The federal government is about to become the country’s worst backseat driver. Congress wants to put tracking devices in the car of every American, and that’s not even the scariest provision in a new bill being passed around Washington.
The US Senate has already signed off on a new legislation that, if cleared by the rest of Congress, will see to it that the government gets its eyes and ears inside every automobile in the country. Senate Bill 1813 calls for the installation of mandatory recorders and communication devices in Americans’ cars that could connect the whereabouts and actions of the country’s drivers with whomever the government wants to grant access to. It doesn’t stop there, though — another provision in the proposed bill will give the government the power to revoke passports from Americans behind on their taxes, essentially making it impossible for the indebted to escape the country.
It’s being touted around the capital as the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, or MAP-21, and Congress is considering it under the explanation that the bill will “reauthorize Federal-aid highway and highway safety construction programs.” In the abstract drafted on Capitol Hill, however, the act is described as having provisions necessary “for other purposes.” And while no lawmakers explicitly explain the benefits of some questionable content within MAP-21, what the government could get away with if the bill is passed is something eerily Orwellian.
If you’re not scared yet, then here is another eye opener: the US Senate has already approved the bill by an overwhelming vote of 74-22, leaving only the House of Representatives to vote in favor before government-sanctioned blackboxes become as common as carburetors and calibrated friction brakes. At this rate, it won’t be long before every Beetle and Buick in the country is being tracked by Big Brother.
Section 53006 of MAP-21 calls for a “vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications systems” deployed in the country’s cars in the near future. A copy of the bill is available online, but it isn’t until the bottom of the text that things start to get creepy. That section calls on several congressional committees — including the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate and the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure of the House of Representatives — to hear in three years’ time arguments in favor of the deployment of the communications system in question. At that point, a designated person will be asked to recommend an “implementation path for dedicated short-range communications technology and applications,” which includes “guidance on the relationship of the proposed deployment of dedicated short-range communications to the National ITS Architecture and ITS Standards.”
Sending short-wave signals to other automobiles and data hubs is one thing, but the act is also asking for mandatory event data recorders in every car. That’s the actual name, in fact, of what Congress says they want every car to have in the very near future.
“Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall revise part 563 of title 49, Code of Federal Regulations, to require, beginning with model year 2015, that new passenger motor vehicles sold in the United States be equipped with an event data recorder that meets the requirements under that part,” explains the act.
The section goes on to establish that the ownership of data collected by those devices will be the sole property of the owner of the automobile, but other provisions clearly authorize a challenge to this. A court may be granted access to that information “in furtherance of a legal proceeding,” and elsewhere in the bill it says that “the information is retrieved pursuant to an investigation or inspection authorized under section 1131(a) or 30166 of title 49, United States Code.”