ideas

Short-range vehicle intercom

Throwing this out there. Approaching a stopped vehicle is fraught with problems, but today we have ways we could defuse/address some of that.

The first element is a very short-range communication link with assorted restrictions and security features, targeting the scenario where a car is stopped with a second vehicle stopped directly behind it, perhaps 3-6 feet away. Encrypted, not for privacy but to ensure range-based negotiation.

Second, we need some way to talk to the occupants of the vehicle.

I would start with a simple voice link, a microphone, and speaker near the driver but with proximity to the passenger(s) so that emergency responders can be talking to the passengers on arrival, while obstacles are being cleared that would otherwise make communication difficult.

Your heckles are probably raised at this point. So let me interject some protections here.

  • Complete system disabled when vehicle is in motion,
  • Microphone disabled by default and connected to a light that clearly indicates when the microphone is powered,
  • Require the “caller” to speak for > N.n seconds before enabling microphone,
  • Allow the user to choose between manual activation and automatic activation based on (a) turning on the blinkers, (b) deployment of one or more airbags,

In the US this would potentially defuse a tension-laden pull-over for a tail light from a dark figure holding a gun approaching your vehicle to a preliminary conversation.

You could also address additional issues by providing the option to have the device “call in” when it is activated and register the contact with its location, the details of the “caller”, and perhaps validate that the caller is legitimate.

I personally wouldn’t have a problem with (optionally) enabling video and an automatic drivers-id field as part of the handshake. One reason officers approach cars is the opportunity to visually ID for wanted people, and some officers might actually prefer the mark-1 eyeball over a quick voice chat.

So I’d have no problem with being able to allow the officer to see me/my vehicle, check my ID and everything, without having to approach me with his gun.

But this system won’t ever be perfect, there will be exploits, from the media spying on people to nefarious and potentially dangerous/lethal stuff.

So the system needs to be very optional, from not having such a device at all and requiring good-old approach the car, being able to buy a voice-only system to having a bells and whistles system and having everything definitively and impenetrably turned off.

Further, this system should in no way to be tied to control of the vehicle. In the first version of this idea on Facebook, someone had suggested the officer might need to be able to stop a “drive off”. Except the officer is still behind the wheel of his car and can just give chase.

While this is mostly about making the pull-over less dangerous for everyone, consider the dangerous situation of a car stopped in the middle of a freeway/motorway. Now it’s possible for 2-way communication with the occupants who might be in distress or trouble.

A driver with a heart condition might reduce response time by critical seconds; Firemen could communicate with trapped occupants and give them life-saving advice…

This isn’t intended to be a complete ready-to-go design, but perhaps enough inspiration for someone to put something like this together.

Save some lives.