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UK Police Want Remote Control

Some United Kingdom officers are asking their government for more control over drivers— from monitoring drivers with a microchip, to stopping cars with a push of a button. But is it likely that this kind of technology will make its way to the United States?  The UK police force wants to fit all civilian cars with a “personalized microchip so rule-breaking motorists can be prosecuted by computer,” the British Broadcasting Channel said. The UK police also want government approval to stop vehicles by remote control— an action that officers feel will stop pursuits in an efficient manner and limit the loss of life.

In August 2003, the UK Police asked that all civilian cars be fitted with a chip that will report all kinds of offenses from speeding to illegal parking. The Association of Chief Police Officers wants the chip to report 47 possible offenses. 

The idea is that stolen cars and uninsured drivers would be automatically reported, Sussex traffic police head superintendent Jim Hammond said.

The Association is hoping that the system will be approved for use through all of Europe.  If it is approved for use throughout Europe the UK government could monitor terrorist suspects and drug smugglers, according to a report written by Hammond.

The UK generally tends to be more willing to accept this kind of technology in comparison to the United States, but some civil liberty groups in the UK are against the idea, saying that it makes the entire driving population look like criminals.   

This isn’t the only technology being requested and going under the gun of the UK community. In December, Hammond requested that police be given the power to stop cars with the push of a button from a remote control. While stopping cars remotely sounds futuristic, the technology is currently available and is sometimes used to immobilize stolen cars. 

A UK group, ROSPA Advanced Drivers Association, said that UK police already have the ability to stop cars remotely, but only on the orders of a higher official. The group reports that currently this practice is rarely used.

The Advanced Drivers Association said that the system could be programmed to slow down cars in areas of construction, in severe weather hazard areas or even school zones.  “It is believed this could cut Britain’s 3,420 road deaths a year by as much as 59%,” the Association said.

The equipment was for a short time used by Formula One pit crews.

The technology causes a gradual reduction of engine power so the car slowly comes to a halt. The key to the technology is an “electronics box in most new cars which, when the driver presses the accelerator or brake, sends a message to the engine to speed up or slow down. It can be programmed to limit the speed generally or according to the position of the car, established via a GPS satellite. For remote operation, a modem, which works like a mobile phone, can be used to tell the car to slow down or stop.”     

Hammond, a member of the Association of Chief Police Officers, wants the technology introduced because he says it will be vital to stopping cars when manufacturers develop tires that never go flat. The Association fears that tire spike strips will be rendered useless with the new tires.

The Association also hopes that by using this technology it will make cars pointless to steal. 

“Providing an effective means to remotely stop a vehicle by developing a safe and controlled system would help tackle the problem of criminals using vehicles to avoid capture, and has the potential to save many lives across the European Union,” Hammond said in the statement. “However, a lot more research needs to be done to define user needs by police across Europe and a change in legislation would be required to give police the power to stop vehicles remotely.” Because of this Hammond stated that it will be at least another two years before stop-buttons become a reality in the UK.

Christy Whitehead is a freelance writer/photographer based out of Jacksonville, FL. She worked for a time in public relations and has done freelance work for a daily newspaper for seven years. She can be reached at



Published in Law and Order, Mar 2004

Rating : Not Yet Rated

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