If London’s top cop got his way, car chases could become a thing of the past — because police would be able to manually disable your vehicle with the press of a button.
The Register reports that Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, told the London Assembly’s police and crime committee on Wednesday that he would like “devices” to be placed in cars that could “safely slow down the vehicle” when police require it.
In short: An electronic kill-switch.
“It may sound far-fetched but these things can be developed and, of course, now cars have got more electronic brains, so that for me that would be a great opportunity.”
The suggestion came amid a committee debate on the use of technology to stop suspects in cars — including by using drones.
Hogan-Howe cautions that it’s not necessarily being actively developed: “I couldn’t promise you. I’m not a technician — you said, ‘what would help’, that would help.” But the idea is likely to be a contentious one.
It raises interesting questions about civil liberties — would a police-controlled kill-switch be an unjustified expansion of the state’s power, or is it a simple case of “if you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to fear”?
Technical concerns should also be considered. The suggestion is reminiscent of the debate over encryption “backdoors” — which many technologists and privacy activists argue are open to abuse by malicious third-parties, and make ordinary people less secure as a result. What would prevent a hacker from gaining illicit access to the device and misusing it?
Right now, this is all just hypothetical. But as our homes and possessions become ever-more connected, we need to decide what we are and aren’t comfortable with, before it’s too late.
Here’s the full quote from Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, via The Register:
“My ideal scenario would be that we’d have a device that slowed down the car in front. If there was a way of intervening in the electronic management of the car — it may sound far-fetched but these things can be developed and, of course, now cars have got more electronic brains, so that for me that would be a great opportunity to safely slow down the vehicle in front. I can’t say that’s there at the moment.”