privacy advocates pushed against the move, but the EU IMCO argues the benefits of knowing what happened in the moments before a crash “outweigh the costs”.

There is concerns the new changes will also soon be implemented in Australia as well, primarily in relation to aligning vehicle safety measures for importing companies, with trials and technology rollouts already also happening across the country.

AUSTRALIAN EFFECTS

Today, most new model cars in Australia are not produced in the country, with the domestic manufacturing industry taking a steep decline in since the turn of the century, primarily due to increasing globalization and international trade deals administered by the United Nations.

Such a move by the EU could also have an effect on cars sold here in Australia, as our “type approval” standards generally mean we get a very similar product when it comes to European cars like Mercedes or Volkswagon.

According to ANCAP chief executive, James Goodwin, the current technology has already began making its way into Australian marketplaces:

“In the interim, the voluntary fitment of these technologies is already increasing quickly through ANCAP’s consumer and market influence, with many of these features already required in order to score a high ANCAP safety rating — whether it be a passenger car, SUV, van or light commercial vehicle.”

This seems to be the case with numerous self-driving car surveys conducted by EastLink, Melbourne’s eastern and south-eastern suburbs toll road operator, in the last two years.

The company has also been at the forefront of numerous trials taking place across the country.

ConnectEast, the operator of Melbourne’s EastLink toll road, recently revealed in a statement that autonomous vehicle testing is already in progress on the road system, which shuttles traffic between Mitcham and Frankston.

Doug Spencer-Roy, Corporate Affairs & Marketing Manager for EastLink, described the trials and hinted at future directions for the Australian market:

“Vehicles with advanced driver-assistance technology are now being released in Australia.

Within the next few years, once legislative changes are made, we expect vehicle manufacturers will activate hands-off-the-wheel driving capabilities on EastLink and other suitable freeways. These EastLink trials are producing practical results that will assist with that transition to hands-off-the-wheel driving.”

Currently, Australia is already set to adopt new regulations drafted by the UN in relation to ‘autonomous emergency braking (AEB)’, which is likely to be mandatory on all new vehicles sold from the early 2020s – pending the passage of draft UN standards.

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According to the draft rules, all new cars will need to be able to detect hazards (parked vehicles, slow traffic, cyclists or pedestrians), alert drivers to their presence and automatically brake to minimise the damage in a potential accident.

A spokesperson for the Department of Infrastructure recently spoke in the changes:

“As part of the National Road Safety Action Plan 2018–2020, the Commonwealth is evaluating the case for mandating autonomous emergency braking (AEB) for new cars and light commercial vehicles.

Australia has contributed to the development of a draft standard for AEB through the United Nations vehicle standards forum. It has now been agreed that the draft text will be considered this year for final adoption by the UN.”

Over 30 per cent of the cars sold in Australia last year were already fitted with autonomous emergency braking.

TECHNOCRACY INCOMING?

The new proposals represent an increasing trend in a shift towards autonomous technology in vehicles, underpinned by surveillance capabilities that can document and record almost all activity in most new model releases.

Currently, new model cars distributed in countries such as China have technology installed that constantly sends information about the precise location of your car to the government.

More than 200 manufacturers, including Tesla, Volkswagen, BMW, Daimler, Ford, General Motors, Nissan, Mitsubishi and US-listed electric vehicle NIO, transmit position information and dozens of other data points to government-backed monitoring centres, according to reports.

The new Mazda3 will brake to adopt lower limits when moving into a new speed zone without driver input.

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Other concepts such as ‘Intelligent Speed Assistance’ are also prominent, which uses both navigation and camera inputs to detect speed limits, then limits the car to that speed, though drivers can override the car’s limiters.

Andrew Frankel, Drive Nation journalist, expressed his concerns about the technology in an article:

“It’s the data logger that concerns me most.

Combined with the sat nav information that determines the speed limit of any given road, your car will retain every detail of your every journey, and you don’t need to be an Orwell scholar to spot something disturbingly Big Brother about that.”

The technology could also have wide-ranging implications for policing, insurance, privacy and other factors.

European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association lobbyist Erik Jonnaert recently told Politico “premium carmaker ranges have a problem with this”, with the strongest objections stemming from “those that make cars that drive the fastest”.

Many have expressed concerns this path leads to a system where all movement is monitored, influenced and controlled according to various legislative changes to come in the future.

The proposal will next month be put to the full parliament for voting in May, which will have the final say on whether it becomes law. But it’s in a race against time, with European Parliamentary elections, which could unseat supporters and block its path to legislation, slated for this year.

If passed, all cars will begin the transition by 2022-23.


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‘Big Brother’ in-car monitoring on the way for Europe | News.com.au

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2 Comments on “Surveillance technology coming to all new vehicles”

  1. Protestant
    March 7, 2019 at 06:36 #

    Wow! So if a husband is rushing his wife to hospital about to give birth, or some other emergency, the car won’t let him go over the speed limit, even on an open, straight stretch of road? And what’s to prevent this new technology from also recording all your conversations and any other sounds made in the car, including phone calls? Creepy!

    • March 7, 2019 at 16:40 #

      Some great points raised, Protestant. Thank you for your thoughts.

      It seems highly regulated ‘smart streets and vehicles’ will be the future; one where all movement is automated according to authorities. No doubt current death tolls will be used to argue these points. Who makes this technology? Who is dictating my behaviours? What about ‘special situations’ like the one you just mentioned? Leads down an interesting path!

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