Snuck inside the recently passed $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, is a proposal to have a lockout kill switch device to be installed in all new cars. This is no joke and has already passed in Congress and the House.
A quote from Law Enforcement Today commented: “the Infrastructure bill includes a ‘drunk driving’ kill switch in all cars; some worry government will abuse it. Drunk driving appears to be a cover for what can occur, the possibility for abuse is clearly something which bears watching. This could also give access to outsiders with spyware and hackers.”
Once you open up access to the electronics, it can be misused by the government, preventing you from driving during lockdowns and national health emergencies; and opens up access to criminals with bad intentions, as computer hackers could seize control of these vehicles. This is a huge safety concern and finally elected officials are realizing this is a more serious issue than they thought before passing the bill.
Take a closer look at the Infrastructure bill they jammed through, Section 24220. This mandates installation of equipment to listen to in-car noises and conversation, monitor eyes, and “kill switches” to automatically turn off your car. It states, all new cars in the United States will be required to install these kill switches by 2026. This section was passed allegedly to stop drunk drivers, but the law is very broad. The concern is that it may lead to government abuse of privacy, especially as the government wants more and more control over your car. We have seen this in other areas of our lives too.
When the 1.2 trillion dollar infrastructure bill passed last year, there was a clause added for the purposes of cutting down on drunk driving, prevent high-speed chases, and overall reduce dangerous situations. This would mean that any system that would require vehicles to be connected to wireless networks – which isn’t much of a stretch, since a majority of new cars, and virtually all electric vehicles come standard with Wi-Fi capability and automatic updates. General Motors was one of the leading car manufacturers to include in-car internet connectivity over ten years ago through its OnStar system.
Last November, former U.S. Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA) warned that such devices are a “privacy disaster in the making,” while further warning the law is “disturbingly short on details.”
Law Enforcement Today published a piece on the kill switches last year, which included this quote: “What we do know is that the ‘safety’ device must ‘passively monitor the performance of a driver of a motor vehicle to accurately identify whether that driver may be impaired.’ Everything about this mandatory measure should set off red flags.”
Such a law has possible chilling consequences, if taken to its theoretical extreme. Why do you think the bureaucracy is pushing things such as the “smart grid?” Once again, that would allow the federal government to control what Americans set their thermostats at, how many hours per day we could run our air conditioning and the distance you can drive as well. No I’m not wearing a tin foil hat, many of these controls are already in place.
We have covered automotive kill switches in the past. If you dig deeper you will find even more details. Nobody can argue that drunk drivers are an issue with road safety. However the latest proposal by the Biden administration raises some serious questions.
From a police officer’s perspective, having the ability to shut down another driver’s car either operated by a drunk driver, or a stolen vehicle could prove to be advantageous for everyones safety. The elimination of dangerous police pursuits is a goal that all police officers would embrace, in order to reduce danger to the public as well as officers themselves.
One problem identified is the fact that the proposed kill switch is “an ‘open’ system, or at least one with a back door, meaning authorized or unauthorized third parties can remotely access the system’s data at any time.” That of course begs the question; who exactly will have access to your car’s kill switch? Hackers? Police? Department of Justice? Lawyers wonder if a warrant would be required in order to activate your car’s system and shut it down.
In all vehicles built after 2026, drivers will no longer have the sole choice as to whether or not a car may be driven, and instead that decision will be, at least in part, put in the hands of an algorithm over which the car’s owner or driver have neither knowledge nor control.
While such technology clearly presents some advantages as mentioned: parking drunk drivers, and eliminating police pursuits, there are plenty scenarios you can imagine from a safety perspective for you or your teenage drivers or your elderly parents and friends. Perhaps the interlock device is noble, but it is much too easy to abuse and hackers are simply pretty darn advanced. This is a bad idea all the way around.
This system could be utilized or adjusted down the road to alert law enforcement authorities that someone is speeding over the limit. This is already in play in the UK. They take away your drivers license and no way to get it back if you get caught speeding over the limit three times. Tracking your every move to keep us in line.
It is unknown how much it will cost new car buyers will pay for the addition of the technology, passed along by the manufacturer. But it is coming and some of these systems are already in current vehicles.
The only way to undo this law is to defund and remove this from this clause. Now is the time to speak up and tell your elected officials.
Lauren Fix is a nationally recognized automotive expert, media guest, journalist, author, keynote speaker and television host. A trusted automotive expert, Lauren provides an insider’s perspective on a wide range of automotive topics, energy and safety issues for both the auto industry and consumers. Her analysis is honest and straightforward.
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