Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Punjab's corrupt and frustrated traffic police... and how their excesses would be avoided in future

I was fined today on the following two counts:
  1. Red light jumped
  2. Driver not wearing seat-belt
I plead not guilty to both the allegations - I didn't commit either of the offenses. I am 100% sure that I crossed while the light was green. I don't drive without the belt on. But can I prove that I did not jump red light, and that I was wearing the seat-belt? No. Not yet, at least.

It's fairly safe for me to predict that in the not-so-distant future, cars (whatever form they take by then) will include some sort of instrument that mimics the functionality of a flight data recorder (FDR) installed aboard every modern commercial airliner. With real-time tracking of multiple parameters of every vehicle, situations such as the one I faced today will be a thing of past. Using Galileo/GLONASS/GPS/Etc., the device will record a vehicle's precise location at all times during the flight, and a driver will be able to review his past positions before claiming that he did not jump the red light (actually, even this won't be required, as fines will probably be charged automatically, and there will be minimal human involvement in enforcement). Similarly, this device will record whether or not a seat-belt was worn.

The broad idea is that as we move into the future, human decisions - many of which can be plain incorrect - will increasingly be removed from worldwide systems and supplanted by error-free decisions made by machines. Tracking will ensure that the data required for appeals is available (although I don't expect machines to make mistakes fining rogue drivers).

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