A Queensland government inquiry looks at remote engine immobilisers

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Big Brother could be tracking your car soon.

A parliamentary inquiry in Queensland is looking into the feasibility of using remote engine immobilisers to shut down cars on the move.

The Queensland Transport and Resources Committee has held its first hearings into whether the technology should be used in an effort reduce vehicle theft and police chases.

Remote engine immobilisers would allow police to automatically shut down vehicles they believe to be stolen.

The tech would work by cutting power to the accelerator but still give the driver control over the steering and braking, which would allow the vehicle to come to a stop in a safer manner than a hard shutdown.

General Motors has previously attempted to bring the technology out here in certain Holdens with its OnStar feature.

OnStar was planned to be rolled out first in the 2019 Equinox SUV.

One of the technology’s main functions would be to automatically call emergency services if the airbags were deployed and bring stolen cars to a stop – by disabling the accelerator rather than applying brakes – once police check the vehicle visually and deem it safe to do so.

When the feature was first announced for Australia in 2017 the company said it recovers about 600 stolen cars a month in the US where a thief has stolen the keys.

Several prominent organisations have questioned the need for remote engine immobilisers, citing it as an invasion of privacy that will have minimal effect on stopping potentially dangerous police chases.

The Queensland Council for Civil Liberties (QCCL) has recommended remote immobiliser technology not to be used as it could infringe on peoples’ privacy and freedom of movement.

“Installation of this type of technology must mean that the police and other State entities will be able to track every vehicle and presumably to record where every vehicle has been,” says the QCCL.

“Whilst unfortunately it has become overused, such a situation must merit the description of being Orwellian.”

The Royal Automobile Club of Queensland (RACQ) also has misgivings about using the technology on local roads, noting the technology is limited and would be expensive to mandate and fit to vehicles.

It also says most vehicle thefts involve the thief first stealing the car’s keys and that key security is of vital importance. The RACQ also believes this could then lead to a spike in violent actions such as carjacking.

The RACQ says: “The prime focus needs to be on preventing illegal use rather than stopping a stolen vehicle once it is on the road.

“Reduced access to keys or other forms of target hardening could result in an increase in violence to access the vehicle.”

The National Motor Vehicle Theft Reduction Council (NMVTRC) says the mandatory fitting of engine immobilisers has rendered modern cars almost impossible to steal without gaining access to the keys.

It argues remote engine immobilisers won’t significantly reduce the risk of police pursuit as police would still need to keep a line of sight on the stolen vehicle to properly identify it, liaise with vehicle manufacturers to activate the remote engine immobiliser and ensure it was safe to automatically slow the vehicle down without risking other road users.

Another public hearing is due on June 14th and the final report will be handed down on 24th of August.


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