Good cops chasing bad guys in fast cars have inspired a generation worth of Hollywood movies, but it's only the big screen where such action-filled displays look great. The real-life versions of these incidents often get very ugly, with both innocent bystanders and public property bearing the brunt of it.
This ugly facet of urban life as well as the Hollywood trend it has inspired could both change though if an American company named Starchase has its way.
What this company has done is that it has developed GPS Bullets, which when fired on a suspect vehicle, sticks to it and relays information back to the police-held monitor. This way, the number of high-speed pursuits can be reduced dramatically, and in turn, both energy as well as civilian lives can be saved.
The Starchase system enables on-duty police officers to track the movement of suspect vehicles almost in real-time on a digital roadmap through a secure internet connection. It means police officers wouldn't have to physically follow every car as their GPS Bullet would tell them all they need to know about the vehicle's whereabouts.
Several police departments are currently beta-testing it with a view to full adoption in future, but as is common with most groundbreaking technologies at its early stages, the Starchase system is facing some opposition too.
It has stirred up the debate how legal it is for law enforcement authorities to track the movement of random vehicles without obtaining a warrant to do so first. The Fourth Amendment gives all US citizens the right to be secure from unreasonable searches and seizures without a judicial sanction and probable cause. It means the Starchase system, in at least some cases, could fundamentally be in violation of that right.
Civil rights activists are not against the use of GPS Bullets because if used right, they can significantly reduce the 28,000 car wreckages, 700 fatalities and 14,000 injuries that incur on average in police chases every year in the U.S.
At the same time, however, they are also certain that in the absence of proper pre-release regulations, the technology will lead to abuse of police authority – something already on the rise these past few years.
A balance needs to be struck because GPS Bullets are really the need of the hour, but definitely not at the cost of our constitutional rights.