We already look to government too much to protect us from ourselves and others.


With less responsibility comes less freedom.

Toyota, lending a hand with the nanny state
Lorne Gunter, National Post, Jan 8, 2007

Toyota wants to decide for you whether you are fit to drive. Beginning with its 2009 models, the carmaker hopes to install sensors in the steering wheels that will detect from the sweat in your palms whether there is alcohol in your bloodstream. If there is, ideally the sensors will prevent you from turning on the engine. But if you do manage to pull away before your own car can protect you from yourself, as soon as they detect booze, the sensors will slow the car and stop it. Ah, hah, you say, drunks will soon learn to wear gloves when they drive!

But the smart guys over at Toyota have considered that, too. As back-ups to the sweat sensors, they will install other sensors to detect excess swerving, and kill the engine. They may even install cameras to check your pupils. Not focusing properly on the road ahead? Same result -- an involuntary halt to your driving. There are a hundred ways the sensors could work (or fail to work) to the detriment of the car owner.

But more troubling is the moral dimension -- the way Toyota is setting itself up as a better judge of your competence than you. This blurs the line between corporations and the nanny state and implies consumers will not do the right thing for themselves and their fellow drivers. They need a big, "socially responsible" corporation interfering in their lives in the name of the public good.

What if the sweat sensors give even a 1% false-positive reading in extreme cold? You're out at night in the country. Your car has been sitting at -30 for a couple of hours and now it won't start because, like some illiterate fortune teller, the frozen sensors misread your palms. You're stranded in the middle of nowhere without heat because of Toyota's desire to prove itself a good corporate citizen.

Or the dilapidated cargo truck in front of you on the highway has been dropping junk on the road for miles. Suddenly your Camry interprets your evasive manoeuvres as inebriation and brings you to a halt in the middle lane, with traffic whizzing by you on both sides.

Or your kids are quarrelling in the backseat. You keep checking them over your shoulder when the pupil-cam judges you to be drunk and shuts off you car. Chatting with passengers, putting on makeup, drinking coffee or eating while driving, changing CDs or tuning the radio, talking on a cellphone, all are accident risks statistically about as great as driving drunk. All are similarly voluntary and preventable. Why then the concentration on impaired driving? Why? Because our society -- mostly governments and safe driving lobby groups -- have singled out drinking and driving for stigmatizing. This instinct has it roots in the puritanical belief that some sins of equal consequence are nonetheless worse than others. I don't drink. So I am not standing up somehow for my own right to do so and drive home.

And so long as Toyota's rush to righteousness does not infect the rest of the carmakers, I can avoid paying an extra $500, $1,000 or $2,000 for one of its Sanctimony GTs. The free market is a great defender of personal choice and individual liberty. But for how long?

The difference between Toyota's drunk driving sensors and other safety features such as seatbelts, airbags, collapsible steering columns, anti-lock brakes, impact-absorbing bumpers and child-proof door locks is that the others were designed primarily to protect a car's occupants from harm, not to protect others from them. Nor do the other features give carmakers an ongoing say in how their products are used.

How long will it be before crusading politicians -- with the backing of safety-obsessed voters and the cooperation of PR-conscious manufacturers -- use Toyota's example to make such devices mandatory on all vehicles?

What's next, sensors that detect your speed relative to the car in front and brake for you? The Brits are already contemplating mandating satellite sensors in every vehicle that detect speed and slow vehicles automatically to the posted limit.

Even if Toyota's idea worked and made us safer, that safety would come at the cost of less personal responsibility. We already look to government too much to protect us from ourselves and others. And with less responsibility comes less freedom.


Gates wants connected cars (transition from work to home). Detroit News & Gates wants connected homes (watch TV, surf net with Xbox). CVG, Jan 8, 2006. Go to BILL GATES IS WATCHING YOU!

'Xbox is a PC' says Bill Gates (a strategy to get into living room). CVG, Jan 8, 2007. Go to BILL GATES BEHIND TELESCREEN

1.Winston's Diary and 2.Big Brother and 3.Surveillance and 20.Thought Police

Jackie Jura
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~

email: orwelltoday@gmail.com
website: www.orwelltoday.com