To Enforce Emissions Standards, State Governments Are Looking To Ride Shotgun In Constituents' Vehicles

from the every-turn-you-make,-every-time-you-brake,-I'll-be-watching-you dept

Californians may find their cars being converted to government informants at some point in the future, thanks to the state's push to curb emissions. As always, a trip to the land of Unintended Consequences begins at the Port of Good Intentions. Cleaner air and vehicles will come at a cost, and that cost may include an extensive collection of driving data. (via Cato)

The On Board Diagnostics computer systems on all of our late-model cars now collect a wide range of information mostly related to a car’s emissions. When something is amiss, your dashboard flashes with a “check engine” light and you head to a repair shop to fix it. The goal is to assure cars aren’t polluting the air.

But now the California Air Resources Board (CARB) is proposing regulations(for a May board hearing) requiring manufacturers to significantly expand the kind of information on-board computer software collects about our driving habits.

The software could track miles per gallon, driving distances, how often one stops and starts the car, and how fast one drives. Newer cars already tell us most of this information on those nifty trip computers in the dashboard. The difference, of course, is the regulations would require our cars to also tell government officials the information.
Right now, CARB is only collecting this sort of information in aggregate, and then only after the vehicle has been on the road for at least six years. This data is compiled during state-required emissions checks. So far, so good, and CARB states on its website that it isn't (yet) pursuing the collection of this data singularly and in an ongoing fashion by using transponders.
“(N)o such program has been adopted by ARB nor have any decisions been made by ARB to pursue such an approach in California.”
But other states are pushing for even more stringent emissions standards than California's, and the only way to enforce these appears to be the use of a tracking device. Washington wants a 50% reduction in emissions by 2050. Oregon has mandated a 20% reduction in per capita urban driving. To hit these goals, manufacturers will need to track additional data about vehicle usage and make it accessible to state governments.

The data parameters listed in CARB's proposal are extensive (p. 42). And it starts with this statement:
Track MPG/CO2 in the real-world

Not just enable easier data logging but actually provide historical data
In practical terms, this means logging of miles driven, fuel used, stops and starts, engine run time, and air conditioner usage. Certainly this data will help manufacturers build more efficient vehicles, but it really has no business being in the government's hands.

If it does, the abuse of this data is almost guaranteed. If this was being tracked solely by manufacturers for use in development, it would be one thing. But if it's being used to track down drivers who aren't driving quite as efficiently as the local government believes they should be, that's quite another. Say goodbye for aggregate data about classes of vehicles and hello to onboard surveillance.

Steven Greenhut points out in his article that the government already has plenty of vehicle tracking options at its disposal, including red light cameras and toll roads that require a government-supplied transponder to be accessed. The latter has already been used to "control" driving by denying toll lane access to speeders ratted out by the required transponders.

With the government tracking this information (and requiring manufacturers to collect it and provide access), law enforcement will no longer need to seek warrants for GPS usage. Instead, they'll just be able to ask another government agency for driving records or demand them from manufacturers under the Third Party Doctrine. And on top of everything else, it will be argued that traveling in your vehicle has no expectation of privacy, even if most drivers will be unaware that their vehicle is tracking all sorts of information and handing it over to the government.

This data collection -- when tied to emissions restrictions -- could have another unintended side effect: taking away citizens' freedom to choose where they live.
Of course, for many it really isn’t about greenhouse gas emissions. Mobility allows (or, as anti-auto groups would say, forces) people to living in low-density “sprawl” where they can escape taxation by cities eager to subsidize stadiums, convention centers, and light-rail lines. All they have to do is ramp down people’s monthly driving rations–something like a cap-and-trade system that steadily reduces the caps–and suburbanites will eventually find that they have to move back to the cities.
Certainly no one expects driving to be a "private" activity. But they also don't expect their government to have an active interest in their personal comings and goings, especially for indefinite periods of time. Gathering this info and handing over control to governments is going to encourage a certain amount of misuse. It's inevitable. These governments need to find another way to attack the emissions problem -- one that doesn't involve turning peoples' vehicles into personal diaries government employees can flip through at their discretion.

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Filed Under: emissions, privacy, state government, surveillance


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Jan 2015 @ 2:47pm

    Why would anyone expect a corrupt and sometimes totalitarian government to abuse this newfound power they will have over people.

    We should take them at their word when they say they won't abuse it and the past hundred abuses were just flukes

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    AricTheRed (profile), 30 Jan 2015 @ 2:57pm

    Screw that, my answer is...

    1970s era passenger vehicle! track that with your super duper computer thingy in my car...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      KoD (profile), 2 Feb 2015 @ 1:53pm

      Re: Screw that, my answer is...

      I was just thinking that this would be a great incentive to buy electric. I am already eagerly awaiting the reasonably price Tesla option. This gives me another bullet point when trying to win over the wife :)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Max (profile), 30 Jan 2015 @ 3:57pm

    BWAHAHAHA...

    Fuck them with a red hot poker. I'd sooner give up driving altogether than have every minute detail of my driving recorded and subject to anybody's approval - be it the government, the insurance company, or anybody else. Thankfully, being rather far for California (Balkans), I expect nothing of that sort within my lifetime here...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 2 Feb 2015 @ 4:17am

      Re: BWAHAHAHA...

      Welcome bikes! But if you use public transportation you can still be tracked either via electronic payment or face recognition. Orwell would be proud!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Rapnel (profile), 30 Jan 2015 @ 4:28pm

    Hm

    The only time the government should take a keen interest in my driving habits is when I decide to run.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Jan 2015 @ 4:35pm

    Hacked Cars -

    After bringing in the regulations, how soon would it be that the vehicles computer systems would be fully hacked so that the information collected would have no bearing on reality?

    Any technological restrictions will be overcome. It just takes the right incentive which these people have no understanding about and are willing to provide.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Jan 2015 @ 5:10pm

      Re: Hacked Cars -

      We've had to jailbreak our phones for years now. Just recently we started having to jailbreak our coffee machines. Won't be too long before we have to jailbreak our cars.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    bdj, 30 Jan 2015 @ 4:54pm

    I've been wanting a new car for the past six years but have held off. Every time I go shopping for one, I'm always turned off by all the mandatory computerized nonsense that's built in to the base model (meaning you can't avoid it). I'd love to say 'vote with your wallet' but the masses never do. At this point, the writing has been on the wall for a while now; America will continue to decline. My only hope is to have enough savings after retirement to move to a more sensible country.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    pr, 30 Jan 2015 @ 6:04pm

    Agency pursuing the last drop

    CARB is an organization that has succeeded. The air quality in Los Angeles is just fine now. The modern car produces so little pollution that they are hardly worth worrying about. Any further improvements would be very costly and of very little benefit. CARB can't declare victory because they would all have to find honest employment. Hence, they have to come up with even more invasive rules to justify their existence.

    A single jalopy produces as much pollution as thousands of modern cars, but nobody has the guts to go after them. In Chicago the 1967 Volkswagens have long since rusted out, but they live here in LA, producing fabulous amounts of hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide. There are also huge sources that CARB can't even figure out. But pestering ordinary car owners is what CARB is all about, so they use their hammer on the nails they know.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Jan 2015 @ 6:23pm

    Maybe this is the end result of what they are actually after.

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/hackers-hijack-car-computers-and-take-the-wheel-1.1322678

    The CARB data is just the means to get there once you have remote communications. Just like censoring the internet for the kids. Once the firewall is in place, all sorts of things can be done that have nothing to do with kids.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Jan 2015 @ 7:46pm

    So, like I said, just find the GPS and put some tinfoil over it, problem solved.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Jan 2015 @ 8:00pm

    I could see gargages in Mexican border towns making a killing disabling all this stuff. If this goes through, expect garagaes in places like Tijuana, Mexicali, Tecate to start offering services to disable and remove these tracking devices.

    If a garage is in Mexico, they cannot be prosecuted, in America, for what they do in Mexico.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 31 Jan 2015 @ 11:13am

      Re:

      1: Universal jurisdiction, usually reserved for crimes against humanity, could be applied here (fighting measures to protect the world from climate change could be argued to be a crime against humanity).
      2: And the driver can be charged as well, if the law requires your car has said tracking devices.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 31 Jan 2015 @ 2:21pm

        Re: Re:

        Even if such tracking devices were required, one could simply disconnect the power it. Just like with instructions on how to defeat OnStar, I would not be surprised if instructions were posted on where to locate and disconnect the power to the tracking device.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 31 Jan 2015 @ 5:34pm

        Re: Re:

        What is the Mexican government told the American government to go to hell? The PRI party, now the ruling party again, never exactly was very cooperative with Americans. Either they, or a party even more anti-American could well tell the American govenment to up theirs.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 31 Jan 2015 @ 6:02pm

      Re:

      That hasn't stopped the US government from attacking or just plain out bullying other countries, when someone not in America does something they do not like.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Jan 2015 @ 8:17pm

    Since vehicle exhaust emissions standards started being implemented in the late 1960s, there has always been an exemption for vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating over 8500 pounds. Due to this exemption, a (exempt) "one ton" pickup truck cound often get better fuel mileage than a smaller (but non-exempt)"half ton" pickup, since the bigger vehicle's engine was devoid of power-robbing emissions equipment and could be tuned for optimal economy rather than optimal emissions.

    So why exempt bigger vehicles which were ostensibly spewing out more pollution by the simple fact of being bigger? Well, because (at least prior to the SUV craze) nearly all vehicles over 8500 lbs GVWR were commercial trucks, and the trucking industry lobby made damn sure that emissions standards did not apply to them.

    As with taxes, bank bailouts, and criminal law enforcement, it's just another example of the burden of civic responsibility being disproportionally placed on the people at bottom of the food chain, while those nearer the top get preferential treatment.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    SilverBlade, 30 Jan 2015 @ 8:57pm

    If this happens, then people would just get very efficient cars or cars which don't use fuel at all (like electric cars) so that their numbers end up being less.

    Less fuel usage may mean they pay less in the long run.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Jan 2015 @ 9:34pm

      Re:

      Also, older cars will become that much more valuable. No computers means the government cannot track you

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 31 Jan 2015 @ 3:09am

      Re:

      An electric car's fuel use is determined by how the electricity to recharge the battery is generated. They only cut down on the use of fossil fuel if the needed electricity comes from renewable resources.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Rekrul, 31 Jan 2015 @ 12:36pm

      Re:

      If this happens, then people would just get very efficient cars or cars which don't use fuel at all (like electric cars) so that their numbers end up being less.

      And you think this will protect them from having government-mandated spyware?

      If the government thought they could get away with it, we'd have TV cameras in every room in our homes, just like in 1984.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    toyotabedzrock (profile), 31 Jan 2015 @ 12:56am

    Tim you sound like your watching Alex Jones again, this is valuable data and the reason the government wants it is to shape travel policy and road spending. Further government sponsored researchers could get access.

    Focus on making sure the data has no names attached and is not ever handed to law enforcement. Could as simply as for people to opt in as well.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    dak, 31 Jan 2015 @ 1:16am

    I might not have an expectation of privacy when I'm driving around in my car, but I do have a general expectation of anonymity.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Jan 2015 @ 1:35am

    Folks look up Agenda 21.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Feb 2015 @ 5:04am

      Re:

      Yep, this is exactly what is going on. They want to force everyone to the cities and out of their cars. Not for the environment but for control. City dwellers, especially with no mode of transportation of their own, are just sheep in a barn. They cannot take care of themselves but will be entirely dependant on the government.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    drjimmy (profile), 31 Jan 2015 @ 5:18am

    Drive a classic car from 1968 and you won't have a problem.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Jan 2015 @ 11:15am

    I wonder

    Do you think they already have the information and just want to make it legal before a whistle blower comes forward?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    KRA, 31 Jan 2015 @ 2:38pm

    Wait for the tax

    I don't think the intentions are quite as noble as keeping the air clean.

    Some legislators are complaining that increased fuel efficiency of cars cuts too deep into gas tax revenue. They proposed taxing people for the miles they drive rather than (or more likely in addition to)on the gas they buy.

    http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/nation/story/2012-06-03/states-motorist-taxes/55367022/1

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 31 Jan 2015 @ 9:18pm

      Re: Wait for the tax

      If they do that, then I would buy stock in Reynolds, or other companies that make aluminum foil, as people will use this to keep the GPS from tracking their location, thus "foiling" taxing by the miles ones drives.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    GEMont (profile), 31 Jan 2015 @ 8:36pm

    Because - Pollution!!

    Whole thing sounds a lot like a public relations rationalization to me.

    Like somebody said "Look, we need some convincing reasons why were doing all this automobile surveillance stuff that the public will swallow, and we need them fast."

    And this was all that their think-tank could come up with.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Feb 2015 @ 5:24pm

    One method of jamming trackers, a jammer that jams wireless internet, but does not affect voice calls, would work.

    While that kind of jammer is not on the FCC radar, I would not be surprised if the new CFAA bill to be introduced in Congress eventually has an item about jamming wireless Internet.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Feb 2015 @ 5:07am

    Several people are wrong about jammers and GPS

    I see several people commenting about jamming signals and GPS with tinfoil. But they are wrong. The tracking is done by a black box that most cars already have. They aren't using GPS, not yet anyway, but tracking throttle, brakes, fuel consumption, etc.

    It is unbelievable that our 4th ammendment rights can be taken away so easily.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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