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Tom Tom Sells GPS Info To Dutch Cops 204

Posted by Soulskill
from the whole-different-kind-of-public-relations dept.
jfruhlinger writes "As smartphones with GPS capabilities wear away at the dedicated GPS market, vendors like Tom Tom need to find new revenue streams. Tom Tom decided it would be a good idea to 'share' (i.e., sell) aggregated data from their users to Dutch law enforcement. The company claims they assumed that the data would be used to improve traffic safety and road engineering, and were shocked, shocked to discover that instead the police used it to figure out the best places to put speed traps."
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Tom Tom Sells GPS Info To Dutch Cops

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  • Re:Again? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by v1 (525388) on Monday May 02, 2011 @01:50PM (#36002282) Homepage Journal

    it should have. I posted in a recent related thread forecasting this exact same thing would happen. Really, is anyone surprised by this? Lately the law seems to be a lot more interested in finding ways to boost their revenue than to protect the public.

  • by _0xd0ad (1974778) on Monday May 02, 2011 @02:04PM (#36002456) Journal

    The company claims they assumed that the data would be used to improve traffic safety and road engineering, and were shocked, shocked to discover that instead the police used it to figure out the best places to put speed traps.

    Well duh. Those two phrases mean exactly the same thing in the newspeak.

  • Re:good (Score:2, Insightful)

    by h4rr4r (612664) on Monday May 02, 2011 @02:15PM (#36002598)

    The whole damn point is to get people to drive safely and punish people who don't.

    So are you naive or just stupid?

    Speeding is not dangerous in many circumstances, in fact if others are speeding one driver does not he is actually creating a dangerous situation. Road speed limits are set by politicians not proper engineering.

  • by asdf7890 (1518587) on Monday May 02, 2011 @03:10PM (#36003162)
    This argument is essentially "it isn't safe for me to drive at 55 when everyone else is moving at 75". It isn't unsafe because of the law or because the specified maximum speed is 55, it is unsafe because everyone else is breaking the law. That argument can be countered with the standard school teacher response of "if everyone else put their head in fire, would you?". If everyone is breaking the law then by all means charge everyone for it. If you think the speed limit set by law is wrong campaign to have it lifter rather than just ignoring it and breaking the law. The speed cameras would not be "cash cows" if people didn't routinely ignore the speed limits.

    Speed limits are not only set for safety in some places. Studies have shown that most road systems, once above a certain % of their carrying capacity, are most efficient (both in terms of average journey time for those taking part in the system and in terms of fuel efficiency) when the maximum speed is set to a value most people would find surprisingly low. This is mainly due to the fact it means people keep a more constant speed, with far less accelerating simply because the speed limit is higher then having to slow down again at the next obstruction (lights, slower moving traffic ahead, turning off into a slower road). Without this constant speed variation in individual vehicles less fuel would be used and there would be less "bunching" which can cause havoc with road system efficiency (meaning average journey times, and fuel waste, rise). Of course for optimum efficiency the speed limit would need to be more dynamic than the current fixed limits, rising on straight stretches at times when the roads are clear to traffic can move freely and safely+efficiently at a higher pace - but would require significant infrastructure investment to implement so may be a pretty bad optimisation in short/medium term.

    The debate about speed cameras in high speed areas is interesting. If they were just there for the safety aspect then there may be a case for their being less of them, but there is also a case for speed limits being lower for efficiency reasons in many areas and there would be no way to implement that without the cameras to keep an eye on people.

    One place where I would like to see *more* cameras (perhaps moving some of those that are currently monitoring high-speed areas?) is in slower zones where the issue is very much safety. I expect that cameras policing the 15 and 20mph zones near schools, parks, and other quiet residential areas would draw in less cash but would make more of an impact in terms of lives saved and injuries lessened. I've often seen people shoot past a local school here at far more than the posted (but not enforced, aside from the very occasional bobby with a radar gun) 20mph limit - when I had my motor bike I would sometimes be in that flow of traffic and be getting bibbed by the idiot behind me because I was moving at 20ish rather than the 30+ he thought more appropriate. The really irritating thing is that some of the people speeding were speeding away after dropping off their kids at the school (I'm sure they'd complain pretty indignantly if one day their snotty little sprog was skittled by a car or bike that was moving faster than the limit). An efficiency issue would be addressed by this too: all to often you see people putting their foot down at one end of a short street only to slam on the breaks at the other end before they turn, which is probably more wasteful than pushing up from 55 to 75 and back down again.
  • Re:Again? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by berwiki (989827) on Monday May 02, 2011 @03:24PM (#36003340)
    I initially modded you up, but I have to comment and strip my points.

    I can't find the exact statistic now, but I remember reading how the percent of fatal accidents skyrockets as speed increases...this tidbit supports my statement above:

    Speeding increases the crash energy by the square of the speeds. For example, when impact speed increases from 40 to 60 mph (a 50 percent increase), the energy that needs to be managed increases by 125 percent! IIHS [iihs.org]

    Plus, if you set the speed limit to 85, how fast do you think people would be driving then?

    In Atlanta people already drive like idiots. I've never seen so many people speeding through apartment/mall parking lots! It's insane. At any moment a kid could run out from a car and just get crushed! In Pittsburgh, where I spent most of my early adulthood, the speed limits were a lot lower, and I certainly felt safer (walking, driving, biking...doing anything near a road)

  • Re:Again? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dgatwood (11270) on Monday May 02, 2011 @03:36PM (#36003482) Journal

    It does no good to lower the death rate as a percentage of accidents by lowering the speed limit if that in turn results in an increase in the rate of accidents. The probability of a risk is dependent largely on the difference in speed between the slowest and fastest vehicles, so by setting the limit too low, you're not necessarily helping.

    Want to lower the death rates? Raise the standards for automobile crash safety. Any other method of achieving such gains is almost invariably illusory. When cars are unnecessarily out on the road because of congestion caused by too-low speed limits, you're adding pollution that statistically kills people, too. It's just a lot harder to measure that causation.

    Besides, the safety issues for the users have been dramatically improved since the 1970s, to such an extent that if 65 MPH roads were safe in the 1970s, a 100 MPH road is safe by that safe standard today. Yet speed limits have not increased. Thus, the position that speed limits are set based on safety simply cannot be justified in light of the evidence at hand.

    The only good justification for a low speed limit is a large amount of pedestrian traffic, and only because they don't have cars to protect them in a collision. For highways, for maximum safety, the speed limit should be set at a speed that is safe for the road, and should be on electronic signs so they can lower it if road conditions are bad. And it should be set high enough that anyone exceeding it is clearly nuts.

  • Re:Again? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Everyone Is Seth (1202862) on Monday May 02, 2011 @03:42PM (#36003550)
    Yay, math!

    In other news, did you know that, as impact speed increases from 5 mph to 25 mph, the energy that needs to be managed increases by 2400 percent!? That is just stunning! I think that we must start considering the children here, and lower all speed limits to 5 mph immediately. And ban driving in parking lots. With all of the obstructed views, it is just too dangerous, and I am not going to be held responsible for teaching my children about running into streets blindly.

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