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DRIVEN TO
DISTRACTION

Our esteemed reader has been looking into his crystal ball and predicts a dystopian future. Or maybe he just needs to stop reading 1984

D

 

ear reader, I must apologise for coming at you with a case of the January blues, but I can’t escape the notion that the future for us car enthusiasts is as bleak as the weather. A number of small things have triggered me, but when you add them all up, it’s blindingly obvious we are all missing the big picture. The doom-mongering over the electric car has us hoodwinked, and we are

sleepwalking towards our demise.

The greatest enemy we face is GPS monitoring. The EU law mandating all new cars from this summer must be fitted with a black box that restricts the car to the given speed limit is going to be a far bigger buzzkill than being forced to trade in your treasured ICE. Sure, you’ll argue that the device can be overruled for up to ten seconds in emergencies or to complete a safe overtake. You’ll also argue that you’ve no intention to purchase a brand new car so it doesn’t affect you.

 

What you’ve got to let sink in is speed monitoring isn’t the end game. Governments always move goalposts. It's their standard operating procedure to introduce a minor irritation, then just as it becomes accustomed to, they turn the screw. You aren’t thinking about the amount of fuel duty and company car BIK tax missing from the HMRC balance sheet as they incentivise going green. Road tolls are inevitable, and what's the best way to monitor them? Via the GPS box of course! They could even introduce levies based upon congestion, or incorporate ULEZ detection. When the government introduces tax-by-mile, that is when the device will become compulsory for all road users. At that point, the insurers rub their hands together and roll their sleeves up. Armed with all the manipulated data they can get their hands on, insure by mile will also become law - or outright refused unless retrofitted. Imagine being charged by how many miles covered, how statistically risky the road is you drive along, what time of day you travel down it, and how many g-forces you generate in the process. Then there is the prospect of working or going for dinner in a high-risk area, or visiting a relative and leaving the car on the street, all being tracked and calculated by an algorithm. Everything will be totted up and conveniently debited directly out of your account every month.

 

Is this a conspiracy theory? Or is the writing on the wall? Why, for instance, are we seeing tampering laws being introduced now in advance. The fears about the goal of making modifying a car illegal are unfounded - the government's simple aim is to outlaw circumvention or cheat devices that override the GPS monitor. This will still mean death by one thousand cuts to the multi-billion pound aftermarket industry.

 

Inevitably, this will also lead to further cuts in professional Traffic Policing, even though it would allow forces to concentrate their resources on serious car crimes. Nationwide traffic divisions are already feeling the strain, having had their numbers drastically cut by over 50% across the last decade. However, in my humble opinion, the GPS device and all its baggage won’t make the roads any safer. In fact, I believe the opposite is true. You only have to spend a short amount of time in any average speed monitored motorway road works - I have never seen worse standards of driving. Cars persistently tailgate and lane hog between updating their Instagram feed or Tik-Tok. A driver who isn’t engaged by the process of driving is a bored one, and when boredom creeps in, so does the temptation to reach for that oh-so addictive mobile phone. For those who aren’t dependent on dopamine likes, massive frustration awaits. Imagine being stuck in a snake of traffic behind a tortoise driver, pottering along well under the speed limit. Everyone behind will be bunched up, meaning no safe gap to exploit for overtaking. Not that anybody would overtake, because it would cost a fortune. 

 

The unsettling fact is these laws are being made by politicians who spend very little time themselves behind the wheel. They spend a lot of time in cars, but chauffeur-driven ones. An MP doesn’t have to worry about parking a car on the street, or how to safely run a charging cable to a vehicle without enduring the wrath of the where there is blame, there is a claim brigade. The fact is, as always, it all comes down to money and we the motorist, as ever, are the easy target to milk dry.

 

Sorry to be the harbinger of doom. I predict all this will happen well before the 2030 deadline to stop the sale of the internal combustion engine. To enjoy driving in the future, we are going to have to start thinking outside the (GPS) box. 

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