Thursday, September 02, 2004

Speed Demons Crash On Code

This month six so-called trajectory control systems will be activated on various highways. It's a relatively new way to measure speed and fine speed demons: a car is photographed at two points and a computer devides the time it takes to drive from the first to the second point through the length of the trajectory. If the result exceeds the speed limit it is send automatically to the police, which matches the car's license plate with it's owner, who automatically gets a fine send to his home.

The automatisation of punishment is not that new. The claim that is made neither, but still: there is no escape, the chance to get caught is 100%, 24/7. Current counter code, such as the outlawed but frequently used radar-detection devices, won't work against this all-seeing eye. Well, such is the claim. If you'd call mud code and smearing it on your license plate counter coding, then the system fails. But then that's outlawed too.

This surveillance-punishment connection is reminiscent of Bentham-Foucault's panoptic theory: self-conditioning of behaviour to preset values under the pressure of constant observation. The effects of the trajectory control system point in that direction: less than 1 % of the drivers on the trajectory still exceeds the speed limit.

The 100% claim also made me think of an example Joel Reidenberg gave in his
Yahoo! essay:
[N]o legal system in a democracy can assure full compliance with all laws without resort to police state tactics. For example, drivers routinely exceed highway and road speed limits. Yet, no democratic state tries to put a policeman on every corner to assure perfect compliance with the speed limit. Such an action would be totalitarian in nature. Instead, democratic states frequently rely on law to shape social expectations and behavior rather than implement police state enforcement mechanisms.
So, I live in a police state. At least I still have a choice to break the law. Enjoy while it lasts, be a 1%-er.


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