Fan Mail

The assumption that George Orwell’s time has arrived with VMT/TDP road pricing is especially visceral in the United States. I am accosted often and bluntly. Yesterday’s exchange with a new fan illustrates two things. Tolerance for tracking is near-zero and willingness to understand is there when explained.

Not one word has been altered in the following email conversation, except that my correspondent's name has been withheld.

Tonight I was in a bar with my best buddy, Malcolm, who, having recently been run over by an elderly lady in an SUV, was having a Guinness when my blackberry buzzed with a email from a satisfied reader of an article I had written for Roads and Bridges Magazine.
Mr. Grush – If you won’t admit that the eventual result of a GPS mileage system will be Orwellian monitoring of movement, you are either a fool or a liar. The U.S. State of Mississippi has recently outlawed ticket-writing red light cameras statewide. This is a very positive development that should be followed by more legislatures to stop the abusive implementation of technologies fostered by the political lobbying of companies that develop them. – K.N.
The perfect way to introduce oneself, I thought. Luckily this Canadian was born in Maryland and bullied in Pennsylvania, so I immediately appreciated the affection: “you are either a fool or a liar”.
Or a genius.
I shot back, certain that this would engender more affection.
The Third Reich and Soviet Union were full of geniuses led by very misguided people whom history has correctly judged very harshly. K. N.
I was right! My turn...
I'll bet you have a deep understanding of how GPS works, too. I suspect you watch a lot of telly. Seriously, Ken the technology is not what you imagine. It is anonymous. Unlike E-ZPass.
Then he started to go a bit soft.
Having graduated on the dean’s list from Georgia Tech and practiced engineering for thirty years, I do in fact have some understanding of technical matters. Running my own company has not left me much time for television. Your description of the anonymity of the system in the article may hold as originally implemented, but you can bet it will be manipulated by officeholders less well intentioned than yourself. My point is that technocrats tend to believe their creations can only be used for good purposes, but history has unfortunately shown otherwise. K.N.
Technocrat?! Now I’m insulted.
Then they will have to use a different device. Mine does not allow position data to exit the device.
Then he really starts losing it. What a spoiler!
Then let us hope if we are to be burdened with this that your device wins the bid and keeps the business in perpetuity. If after a few years one of your competitors underbids you, or sells some politician on their device which may not be so benign, let us hope we can resist them. K.H.
Next thing, he'll want to work at my company. This thing is going too far!

Thank you. I accept that as a blessing. Search "privacy" at www.grushhour.com. You will see I lobby for legislation that forbids location data to exit the vehicle. If you go back to the beginning you will see it was not always so. I have come to this only in the last year. e.g., see skymetercorp.com > Media > Archive and find Data Protection Act. I have since recanted.

The first time data from my system is used for harm, I'd be out of business. Oddly, your privacy is more important to me than it is to you. One mistake and I am exposed to serious and inescapable criticism.

BTW I was asked to build an ankle bracelet for prisoners about 3 years. I refused because I did not want to seen tracking anything. Ever.

I have not seen the article. Is it online?
Finally, he gives up all semblance of healthy disgust.
I am glad to hear you share my concern. The article was referenced in the NSPE email newsletter which aggregates articles from the technical press. Here is the article, and have a good evening:

Squeezing Tolls From Error Bars
Transportation Management & Engineering (04/09) Vol. 14, No. 2, P. 8; Grush, Bern

The tolling of wide areas such as regions, states or continents will be facilitated by a new vehicle-miles-traveled technology founded on processing innovations in vehicle positioning using Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS/GPS). Some jurisdictions already have electronic road tolling technologies implemented including various radio-frequency identification (RFID) or dedicated short-range communications (DSRC) radio technologies, but not all of these systems boast interoperability. GPS signals are free, openly available and de facto standardized, which means that the opportunity for interoperability among toll-payment service providers can be concentrated on road-use metering standards, privacy standards and payment data exchange among metering providers, payment service providers and toll operators rather than interoperability among proprietary equipment providers. By focusing on road-use metering standards, costs can be reduced, operations can become more flexible, extensibility can be eased, and service acquisition and motorist-oriented services and transportation policies can be broadened. Transport authorities starting to toll wide areas using GNSS/GPS technology will face the temporary issue of interoperating between existing DSRC/RFID facilities with long-term management contracts and the more flexible GNSS-based time, distance and place systems. A high-resolution, GIS-based pricing grid overlaying an entire region can serve as an interim solution, and every component of this grid would be assigned a fee for passage through it and an owner or government entity that would receive the fee. Establishing this service only requires an accurate digital map of the facility to be tolled, the toll anticipated for each road segment, any time-of-day differences in charges and a collection, payment and audit agreement with each participating toll agency.

[more] http://www.roadsbridges.com/Squeezing-tolls-from-error-bars-article10268

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