Thursday 1/07/2002It's a grand life, being a commercial pilot, but spare a thought for some of the downsides. Airline food, of course.

Thursday 1/07/2002
It's a grand life, being a commercial pilot, but spare a thought for some of the downsides. Airline food, of course. Pathological jetlag can't be nice. But how about having everything you do in the office recorded by robots? That's what it's like having a black box and cockpit voice recorder running all the time: the safety reasons are unanswerable, of course, but many pilots still find it an uncomfortable fact of life. They only really got accepted with promises of proper confidentiality: the recent proposed addition of cockpit video cameras created quite a storm, as it was all too easy to foresee one's last minutes before a fatal crash being picked up by reality TV and transmitted around the world. Not many of us would fancy that. Now the same arguments are being played out closer to home. Black boxes for cars are getting closer, whether it's last week's announcement of one that monitors teenage drivers and warns them when they're thrashing the family motor or today's announcement about Advanced Automatic Crash Notification. That's a device that monitors your car at all times, and transmits information about a crash -- who's in the car, what's happened and where it is -- to the emergency services. It'll save lives, but what happens when it gets dragged into the legal kerfuffle afterwards? Or what happens when the insurance company demands your driving logs before it'll set a premium? I ponder all this as I grab a minicab home after a solidly liquid picnic on Hampstead Heath, followed by a post-sundown pint or two in a nearby pub. As we screech through Tufnell Park, narrowly scraping past an old man walking a dog (five points) and hurtle down the Holloway Road (parked car, ten points. It's a police car, extra ten points. No occupants, minus five) I dismiss my libertarian objections to automotive snooping like the facile, crass and frankly terrified passenger of fate that I am. Instead, I decide, the darn boxes should be Bluetooth-enabled and us poor pedestrians should have full, immediate and unblockable access to the driving records of anyone on anything bigger than a unicycle.