CASH FROM THE DASH
Few make money from cars but I read recently of a lucrative wheeze. Some Chinese cities have deployed a spy-onyour-fellow-motorists scheme, whereby anyone with a dashcam (a windscreen camera) who films the car in front breaking the law, such as by crossing a white line, can send the clip to the traffic police who fine the offender and reward the reporter with about a fiver.
For the system to work, it helps to live in a totalitarian, socialist society in which sneaking on your fellow citizens is a public duty. It helps, too, to have a police force which responds to lawbreaking with more than the offer of a crime reference number and victim counselling.
Many Chinese drivers have lured other motorists into infractions, eg by driving very slowly so that the exasperated drivers behind are tempted to overtake where they shouldn’t. A useful little earner, apparently, though the Chinese authorities are now scratching their heads over how to discourage it.
But here in the enterprising capitalist West, we can surely improve on this ingenious idea. It could be a source of increased public revenue, a tax-free income supplement to hardworking families and an enhancement to road safety. All we need do is encourage people to make as much as they can from it and pay them ten per cent of the fines collected. Think what a pleasure it would be to earn something from those who plant themselves for mile after mile in the middle lane of motorways at 50-60mph, oblivious to anyone behind, seeking to travel at the legal limit.
I spent an hour on the M4 last week which could have netted me several times the cost of my fuel, not counting the opportunities to film frustrated drivers who illegally overtook on the near side. You could also fit a second dashcam in the rear window to catch tailgaters.
Body-borne cameras in towns would offer even greater scope. London’s Lycra-lout cyclists could be recorded jumping red lights or riding on pavements. Enforcement would of course require that bikes or their riders show some form of number plate, an unpopular measure but justifiable as conducive to the greatest good of the greatest number and as a boon to public finances.
Those who walk to work could make money by placing a foot on zebra crossings at the last moment, leaving motorists no time to stop. Photographing illegal tyres on parked cars would be easy meat. Then there are all those illegal parkers. Local authorities could do away with their enforcement staff and get more revenue by rewarding citizen-reporting.
The squeamish might object that such a society would be emptied of trust,
decency and mutual give and take. Also, that the state apparatus of enforcement and reward would be so pervasive as to amount to repression.
But these are mere quibbles compared with the longer-term threat of selfdriving cars. Who could we hold responsible when they break the law, as they assuredly will, because everything that can go wrong does at some point: the maker, the software provider or the owner/hirer/passenger? So, better get filming now if you want to catch lawbreakers.
Happily, however, we live in a society where we can’t expect to make money out of it all. Yet.
Crime pays… if you film the lawbreakers