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Big brother is about to take another step up with Australian transport authorities investigating the possibility of using digital vehicle registration tags to track vehicles around Australia. The system will use very similar technology to our current electronic toll collection systems.

The transport and traffic authority, Austroads, has already set up a special multi-state licencing and registration taskforce to further explore the use of RFID (radio-frequency identity) tags for vehicle identification.

“At the moment we don’t have a specific agenda or a firm decision to use them, or anything like that. But we’re looking at it as environmental scanning of technology that is available and what sort of benefits it can offer road agencies.” she said.

RFID has uses from the supermarkets to tolling, but the soon to be realised concept of every vehicle being instantly identifiable through certain checkpoints, has its share of negatives.

For a start, RFID tags can be used in a similar way to point-to-point speed cameras. By measuring the time taken to travel a set distance, transport authorities could install tracking systems at every intersection – a driver’s nightmare!

RFID (radio-frequency identity) tags for vehicle identificationNonetheless, there are many benefits. The technology will allow police to identify whether cars are legally registered and also help track down stolen vehicles. If you’re thinking there are only a limited number of unregistered vehicles on our roads, last year nearly 38,000 examples where identified in NSW alone!

So far only one other country has taken up the idea of digital vehicle registration tags – the small island nation of Bermuda. An excellent proving ground for the technology, since there are only around 47,000 vehicles in the whole island.

Going by the average rate by which Australian transport authorities adopt new technologies, the digital vehicle registration tag system may still be some years away.

In fact, Queensland Transport (which issued over 14,000 speeding tickets in the recent Easter period, whilst still having the nation’s highest road toll) has already dismissed the technology for its potential to stop speeding motorcyclists.

“No current technology was available to meet Queensland Transport’s requirements and further research and development was required before more appropriate technology would be available,” a Queensland Transport spokesman said.

Obviously Queensland Transport’s requirements are not to stop unregistered and unroadworthy vehicles, but to issue even more speeding tickets.

RFID tags consist of a small computer chip which transmits a certain identification code when it passes through a magnetic field. Unlike a regular barcode, which has to be scanned directly and one at a time, any suitable antenna within range can read an RFID tag.

Literally hundreds of tags can be read every second allowing for a huge number of cars to drive through at the same time.

Would you allow your car to be fitted with an RFID tag? Would you support mandatory fitting of RFID tags? Is our current system sufficient? Tell us what you think.




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