Kyle Reese… and Reinhard Heydrich

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by Eric Peters EricPetersAutos.com

Recently by Eric Peters: Get Ready…

In the original Terminator movie, Reese – the heroic resistance character sent to our present from a horrific future in which machines tyrannize humanity – displays a bar code embedded on his arm to convince Sarah Conner he’s not nuts and that his story is all-too-real. The bar code, of course, is used to scan people instead of groceries. bar 1

Creepy sci-fi in 1984, when the first Terminator movie came out.

An even creepier reality this 2012 – a time when men use machines to tyrannize man.

In Virginia – my home state, but by no means the only state looking into this – lawmakers are “studying” the idea of bar-coding license plates and possibly even embedding radio frequency identification (RFID) tags into them so that every car – and thus, every driver – can be more readily kept track of.

Ostensibly, for mere revenue collection.

The Virginia soviet – er, DMV – issued a report (see here) about a week ago bemoaning the loss of toll fees resulting from cars being able to slip through the revenue gantlet, particularly along the I-95 corridor near Richmond, where automated toll machines are supposed to snap pictures of toll both scofflaws and send them a piece of payin’ paper in the mail. It is insufferable that anyone escape paying “their fair share” to use roads they’ve already paid more than their fair share to use via motor fuels taxes and all the countless other taxes each of us is already forced to pay.bar 3

But toll-skippers are small fry – just a convenient excuse to bar code and chip our cars. And thus, us. The DMV soviet’s study estimates that, at most, $70,474.73 is lost each year to toll non-payers. Chump change – for an entity that disposes of $85 billion annually (see here). Seventy thousand? It’s amazing they even noticed it. Probably, that amount of other people’s money is spent on lawmakers’ mini-bar incidentals in a month.

No, the real sweet spot is the millions that could be mulcted via these bar-coded and RFID’d license plates. Readers have already pointed out – in response to my last article about “creative resistance” (see here) that many jurisdictions already have mobile plate scanners that enable cops to quickly suss out out-of-date vehicle registrations and so on. Bar-coded and chipped plates would make things even more efficient for the mulcters. A single cop – or even several cops – cannot scan everyone. The “offender” must be within range of the cop’s car. There are only so many of these. And if your car (or bike) is parked off-street, inside an enclosed garage – or in the backyard…

But if the plate can transmit… a brave new world of possibilities opens up. Forget being able to benignly neglect to re-up your registration, or get your vehicle properly inspected. They will know.

And you will pay.

Unfortunately, more efficient fleecing is merely one aspect of it. The other – more sinister – aspect is more efficient monitoring.

Which is another way of saying, more efficient controlling.

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Eric Peters [send him mail] is an automotive columnist and author of Automotive Atrocities and Road Hogs (2011). Visit his website.

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