The Oldie - - CONTENTS - Alan Judd

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

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