Several Sunday newspapers have picked up on The Independent on Sunday's interview with Alistair Darling, the Secretary of State for Transport, who is again hyping up his plan revealed last July for "satellite tracking road tolls" over the whole country.
Yet again a NuLabour Minister is grasping at unproven technology as a magic fix for social problems.
See our comments on this plan when it was revealed last July: "Alistair Darling's satellite tracking road toll plans - another Big Brother surveillance system"
The Road Pricing Feasibility Study is available on the Department of Transport's website.
Where are the privacy safeguards with this plan ? Where is the consultation with the people ? Where are the alternative plans and solutions to traffic congestion ?
The media has only ever reported this plan from a transport or environmental viewpoint, and not from the very obvious dangers to privacy and civil liberties of the vast majority of law abiding motorists.
Nobody can be trusted with such a powerful mass surveillance infrastructure.
The Germans have had huge difficulties with their lorries only, motorways only, toll scheme using a combination of GPS and roadside radio beacons.
The London Congestion Charge shows the incompetence of the privatised back end payment and enforcement operators - over a million unpaid penalty tickets for a tiny area of central London !
GPS signals certainly do not cover all of the road network, there are lots of "black spots" where the direct view to 4 satellites is blocked by buildings or trees.
The media have also consistently given the misleading impression that the "satellite tracking" somehow involves sending a signal up to a satellite in orbit, when the only signals are beamed down from orbit. The GPS satellite knows nothing of your GPS receiver's actual position.
Any "offline" In-Car-Unit which decrements the amount of pre-paid road toll according to GPS signals will:
- be defrauded by simple devices which re-broadcast much stronger spoof GPS location signals, pretending to be stationary or in a low charge zone. These are much simpler devices than the ones people already pay money for to get pirate satellite or cable TV programs, so a new black market will be created.
- be vulnerable to rogue transmitters sending out spoofing signals which fool the In-Car-Unit into assuming that it is in a high toll charge zone - how are most people ever going to be able to dispute such false toll charges ?
Any "online" combined GPS/Mobile phone type In-Car-Unit is directly equivalent to the technology of Electronic Tagging of Criminals, which does seem to be the attitude of the Government to the public.