April 14, 2005 9:00 PM PDT

IBM car tech to nab speeders

IBM has won a $125 million deal that will put "black boxes" in tens of thousands of cars in the United Arab Emirates.

The four-year deal, expected to be announced on Friday, calls for IBM to equip cars and trucks with a telematics device and GPS (Global Positioning System) that will provide information on a vehicle's location and speed to government agencies. It will link tens of thousands of vehicles in a nationwide wireless network. IBM asserts this will be the largest application of telematics--or the marriage of mobile communications and computing--as of yet.

If a driver exceeds the speed limit, a warning will be transmitted to the individual car via an on-board speaker. Autos will also be equipped with screens and voice-recognition software to access services planned for the future, IBM said.

The impetus behind the initiative is the abnormally high rate of traffic-related deaths in the Persian Gulf state of the United Arab Emirates.

The country's five-year goal is to halve its accident-related fatalities, which work out at 38 per 100,000 people, said Michael Nelson, an IBM director of Internet technologies strategy who is involved in the project. The U.S. has 15 deaths per 100,000 people, while Sweden's rate is six, he said.

Early prototypes for the tracking device, which is analogous to an airplane's "black box," are expected to be available next year. The plan is to install them in tens of thousands of vehicles by the end of next year, including emergency vehicles and government-owned truck fleets. The country has 2 million residents.

When the four-year contract runs out, IBM intends to compete for the second phase of the project, which will build off the initial infrastructure. The data gathered by the devices can be used not only by the government to monitor traffic habits, but also by commercial companies to offer consumer-related services such as rental cars and hotels.

"If the government of the UAE would like to have someone come in and provide information services to customers, they could do it themselves or hire IBM. We would argue, pretty persuasively I think, that IBM would be in a better position," Nelson said.

Nelson said the contract furthers IBM's strategy for business process transformation services. These high-end consulting services involve both technology and expertise in running business processes, such as human resources or accounting.

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Great Tool For Spying
I'll bet that our intelligence agencies worked with IBM to include a back door into the databases. Life got a whole lot easier for the boys in Langely, who will now be able to track Arab vehicle movements of "persons of interest" from the comfort of their leather chairs.

Having said that, the Emirates themselves no doubt ordered the system with this very purpose in mind. I guess now for true security, smart Arabs will resort to travelling by camel.
Posted by Stating (869 comments )
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Disgusting!
I'll bet that the very same IBM executives jumping for joy over this deal, would kick and scream if the US government stated that all cars driven in the US would be equipped with this very same technology. The first IBM exec to receive a speeding ticket or license suspension in the mail for driving their AMG Mercedes above the posted speed limits, will be up in arms about violations of constitutional rights. If we are trying to spread democracy in the world, why would we engage in installing technology in other countries that we as US citizens would oppose here in the States? Simply to make a buck?!!
Posted by mike.gw (942 comments )
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It's UAE Government Cars, only
I think everyone would be happy if government cars in the US came with this feature. Especially post office trucks.

I don't see what's the big deal, especially if the devices only report speed, and not location. The alternative is to have people die unnecesairly.
Posted by sanenazok (3449 comments )
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George Orwell's Big (Blue) Brother
Ahh yes. A little closer to being watched at all times. Body implants aren't far off.
Posted by (4 comments )
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You mean...
You mean you don't have yours yet? Maybe they just didn't tell you...
Posted by zaznet (1138 comments )
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RFID in the future for USA Drivers
I have a prediction that RFID will be used on vehicle license plates, registration stickers and inspection stickers. Really, why not? A police officer would only need to be 50 feet away from a vehicle in violation to detect it.

Insurance ran out? You'll get spotted VERY quickly since the officer didn't have to run your plate through his in-car computer and instead gets an indicator on a HUD that shows him which car to pull over.

Sensors will be placed where you now see those road side speed signs that flash when you exceed the speed limit that will know EXACTLY what car was driving how fast or ran what light without taking a picture and without needing to use a radar gun.

It'll make radar detectors useless. It'll be cheaper and less obtrusive to install the equipment. Snipers currently try to take out the reinforced stop light cameras in major cities (with little to no success). Sensors will be installed in every traffic light, so that city planners will no longer need to plan light cycles but allow it to detect what lanes need the green light. Set to "automatic" and go! Cheaper to install, cheaper to run and maintain and requires fewer employees plus it's more efficient for the drivers on the road.

It is coming, it is only a matter of time...

Don't want to be "tagged" because of privacy and constitutional rights, then don't drive! You do NOT have a constitutional right to drive a car. For that matter you really don't have a constitutional right to "privacy" either, it is just assumed and often upheld by courts. None of the challenges against cameras and radar guns have been able to stop this invasion of your privacy yet.

You can't buy a cell phone today without being "tagged" and trackable. It's a federal law for cell phone providers to include GPS tracking capabilities to assist emergency services in locating you should you dial 911. They already sell the service to companies and parents for tracking their employees or children (interchange that as you see fit).
Posted by zaznet (1138 comments )
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