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Big Brother set to monitor UAE drivers

Financial Times | April 15 2005

IBM is to bring Big Brother to the roads of the United Arab Emirates via a$125m contract to fit surveillance "black boxes" in the country's cars, whose drivers are among the world's worst.

The technology developed for the deal, believed to be the largest in the telematics sector to date, marks the first substantive step towards a future when all drivers, anywhere, will be monitored continuously, in real time, by on-board sensor systems which continuously assess cars' speed and whether they are being driven erratically or dangerously.

IBM said last night the four-year deal provided for "tens of thousands" of the units to be fitted to cars in the UAE, where, despite there being only 2m drivers, one person is injured every two hours and killed every 15 hours.

Similar in concept to the black boxes found in aircraft, the new telematics device combines microprocessors with advanced global positioning satellite (GPS) tracking and other wireless communications to capture, analyse and deliver data via a wireless network to the UAE's Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research.

The device is so advanced that it can monitor the speed of the moving vehicle and compare it to the defined speed limit on each street. If the car exceeds the limit, the device sends out a warning message to the driver.

"With these new devices we expect to see a substantial decrease in the number of traffic accidents and violations," said Dr Tayeb Kamali, chief executive of the UAE agency which has commissioned the technol ogy. "The data we collect - faster, more effectively - will help with speed detection, emergency cases, navigation and traffic management," he added.

Trials of GPS-monitored speed sensing systems have already begun in the Netherlands and several other EU countries but so far there has been no attempt to extend the technology to cover other forms of bad driving.