June 21, 2001

I just read an article in The New Haven Advocate | News&Commentary section. It's about a company that has the fleet version of GPS in its vehicles, and charges you for every time you exceed the speed limit, $150 per incident. The article talks about Big Brother and how this may be some kind of invasion of privacy. Me, I'm not so sure that the angle on this story is right.....
If I own a vehicle and you wish to rent it from me, and I have the means to protect my assets by providing a monetary incentive for you to not use it in a manner inconsistent with its purpose, I should have every right to do so. Provided, of course, that I make you aware of the device, its intent and the impact it may have on our arrangement, you should have no problem with it. This company's contract had the following text (according to the article):

Vehicles in excess of posted speed limit will be charged $150 fee per occurence. All our vehicles are GPS equipped.

Now, not everyone knows what GPS is and that the technology could be used to report average speeds over distance. So, the contract is poorly written from the get-go. That in and of itself is a problem. Acme should be forced to rewrite this section of its contract to make it clear:

If you speed, we will know, because all of our vehicles have technology installed in them to report violators. If you violate the posted speed limit, you will be charged $150, even if the local authorities do not catch you. The car itself will automatically report these violations to us and you will be fined. Every car we rent has this capability and it is used in every rental we make. If you sign this contract, you agree to pay $150 if you exceed the speed limit, and you agree to pay this amount every time you do so.

Not only should the contract be modified this way, but there should be an 'initial' block next to it because it is out of the ordinary. However, this article takes the stance that doing something like this is somehow wrong. Myself, I think the company has every right to protect its assets by ensuring that it is not abused. And James Turner and anyone else....they have a right to rent from someone else...someone who doesn't use this technology. I can imagine, though, that if this technique becomes normal, such technology may make the daily insurance rate for rentals drop. You know, the $14-$25 a day you may pony up for rental insurance? Perhaps companies that have this installed in the vehicle might offer you that same insurance for $4 or $5 per day? And the risk may be lowered so much that the rental fee itself shows a cost benefit itself. So, there should be adequate monetary mitigation for a law-abiding renter to make the solid choice. I don't know how it all will turn out...but at least you know where I currently stand.

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