This will not end well.
Another dystopian dream is becoming a reality as drivers in the UK will soon be able to download an app that allows them to report other vehicles for traffic offenses. According to the Royal Automobile Club, the app, called dashcamUK, is the brainchild of Ukrainian-born Oleksiy Afonim, who approached the police with the concept and was met with lots of positive feedback.
The technology will allow anyone with a smartphone and a mount to turn their phone into a dashcam that will record in 30-second increments. If the driver sees anything that could constitute a traffic violation, all they must do is tap their screen, and the recording will be sent to the police in seconds.
If a vigilant, concerned citizen sees any of the 21 traffic violations like jumping red lights, failing to indicate when changing lanes, or even using their phone, they can send that recording to the police immediately. The app's creator met with police forces to ensure that the footage can be used in court and that no operator would be fined for utilizing the app while driving.
The app is set to hit the market in May, and the police believe it will lead to an influx of citations. They also believe that, over time, the threat of being caught on camera will help to deter drivers from violating the law, thus leading to fewer traffic violations. There are also talks of developing an app to track and record speeding, although how they'll accomplish this is still being determined.
The whole thing raises questions-lots of them. First and foremost, since the app works by recording the action and your license plate, there's no way for the police to know if the vehicle's owner is actually the one driving. If a family member or friend uses this vehicle and makes a mistake or is careless, you would be on the hook for the fine and any other ramifications.
Also, if the app ever does get to the point of recording speed to be used as evidence, how on earth are we supposed to trust it without official verification and calibration? Could you imagine being fined in a court of law due to the evidence from a driver in a Toyota Corolla with a cracked 2016 iPhone 7 that's been dropped and submerged a bajillion times? It would be ludicrous.
We doubt we're the only ones asking these types of questions, and hopefully, this comes under some more scrutiny before it's fully released to the public. Fortunately, we don't have to worry about it in the US. The app currently has no intention to expand outside of the UK, and even if it did come here, we imagine almost every state would have an issue with it.
We understand being tougher on traffic violations, mainly because due to reckless drivers, pedestrian, cyclist, and motorcycle fatalities are rising here in the US. Police have resorted to unconventional means to combat this, but they can't be everywhere at once, which makes surveillance like this attractive to the government.
Unfortunately, there's a good reason citizens aren't used to combat crime. This is effectively vigilantism in its most lightweight form, and the app can't guarantee that people uploading footage to the cops are doing so with good intentions.
We can easily see an outraged environmentalist following a Lamborghini for miles just to record a minor infringement as petty revenge. After all, we do live in an age where people are gluing themselves to cars to fight climate change.
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