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Old 03-06-2015, 11:30 AM   #1
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Lunchtime debate Are we sleepingwalking into a technological trap

Dataloggers helmet cams trackers how long before Big Brother is a pillion on every ride asks Visordowns anonymous industry expert

PERHAPS it’s a side effect of getting older, but I have recently been struck by how technology has turned the world on its head in just a handful of years.

It doesn’t seem long ago that I was looking at a friend’s new first-generation iPhone and thinking I couldn’t possibly have a use for something like that. That was only 2007. Now I can’t imagine being without a smartphone in my pocket. If my PC loses its broadband connection I’m instantly crippled – can’t work, can’t play, can’t chill out and surf the web – and I honestly struggle to remember how I worked in the days before email and internet.

But there never seemed to be a moment when any of this technology actually made a radical change to my life. It snuck in. Crept into my daily routine and put down roots, so only when it is ripped away do I realise how much it’s changed everything.

And, in a round about way, that’s got me thinking about the technology that’s starting to become normal on modern bikes. Traction control, for instance. Before it appeared, I never felt it was desperately needed. Now it’s here, I keep it switched on.

But I worry that one day, soon, the option to turn it off will disappear, just as the option to turn off ABS has long since been removed from cars.

The next thing will be dataloggers. Lots of modern bikes have them, and on four wheels there are insurers who ask drivers to have a ‘black box’ fitted on the premise of reducing their rates if they’re safe drivers. The unspoken bit there is that they’ll presumably increase your rates if the electronics say you speed a bit. Or accelerate a tad hard. Or brake heavily.

And what’s to stop an insurance company saying ‘Sorry, you were speeding, so you’re not covered for that crash.’ Or ‘Sorry, you had the traction control switched off, so you’re not covered’ for that matter?

GM has just announced that the OnStar system fitted to its cars in America will soon have an ‘opt in’ program that will ‘evaluate’ driving over a 90-day period and give an assessment for insurance companies. How long before it’s an ‘opt out’ program? Or a compulsory one? And for bikes too?

Because most of the stuff needed for those insurance black boxes is already fitted to a lot of modern bikes without any need for any actual box.

It would be simple to create something like a riding-style credit report from the data. Instead of asking you loads of questions, insurers would simply check that out before giving you a quote. Or refusing to.

And, of course, the police may find a use for the data, too.

Then we come to on-board cameras. Five years ago, they were in the realm of track-day addicts with a gadget addiction and too much money. Now they’re stocking fillers and widely seen as a safety aid on the road, helping to prove you’re not at fault (or perhaps that you are at fault) in the event of an accident. The footage they’ve recorded has been used in successful prosecutions against the drivers or riders that opted to turn them on. They’re cheap now, too – you can get one for £11 on amazon as I write this. I’d be surprised if some police officer or politician isn’t already wondering if mandating them wouldn't save a lot of bother in apportioning blame.

And once the technology exists, it’s not easy to oppose these developments. Resistance may be interpreted as a sign of something to hide. A refusal to let your insurance company spy on you may lead to the assumption you are uninsureable.

By the time we realise how much all this technology has infiltrated motorcycling, it might be too late to complain about it. I can live with the internet and smartphones. I’m not so sure about Big Brother riding pillion.

Or perhaps I'm just being paranoid...
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