How about GPS trackers in govt motorcades?

How about GPS trackers in govt motorcades?

When Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob decided to make a U-turn on his controversial proposal to install Global Positioning Systems (GPS) in all privately owned vehicles that he had put forth not more than 48 hours before, I have to say I was rather disappointed.

Upon hearing his short-lived proposal, I felt overwhelmed by the idea of someone watching over me while I'm driving.

If there was a GPS tracker in my car, I would no longer have to worry about car theft. But, does the minister not know that thieves could just turn off the system in order to complete their mission?

I would feel safer as the machine would alert me any time I accidentally hit the gas pedal too hard and exceeded the speed limit. What a privilege!

Needless to say, Mr Saksayam meant well in suggesting that the system be made compulsory for all vehicle owners.

He even helped double-check the prices of GPS devices, which have dropped in price from over 10,000 baht to around 3,000 baht.

Three hundred to 700 baht for an additional, premium service would be no problem then, in that case.

With the GPS plan now stalled, the minister might be disheartened to learn that his plan to raise speed limits for cars using the far right lane to 120 kilometres per hour might experience a hiccup.

But anyway, the new limit, aimed at easing congestion, is on trial on the Bang Pa-in-Nakhon Sawan route.

Without GPS trackers, Mr Saksayam might be concerned that the authorities lack a way to monitor the roads.

The Department of Land Transport (DLT) earlier made a breakthrough in forcing all public vans to install the device.

However, the idea of forcing all motorists to install the device raised public concerns over a possible breach of privacy by the state.

Therefore, the results of the DLT's study of the pros and cons of compulsory GPS installation should be available in one year.

But I just wonder, why would anyone care so much about such privacy violations? Don't we already experience such violations in our daily lives?

Even without this GPS proposal, city commuters, especially those using the BTS Skytrain and BRT services, are required to hand their identification cards over to operators when they register for or top up their Rabbit cards.

In my optimistic view, everyone is playing a role in preventing money laundering via the top-up card.

When exposing our identities with the Rabbit card, there are chances that our data regarding travel and purchasing habits could be sold or misused.

So it should be no surprise when we see those tailor-made deals popping up on our mobile phone screens.

But because the GPS proposal has unfortunately been shelved for a year, I think Mr Saksayam still has a chance to put it to use.

In fact, I would humbly suggest the minister apply the initiative to vehicles in government agencies as well.

How about installing GPS in vehicles in the prime minister's motorcade, or in the cars of cabinet members in order to help prevent high speeds on roads?

We don't want our leader and his team taking unnecessary risks when travelling on the roads, do we? The device should be fitted to all state cars used by officials nationwide.

To maximise the use of the devices, the data from the cars should be uploaded in real time for public scrutiny.

With the smart system, people can also keep track if the officials use the vehicles appropriately and for their official missions.

You shouldn't be surprised if some state vehicles are found in some unbecoming places, like golf courses or entertainment venues, rather than their offices.

This way, taxpayers can be sure that state vehicles, which are purchased with public tax money, are not being used inappropriately.

With such a unique initiative and mindset, Mr Saksayam may be eligible as head of agencies dealing with security, like the Interior Ministry. There is no doubt he would try to curb crime by having microchips implanted in our bodies. Microchips would make it much easier to track people's whereabouts and history, or their involvement in any crimes.

They could also enable business operators to learn about our shopping habits or lifestyles without doing much research. They could simply share the information with each other. Life would be easy, as businesses would be doing their best to cater to our needs!

It sounds like a perfect world. And, by then, Thailand will be the world's first country where Big Brother can monitor not just its vehicles, but also its citizens.

Sirinya Wattanasukchai

Columnist

Sirinya Wattanasukchai is a columnist for the Bangkok Post.


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