No OnStar for me, thanks

The Economist reports that police are looking for ways to catch fugitives in cars without dangerous high-speed chases:

One way to avoid the need for chases would be to track felonious vehicles electronically, instead of running after them. StarChase, a company based in Virginia Beach, Virginia, has developed a way to do just that. A pneumatic cannon is mounted on the pursuit car. With the help of a guiding laser, it shoots a satellite-based tracking device, smothered in epoxy goo, onto the target vehicle, allowing the police to track the suspect without endangering the public. The Los Angeles Police Department plans to deploy the system this year.

Sounds good, and they mention several other interesting ideas as well. This one, however, I’m not wild about:

From the police’s point of view, however, it would be better if they could actually stop a runaway car by satellite, not just track it. General Motors plans to allow them to do just that. From September its OnStar service, which provides navigation and emergency services to drivers, will include a system called Stolen Vehicle Slowdown. Police who believe a car to be stolen can ask an OnStar operator to disable its accelerator, while leaving the steering and brakes in working order. Some people worry that hackers might take over the system. But Chet Huber, OnStar’s boss, reckons that the benefits outweigh the risks.

Yes, the hackers are a worry, but a greater worry is the government. Once the government starts controlling our vehicles, how long will they limit themselves to this narrow purpose? Not long, history tells us.

ASIDE: The Long Run, one of my favorite novels, paints a picture of an oppressive world government that uses control over vehicles as one of its tools for controlling the populace.

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