GPS Tracking: Drivers' New Best Friend?

from the the-honorable-judge-garmin-presiding dept

For most teenagers, getting their driver’s license is a rite of passage that marks a newfound freedom. The idea of having their driving monitored using GPS tracking devices would seemingly make a teenager more surly than a NYC Taxi Driver.

At least one teen might feel differently if he is successfully able to challenge a speeding ticket using data from the GPS tracking system installed in his car that ostensibly shows the car moving at the speed limit within 100 feet of where he was clocked speeding.

Drivers have long been at the mercy of the court when pleading their innocence to charges of a traffic violation. As the article notes, the courts have been for the most part merciless, with the he-said of the ticketing cop and his radar gun being upheld in most cases over the she-said of the driver. Technology used by the police to nab traffic offenders is usually taken at face value, despte cases where it is obviously flawed.

GPS tracking systems in personal vehicles could restore some balance towards drivers falsely accused of speeding, but first the courts will have to both understand how the technology works (nontrivial, perhaps) and also satisfy themselves that the data is true and accurate.

The courts will no doubt want a say in how GPS tracking services record, secure, and authenticate their data before weighing them heavily as evidence. Existing service providers may step up to this challenge and offer “traffic court certified” service at a premium.

Perhaps those drivers whose GPS tracking systems have earned them a discount on their car insurance will wind up reinvesting a few of those dollars into service that might some day get them off the hook in court.

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Comments on “GPS Tracking: Drivers' New Best Friend?”

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AC cop says:

It’s all ’bout signals, man. Radar signals, GPS code signals. One signal’s better in terms of relaying accurate data, the other is viable resource for municipalities and parts that “need them ticket dollars.”
What kinda signal you sending when you say the cops can’t catch the man with the GPS equipped M5, whether he’s breaking a cross country record or no? what happens when you throw out a case giving a DUI to some nouveau-tech-savvy-huguenot because he wasn’t speeding, and therefore shouldn’t have been pulled over in the first place, but blew over the limit when all is said and done? Why do you want to only have this techonology benefit the rich and not the poor?
This won’t happen – for a while at least – its America, after all. And this is courts v technology v public interest v the juice. Bet this shiiiiit is getting quashed before a well connected judge/senator/representative/insurance_rep can make the pot grow bigger, and then see what happens when another good idea is a bit too late is obsolete once again. you’ll make money.

Overcast says:

Perhaps those drivers whose GPS tracking systems have earned them a discount on their car insurance will wind up reinvesting a few of those dollars into service that might some day get them off the hook in court.

Or even automatically issue tickets if you do go over the speed limit.

I’m sure the courts won’t stand for a loss of revenue for long at all…

Anonymous Coward says:

This system has its’ merits th point that may be missing is that the courts should not be able to pull your gps data unless you give them permission as it would be self incrimination. so you would have to make it an option not manditory to use your gps data in court and the court could only ask for the data in a time frame around the ticket time so cops would have to issue electronic tickets that were time sync’d with GPS clocking IE if the cop shoots with a radar / laser ect every shot would have to have a record of time when it was taken. I think its a good idea. You can expand the idea to be evidence in court on tials where a person’s location is needed for a time frame and if he states he was in his vehicle the court could pull the data and if it can be show the person was in the vehicle he could be guilt or innocent.

BTR1701 (profile) says:

Re: Self-Incrimination

> the courts should not be able to pull your gps data unless
> you give them permission as it would be self incrimination

That’s a ridiculous statement. Use of your car’s GPS data (upon subpoena supported by probable cause) would no more be a violation of the 5th Amendment’s protection against self-incrimination than use of your phone records or internet search history or bank account records, all of which can be easily subpoenaed by the state in a criminal case to prove a violation of law.

wnyght says:

Re: Reality

Contesting the ticket is just a good way to tick them off and get a bigger fine.

ahhh, now while this is all good and true, in my neck of the woods, if you contest the speeding ticket, the judge may offer you a deal where you pay more money, but change the charges to a non moving violation so it doesn’t go on your insurance record. So you pay a little higher fine, but save in the long run by not having you insurance rates increased.

Anonymous Coward says:

Time better spent

True, tags for speed limit infractions do bring in revenue but they also cost money. Think of all the man hours spent organising and arranging speed traps, time spent sitting under an overpass waiting for somone to go by at an “appropriate” speed to tag them, the cost of the court system to deal with everyone that comes in to contest the ticket, or (unfortunately) those that actually go to court because the offender doesn’t plea to a lesser violation. More often than not it’s not the speed that officers are looking for, its “other” things. People DOR (driving on revocation), DUI/DWI, possession of drugs/firearms. Also, it’s very hard to “prove” someone was driving recklessly or endangering the public (after all law enforcement is there to protect others). Speeding is the one evidentiary aspect of the position that can be proven, that is if the speed is clocked properly (harmonically calibrated radar, clear weather, etc.) I can see the courts, if this becomes common enough (using GPS to clear a ticket) mandating that anyone using GPS and speeding automatically getting a ticket (like post #3 said). That would definitely free up alot of officers to do other things.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Time better spent

Think of all the man hours spent organising and arranging speed traps, time spent sitting under an overpass waiting for somone to go by at an “appropriate” speed to tag them, the cost of the court system to deal with everyone that comes in to contest the ticket, or (unfortunately) those that actually go to court because the offender doesn’t plea to a lesser violation.

Those things are “costs” the person getting the ticket pays for. And higher those costs are, the more the system stands to make from tickets.

More often than not it’s not the speed that officers are looking for, its “other” things.

No true. While it is true that the cop will be looking for everything he can possibly find to increase his “score” on the stop (hoping for a “big score”), he won’t likely let you go without a ticket because he didn’t find what he was “looking for”. He’ll just be ticked off that you weren’t doing anything else wrong.

Also, it’s very hard to “prove” someone was driving recklessly or endangering the public

All it takes in most courts is the officer’s opinion. That’s not “very hard”.

comboman says:

A competent DA could get GPS data thrown out

GPS doesn’t measure speed directly, it calculates speed. At time 1, the car is at position 1 and at time 2 it is at position 2. The distance traveled divided by the time is the speed. However, the positions have an error margin, and the computed speed would have an even greater error margin (since it is based on 2 positions, the errors multiply). Radar guns also have errors of course, but most cops get extensive training in their use and calibrate them on a daily basis. I wouldn’t want to count on a GPS tracker getting me out of a ticket.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: A competent DA could get GPS data thrown out

comboman, how do you think lasers and radar work. They both calculate speed based on a measurement. One can argue that GPS is actually more accurate since it was designed to deal with errors. Heck try it out. A GPS device in a blackberry is accurate enough to show which side of the highway you’re driving on.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: A competent DA could get GPS data thrown out

Radar guns also have errors of course, but most cops get extensive training in their use and calibrate them on a daily basis.

No, they don’t calibrate them. Most cops aren’t qualified to perform such tasks. All they do is run a simple quick-check and if it fails they send it off to someone qualified for repair. The “extensive training” is usually a one-day quickie course.

Max Powers at (user link) says:

Great Device

The things I got away with when I first started driving my parents car would get me grounded for life if they had a GPS system installed in their car back then.

I think every new car should have a GPS device as standard equipment. It would “rat” on the kids (This would be worth the cost alone), provide accurate accident information(the black box for cars), locate a loved one that is not where they should be (cut down on cheating spouses), locate stolen cars (bye bye lojack) and yes, confirm your speed when ticketed.

Speeding tickets will still be around because people do speed without realizing it, until the red lights appear. I never fight it, just go the traffic school to make sure it does not affect my insurance.

If you are that worried about getting tickets and complain about the fines that are assessed to you, maybe you have never learned how to drive correctly and deserve to pay up.

GPS Tracker (user link) says:

Certainly a new Use for GPS Tracking

This is certainly a new use for GPS Tracking. I would love to hear the verdict in this court decision. Even though I didn’t do crazy stuff when I was learning how to drive, I know that my parents would have wanted me to wait until I was older. At any rate, I wonder if the next step will be to alter the function of the vehicle if certain pre programmed paramaters are violated (speed, etc.). That one is more tricky, but I’m sure technology will catch up to it one day.

dualboot says:

I've got news for you...

This technology is already out there. Marketing companies that use vinyl graphics on people’s vehicles and then pay those people for driving around in the target area already use the GPS both to track their investments movements, as well as check up on their speed. They have a vested interest in you going the speed limit, because if you speed, than those going the speed limit can’t read the advertising on your vehicle. Your contract can be terminated for excessive speeding, and you’re mailed a warning the first time you speed. I can easily see the courts using this data both to exonerate or deny leniency to a traffic violation recipient.

This is also in use for parents to track their teens. I don’t remember the name of the company, but you can install a GPS that emails the parents when their child drives somewhere that’s off limits, and when their child speeds. I don’t think it’s a huge jump to use it for legal purposes, either for or against traffic violations.

p.s. There are 3 cops in my family… and they give tickets to prevent accidents… not to earn money. The officers get nothing from issuing tickets, and usually position their cars in such a way that you can see them on the side of the road before you get there… discouraging speeding in a high-incidence zone.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I've got news for you...

The officers get nothing from issuing tickets,

Except a promotion and increase in pay to go with it. I’ve know several cops and in every case part of their evaluation as a traffic cop was based on the number of tickets they wrote. If they weren’t writing enough tickets they were considered lazy and not worthy of promotion. Name me a large department that doesn’t keep track of how many tickets each traffic cop writes. While they aren’t paid cash directly for each ticket, I wouldn’t call a favorable review “nothing”.

Barrenwaste (profile) says:

Propaganda, and from what I am seeing, most people will lap it up. Trust me folks, you do NOT want another telltale device stuck in your car. Make it like insurance? Insurance was voluntary, now it’s mandatory. That’s the way GPS speed tracking will go as well. Just another way to moniter, punish, and extort. How many times have you gotten a vehicle of equal or greater value than what you had due to an insurance pay off? It happens, yes, but not often enough to warrant the expense of the insurance. Rat on your kids? Go ahead alienate them more, give them more reason to resent you. Now that’s it’s illegal to punish them in anyway other than a tongue lashing and grounding (the tongue lashing being debatable as verbal abuse) they’ll be even more uncontrollable than ever. I see lots of people extohling the virtues of the idea, but stop and think a minute. Does the government really need another way to sieze power over our lives? Well, so much for the land of the free…Heil Gov’nor!

Max Powers at (user link) says:

Technology Advancements Always Bring Up Privacy Co

Everything “tech” is now going to worry everyone about the Government privacy issue. Technology advancements such as the GPS device are not the culprit. Insurance companies, maybe.

By the way, I was being sarcastic about ratting on the kids. If you bring up kids like you should, you won’t have to worry about them doing stupid things like drag racing on the streets.

We all know how the truckers feel about their “rat devices” that transmit everything back to the company. But the companies are just protecting themselves from idiot truck drivers. If you don’t like it as a truck driver, go somewhere else to work.

Barrenwaste (profile) says:

Max Powers

Not every new tech breakthrough worries me, Max. Just the ones that are blatant violations of what few rights we have left. Make a better vehicle, I’ll sing your praises. Design a reuseable thruster for space flight and I’ll nominate you for a Nobel. Design another system to track and monitor American citizens and I’ll wonder about your sanity.

As to the kid thing, well, I missed the sarcasm there. It happens. Still, even with parents trying to bring thier children up right, without checks and balances on the child’s behavior, they will fail. The government has removed all but the least effective of those checks and balances and now wonders why nobody minds breaking any law that prevents them from getting what they want. Even the most law abiding person breaks at least one law a week. And when the vast majority of a population are law breakers, then there is something wrong with the laws, not the people. Go to a law library, marvel at the massive amount of books needed to contain our laws. Start reading, and by the end of the day I garauntee two things. One, you will discover you have broken at least one law you didn’t know existed. And two, you will discover that it will take most of a season to simply read and comprehend (as opposed to memorizing and learning) our laws.

Finally, the “protecting itself from idiot truckdrivers” arguement is pretty thin. Yes, there are some drivers who shouldn’t have been issued a license…but that is true in any profession. No, those devices are Cover Your A$$ mentality at it’s best. A company should back it’s employess rather than set them up as the scapegoat. Couch it in whatever terms you like, but the proof is in how they use the device.

technofear (profile) says:

Old news...

I helped develop a GPS tracking system / device, which reached production in the UK, over three years ago.

Was sold on basis your boss could check the fuel consumption v fuel purchase, check location (did you go where your said you did) and fleet management (closest cars to client, repairs ect).

Now I use GPS (and other things..) to track some of the worlds longest and heaviest trains (in an effort to make them remote controlled).

dave says:

insurance companies will use GPS data to determine accident predictions and calculations of rates. gone will be the days “as long as i get away with it, i m ok”

if you speed, drive erratically (easy to do in town without speeding) your rates go up whether the cops catch you or not since you will not be able to hide from big brother. as one who drives responsibily (only to increase mileage on my
EV or Prius) i say BRING IT ON!!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

as one who drives responsibily (only to increase mileage on my EV or Prius) i say BRING IT ON!!

Not stopping for red lights and stop signs is one of the most effective ways to increase fuel efficiency in city traffic. I wouldn’t exactly call it “driving responsibly” though. Driving for fuel efficiency and driving for safety are two different things and a driver who doesn’t understand the difference is a danger.

Brad Borst (user link) says:

RM Tracking GPS Device May Provide Evidence Contra

RM Tracking GPS Device May Provide Evidence Contrary to Police Radar Gun in Teenage Speeding Case

The device was used to track the teenager’s speed, and will be used to fight a ticket that cited the teen traveling at almost 20 mph over the speed limit.

Fort Collin, CO October 31, 2007—17 year old Shaun Malone was recently given a speeding ticket by a police officer whose radar gun determined his speed to be 62 miles per hour in a 45 mph zone. Usually, tickets like these are simply paid by the motorist, but this case (Citation and Court case # PET416346; Superior Court of California County of Sonoma Traffic Division) is different: the teenager had an RMT Rover tracking device from Rocky Mountain Tracking, Inc. installed in his car by his step-father and retired sheriff’s lieutenant, Roger Rude. The data gathered by the global positioning device shows that the vehicle was traveling at a drastically different speed than that reported by the police officer. Rude contends that Shaun was driving at the posted speed limit of 45 MPH as recorded by the GPS and some sort of error occurred with the radar enforcement process. The police officer may have pulled his step-son over in lieu of another nearby vehicle that was traveling at the clocked speed of 62 miles per hour. Rude believes that whatever went wrong with the radar process is not as important as the fact revealed by the GPS RMT Rover tracking device that Shaun was traveling at 45 MPH, not the 62 MPH the police officer noted on the citation. This should be sufficient evidence to establish “reasonable doubt” in this case.

The tracking device includes software that determines both the location and the speed of the vehicle, and in this particular case shows that the teen was traveling at the speed limit within 100 feet from the location where he was cited for speeding. The GPS tracking device installed by Rude was intended to monitor the speed of the teenager and decrease his risk of being in an accident caused by unsafe driving habits; however, neither Rude nor his step-son ever expected that it could provide pivotal evidence in his favor, proving that he was, in fact, driving at a safe speed.

Rude and his step-son plan to use the software’s speed log to argue that the police officer’s radar gun inaccurately read the speed of Shaun’s car, or more likely that the officer had tracked the speed of a different vehicle. Their case will hinge on the fact that the GPS data has no room for human error, whereas radar guns operated by police officers do. The fact is that even police officers with the best intentions can sometimes rely upon inaccurate data when writing tickets. Thanks to RM Tracking, motorists can now have the hard, statistical evidence they need to ensure that the outcome of the case is determined by indisputable facts rather than becoming a case of their word versus the radar gun’s reading. The judge will make a ruling in this case sometime in November.

About RM Tracking’s teen tracking device:
The teen tracking device is a GPS device that tracks the location and speed of the vehicle it is placed on, promoting safer, more responsible driving habits. Teenagers particularly have a high incidence of traffic accidents. By ensuring that teenagers are obeying driving laws and using their vehicles responsibly, the GPS device decreases the risk of having an accident. For more information or to purchase a tracking device, visit

Steve says:

Think FISA People...

If the government is already reading all of our email and recording all of our phone calls you gotta think if you got a GPS system installed their tracking you’re every move, in and out of the car for those peeps who have GPS phones. You have satelite or cable, boom, they know everything you watch. Credit cards, debit cards, ATM cards, they know where you’re shopping and what your buying.

Big Brother is real man.

wendy says:

gps tracker

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Techzend (user link) says:

Gps Tracking device

No doubt that GPS devices are good to protect vehicles, kids and animals. But there is some privacy issue with these devices, because those GPS device those are having a Microphone can make the person annoying who is carrying that gps tracker. I think these device should only be used for the purpose of tracking of vehicles and dogs but not for kids. Because humans are not cars, they have feelings.

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