Print 53 comment(s) - last by LogicallyGeniu.. on Oct 5 at 4:28 PM

The scanning device, seen here, IDs people based on reflections of invisible beams of infrared light.  (Source: Vehicle Occupancy L)
Washington road contractors have some innovative and perhaps intrusive traffic control strategies.

Civil contractor Transurban doesn't want Washington D.C. drivers cheating its toll system -- so it is going to scan them

An expansion of a major Washington D.C. highway I-495, the Capital Beltway, is planned to start next year.  The highway loops around D.C. and crosses through Maryland and Virginia suburbs.

The expansion plans to bring privately operated toll lanes to the table as an alternative for commuters in rush hour traffic.  The big perk is that carpoolers will get to ride in these lanes for free under the current plan.

Enforcement though is a sticky issue; how to determine people from decoy dummies or large dogs riding in the passenger seat?  Rather than manually policing the area, the companies owning the project have proposed using technology that would scan drivers and passengers with bursts of infrared light that detect the reflectivity of human skin.

Ken Daley, a senior vice president of one of the two companies contracted for the project, says that the technology is so advanced that it can accurately ID a human face from an animal such as a pet.

Transurban has given no word on whether the devices might also be used for "national security" or other government purposes.

Washington D.C. drivers are not very happy about the proposal.  They are voicing their concerns to the government, raising uncertainty of whether the project will be approved.  Aside from the general discomfort with the idea of being watched, they fear the move could be used against them legally or monetarily.

Divorce courts could theoretically file for images of a route the husband or wife might have taken to see where they were really going to.  Employers could do the same if they suspected an employee of using their sick days for vacation.  Worse yet, insurance companies could use the information to ID drivers with long commutes and up their rates.

Ginger Goodin, an engineer at the Texas Transportation Institute, feels bad for the concerned commuters. "[Commuters] feel a sense of privacy in their vehicle, even though they may not really have it if you look at the legal cases,” said Goodin.  “[But] if they just can't stomach [scanning systems], then they have their choice, right next to it, to use the general-purpose lane."

The case is drawing attention as it may become an example by which other states choose their policies.  Maryland and Virginia both have planned expansions on their books. 

California and Colorado both have privately run toll roads that are currently free to carpoolers.  In California, police wait behind concrete blocks ready to jet out and pull over offenders.  In Colorado, they use a much simpler system which simply has drivers peel off into a separate lane mid-trip where they are visually checked to avoid payment.

The D.C. area contractors' moves will likely stir up a hornet nest of privacy concerns.  The issue is strikingly similar to the fears surrounding RFID implants and the prospect of mandatory chipping.  Last year Scott Silverman, Chairman of the Board of VeriChip Corporation, who make the only FDA approved RFID implant, proposed a solution to the problem of illegal immigration -- mandatory microchipping of guest workers and anyone found to be illegally dwelling in or trying to enter the U.S.  The previous day President Bush, whose former head of the Department of Health and Human Sciences Tommy Thompson is currently serving on Verichip's board, had called for "high-tech measures to solve the immigration problem."

There is significant pending and passed legislation that aims to protect constituents from unwanted intrusion and scanning.  As reported by DailyTech, California's state Senate recently passed a bill banning companies or anyone else from forcing a California citizen to be involuntarily microchipped.

These issues will not go away as technology becomes more and more entrenched in our day to day lives.  People will likely struggle with these complex moral issues as they ponder whether the benefits of increased safety are worth someone being able to watch them in their daily lives.

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

Part of life.
By fifolo on 10/4/2007 10:31:38 AM , Rating: 3
We are living in a police state, this is just how it is in these type of places.

RE: Part of life.
By mdogs444 on 10/4/2007 11:33:30 AM , Rating: 1
I would happily accept a "Police" state than a "Nanny" state.

RE: Part of life.
By Bioniccrackmonk on 10/4/2007 11:39:32 AM , Rating: 2
"I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it." ~ Thomas Jefferson

Bear in mind this quote is from the colonial era, and they didn't have half the problems the world faces today. I wonder what he would have said about our current state of affairs.

RE: Part of life.
By SirLucius on 10/4/2007 11:47:17 AM , Rating: 5
Haha, it would probably be along the lines of "F this, I'm gonna go find an island and start America 2. Who's with me?"

I'm sure most of the founding fathers are rolling in their graves at the state of affairs in general.

RE: Part of life.
By Bioniccrackmonk on 10/4/2007 1:36:56 PM , Rating: 2
"F this, I'm gonna go find an island and start America 2. Who's with me?"

LOL, funniest thing I read today. Count me in, I would love to live somewhere where common sense was the ruling body and all these frivalous lawsuits were handled by whiping the morons with rubber hoses. I spilled my coffee on me and it was hot, im sueing.

RE: Part of life.
By Bioniccrackmonk on 10/4/2007 11:33:35 AM , Rating: 2
Here's an idea, if you don't want to be subjected to this, then don't travel on those specific lanes. It is unfortunate that we live in a somewhat police state, but point the fingers at the people who feel they have a right to do what they want when they want because they are the reasons for all this.

RE: Part of life.
By Adonlude on 10/4/2007 6:03:51 PM , Rating: 2
I'm sorry but the "if you dont like it, don't use it" argument is total BS and has been stricken down time and time again. Some examples:

This week AT&T caught flack for initially saying they would deny service to people talking against AT&T. AT&T is the only service available to them.

What if AMD goes bankrupt and Intel becomes the only CPU manufacturer and they decide to quadruple their CPU prices. Are the raised prices acceptable to you? If you dont like it dont use computers...

What if by the year 3000 our air is so polluted that the only breathable air is provided by private companies at a high price. Tough luck, if you dont like it stop breathing!

RE: Part of life.
By floffe on 10/4/2007 6:23:17 PM , Rating: 2
Except that in this case there is a clear and simple alternative (as pointed out in the article): use the middle, general lanes.

RE: Part of life.
By jtemplin on 10/4/2007 1:14:38 PM , Rating: 2
Police state eh?!

Anyone who has heard this term has to see this hilarious Daily Show bit done by the great Steven Colbert...

"So, I think the same thing of the music industry. They can't say that they're losing money, you know what I'm saying. They just probably don't have the same surplus that they had." -- Wu-Tang Clan founder RZA
Related Articles

Most Popular ArticlesAre you ready for this ? HyperDrive Aircraft
September 24, 2016, 9:29 AM
Leaked – Samsung S8 is a Dream and a Dream 2
September 25, 2016, 8:00 AM
Inspiron Laptops & 2-in-1 PCs
September 25, 2016, 9:00 AM
Snapchat’s New Sunglasses are a Spectacle – No Pun Intended
September 24, 2016, 9:02 AM
Walmart may get "Robot Shopping Carts?"
September 17, 2016, 6:01 AM

Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki