IntelliOne of Atlanta has developed a system that monitors traffic speeds and spots jams as they occur. It works by repeatedly sampling the locations of nearby cell phones and calculating the distance between measurements--this gives it an overall traffic speed, which it can report to authorities or traffic information providers.
To its credit, IntelliOne goes out of its way to address the staggeringly obvious privacy concerns--its system doesn't actually collect enough information to identify the phone's owner. (Whew!) But the point is that it could. With a few lean years of federal highway funding and a drop in toll collections, the temptation to identify speeders by number and put fines on their phone bills might be irresistible. And as New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said about a similar (in spirit) system he was thinking of installing in taxis, "We all want the laws enforced. And when we have technology [that] can let us enforce the law and save us money in doing so, what's the argument against that?" What, indeed?