20 years ago I worked above a garage in Manchester. The owner was a young man who liked fast cars, but in Britain the roads are monitored with cameras and speed traps making it easy to lose your license through the points deduction system.
My boy racer friend had a solution however, on the rear view mirror he had a radar detection system. These systems were illegal to use, but not to own, so although visible to a passing police officer there was little they could do about it.
20 years on the technology has improved. Now for 6 euros you can download Radardroid, it sits in your smartphone and informs you when you are getting close to a speed camera or radar. This App sends a visual and sonic signal to warn you, so you can slow down and avoid fines and potentially losing your license.
There are many systems available. Some like Radardroid are openly helping you to avoid abiding by the law, but others market themselves as driver help tools. They let you know when there is a traffic jam ahead, bad weather or a radar by describing them all as ‘risk zones’. These systems have even been endorsed by some European governments and car manufacturing companies are starting to put the technology directly into their cars.
One problem remains however, in some countries the use of this technology is prohibited. Germany and Switzerland enforce bans on such technology, something that was easy with older systems that could be spotted from outside the car. But what about if it sits within your phone. How can a sovereign state stop people driving on their territory with an App in their phone? Will they stop cars that are factory fitted with the technology from crossing their borders?
I doubt that enforcement will be possible, and this highlights just one of the problems of the management of a single market across different sovereign countries. Technology transcends geographic boundaries, as the internet buying of banned products has proved.
And this leads me to my final question, does this mean that people only abide by the law because they think that they might get into trouble if they don’t? What are the ethical implications of the marketing and endorsing of such products? If this process continues many laws will become obsolete as technology finds ways to avoid being caught.
In Italy you have to pay to use the motorways, so you get a ticket when you enter, that you present when you leave and pay. On some motorways they have introduced what they call a tutor. It is old school technology, the ticket has the time you enter stamped on it. When you leave the time is registered again. If you cover more distance than is possible while remaining within the speed limit you get a fine. A simple A to B calculation that has dramatically cut deaths on my local motorway.
If you are interested in reading more about ethics in technological innovation take a look at my work blog.