High-speed car chases could become a thing of the past, thanks to new technologies that are making unsafe driving a thing of the past. First, there was the joint project being developed by Emotiv and the Royal Automobile Club of Western Australia. Known as an “attention-powered car”, the driver of this vehicle wears a headset that measures their brainwaves and shuts down the engine in case of inattention.
And now, there’s a technology being developed by UK’s E2V which could shut down cars from the other end. That is to say, a technology aimed at detecting speeding cars and stopping them by electronically neutralizing their systems. It’s known as the RF Safe Stop, a system that uses electromagnetic pulses to confuse the systems of car and force its engine to stall.
According to the BBC, the technology has piqued the interest of the military and police:
In demonstrations seen by the BBC, a car drove towards the device at about 24km/h (15mph). As the vehicle entered the range of the RF Safe-Stop, its dashboard warning lights and dials behaved erratically, the engine stopped, and the car rolled gently to a halt. Digital audio and video recording devices in the vehicle were also affected.
There are concerns about the technology’s effects on electronic braking and steering systems, but EV2 says the risks are low. Because RF Safe-Stop works on electronic systems, it can also be effective on boats. If adopted, the technology could find its way into road stops and traffic points, where it could be used to target people breaking the speed limit and force their cars into a shutdown until police arrive.
There are drawbacks, of course. Older vehicles, which are less dependent on electronic systems, will be immune to the Safe Stop’s signals. In this respect, low-tech trumps high-tech due to a lack of complexity. However, given the sheer proliferation of modern vehicles, and their growing dependence on electronic systems (and engines), the Safe Stop technology is likely to be adopted all across the UK in the coming years.
Looking farther down the road, its not unlikely that advanced traffic systems and countermeasures will be featured on highways and waterways all over the world. In addition to being able to monitor traffic patterns, read license plates and registries, and tag those of offenders, it will also be able to deploy a targeted EM burst on vehicles that are identified by police as criminals or possible terrorists, and stop them in their tracks.
And of course, a militarized version of the technology is a no-brainer, given the military’s long-standing love affair with EM technology. Imagine, if you will, vehicle-mounted electromagnetic weaponry that will be capable of taking out a column of enemy vehicles simply by neutralizing their systems. Or possibly a handheld device used by infantry (like Batman’s) to defend themselves against tanks and helicopters!
It’s important to dream big! And in the meantime, be sure to enjoy this BBC video short that demonstrates the technology in action:
Sources: fastcompany.com, e2v.com