Trying to predict the future is always a difficult thing to do. Even going back to the early 90’s I remember when the internet first appeared I downloaded a a simple game at a rate of 300kb/sec, a blistering pace then. Who would have thought now that the internet is an intregal part of our lives and basically put the video rental and some printed newspapers out of business. Even in my previous career as a professional photographer wet film was replaced with digital. Getting little change out of £200k the first camera’s had to take four separate exposures for yellow, magenta, cyan and black and the exposure times were in excess of 30 seconds. Only suitable for studio shoots todays modern camera’s and smart phone’s take pictures of a quality to match wet film and a picture can be sent world wide in seconds. Clearly in this modern age the world just got a whole lot smaller and a dam sight faster.
Policing has also come along way with the introduction of technology. Digital fingerprints, electronic tagging, computor generated Efit’s. Although interestingly some of the law we enforce dates back centuries whilst new legislation is introduced to reflect modern day society.
I recently read an excellent blog piece by Professor David Rosen on the future of law enforcement. You can read the piece entitled 2020: Law and Order: A hypothetical dystopia here. David starts his piece “Some of what I am about to write, is fiction, some is theory, and some may become a reality. Can you pick out what is fact, and what is fiction for the future?” I found the piece disturbing but what really struck me was the hypothesis that crime became civil matters before ultimately becoming non crimes. This resonated with me and made me think about my own field, that of road policing or as I prefer to think of it as road safety.
I envisage a world where road policing will ultimately become wholly privatised.
TV and fim have to date been surprisingly accurate as to the vision of the future. I used to watch Space 1999 as a kid. Remember the communicator with the black and white screen? We now have smart phones with the ability to video call someone on the other side of the world. Star Trek Voyager used hand held computers. We now have tablets. Robocop, an amusing film with scary implications. A police force privatised run by OCP where profit was the only performance indicator!
Perhaps in order to predict the future we need a starting point. Lets take today shall we. Those little yellow boxes at the side of the road have sprung up at an alarming rate over the last few years. I say alarming because it use replaces the role of the road policing officer. They can only detect speed and only within a very limited zone of legality. An officer can detect numerous offences in a flexible area. Privately owned roads are on the increase. If you have ever driven in the US you will know that all the major routes have at least one section of toll road. Civilians have now been given control of certain roads and carry specific enforceable powers in law. They are of course the Highways Authority Traffic Officer and traffic law was re written to include them into legislation. The motor vehicle has changed little since its invention. What is strapped onto the engine has changed immeasurably. BMW now use G4 technology and provide real time telemetry on their top end cars. Constantly monitoring engine and system performance the vehicle talks to the companies central server flagging up any problems. Satellite and tracker technology is also available on many cars today. Briefly on the subject of the internal combustion engine I honestly believe that technology exists to replace the use of oil and those that hold that technology are the oil companies themselves.But whilst oil is still plentiful and there is profit to be made, don’t expect them to show their hand hand anytime soon within the next 30 years. The DVLA now sell information to 3rd hand companies. Local authorities now enforce local parking restrictions issuing civil fines to those that transgress. Looking futher a field outside road policing G4S now provide security patrols to local estates and of course the well publicised Olympics. Prisons are also being started to be privatised and most recently Bramshill the police training college is to be sold. So with that in mind, a taste of the future to wet our lips.
This is my vision of the future.
The majority if not all the roads within this country will be owned by private companies. They will have responsibility for maintaining the carriageway and also the enforcement of traffic offences including causing the death of another road user. Prison’s have long since been privatised and only lodge those that pose a risk to public safety whether that be murder or some offence of violence to another. Every vehicle will be fitted with a black box to enable toll charges to be collected electronically. Your vehicle will be fitted with sensors that allow the free flow of traffic during peak rush hour and will also detect the presence of alcohol within the vehicle allowing enforcement officers to track and intercept your vehicle. DVLA has been sold to a private company and the points system has been abolished. Every offence now carries a fine on a sliding scale to maximise profit. The Road Traffic Act 1988 has been repealed and replaced by The Road Management and Users Act 2050. All prosecutions are now a civil matter. Your vehicle will monitor its condition and if it falls below legal minimums then a fine is automatically generated. If the fine remains unpaid the vehicle will immobilise itself once stationery. For the most part journeys will be automated and controlled much the same as todays air traffic control. If the driver selects manual mode then a disclaimer is given warning the owner of the vehicle that all they are liable for all fines. They are absolute offences with no right of appeal. There will be no road death investigation as the vehicle will record all information and will also have 360 degree cctv fitted. Traffic management personnel will monitor the road network from home on 3D holographic displays, only deploying when an incident occurs. Courts only exist to convict offences against the person. As do the police.