Car Corner
When is a 60's Chevy better than a new car?

October 1, 1999
By Scott Lewis

No, this is not an article about how they don't make like they use to (they make them better), or how 60's muscle cars are faster than today’s cars (mostly they aren't). It is about the latest introduction of onboard electronics for your car.

With modern GPS systems being built-in to some new vehicles, an amazing thing happens. You can get directions to where you are going. Not just the basic take I-10 to exit This-or-that, and make a left. You get real time driving instructions. "You are approaching your exit, you should begin to slow down. Make a right at the corner 100 feet ahead. Take a left here. Drive three more houses and pull over to the right. Park your car and get out. Don’t forget your keys."

The instructions are real-time, and this has got to be great when you are in another town. They need this kind of thing on all rental cars. It should be mandatory. But do you really want this in the car you drive everyday. That’s a personal choice.

For these systems to work they need to know your exact location. Your car is transmitting a signal to a satellite continuously. It computes your speed on the road your are travelling, and it then knows when to tell you to exit or turn.

But what is stopping the satellite from broadcasting your speed to a nearby police officer. Next thing you know the cop has you tagged for speeding, rolling through a stop sign, or making an illegal left hand turn. The cop could also be equipped with a transmitting device to get the GPS service to give you false directions to get you to come to him.

Pretty scary, Huh? Well that's just the beginning. Cars are equipped with the ability to self diagnose themselves. This is called On-Board Diagnostics. Currently most, if not all, cars are equipped with OBD II. This allows the dealer, or other mechanic with the right tool, to plug into a port on your car and determine what could be wrong.

For OBD III the government wants to be able to transmit the information to a mechanic. This seems like a good idea on the surface. Your car has a problem and you take it to a service center. They tell you what's wrong with it without even lifting the hood. The reason for transmitting the information is rooted in emissions controls. If any of the emission control devices fail, your car can transmit this information to various road side inspection stations as you drive by. A few days latter you receive a notice in the mail to bring your car in for an inspection.

This allows you to get the problem taken care of quickly, reducing the amount of time your car is adding to the pollution levels in the world.

But what if you want to make modifications to your car. The OBD III computer will detect this, and transmit that information. Next thing you know, you are getting a notice in the mail to report for an inspection because they know you modified your car. Worse yet, you could be broadcasting this information to the police, along with your speed & location, so they can pull you over and impound your car on the spot.

Talk about Big Brother watching. Looks like 1984 is coming up soon.

So how do you beat it? Simple, drive a 60's Chevy. I plan on driving a 69 Camaro Convertible when they start transmitting information about my car without my knowledge or permission.

That is when a 60's Chevy is better than any new car. If you don't think any of this is true - WAKE UP. All the technology is already available, and most of it is being used. They just haven't put it together yet. Give them time. The Government may be slow, but they will think of it sooner or later, like when they realize how much revenue they can get my having a computer mail out speeding tickets on a continual basis.

Sounds pretty scary to me!

Correction: In this article I misunderstood the GPS system to think it transmitted your location to satellites. This is incorrect. GPS systems are receivers only, and receive signals from multiple satellites simultaneously to calculate your position in relation to the various satellites.

However, this does not undermined the intent of this article, which is to report that the technology already exists for your car to transmit its location, speed, etc. (LoJack is a perfect example of a system that transmits your location.) If the government gets the next version of OBD to transmit information about your car, there is nothing stopping them from getting manufacturers to transmit your speed, location, etc.

Big Brother is watching.

Thanks, Robert, for the correction.