Minister Floats Mandatory GPS for All Private Cars

Wrong direction: a car crashes off road in Phetchabun province on Nov. 12, 2016, after reportedly following a wrong direction given by the GPS.

BANGKOK — The government may soon require all vehicles on the road, including private cars and motorcycles, to install tracker devices and send location data to the authorities, a minister said Monday.

Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob said citizens must bear the cost of GPS devices and sacrifice some levels of privacy in order to keep the roads safe if the measure is approved. He said the policy would help reduce speeding and crack down on driving without proper licenses.

“If we could install GPS on all types of vehicles, we would be able to regulate every vehicle on the roads,” Saksayam told reporters. “Thailand would be the first in the world to do so.”

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He continued, “Nothing is free, but we are weighing the benefits that [the new measure] could bring. I’ll consult with the Ministry of Industry within this month.”

The minister said the GPS devices would send relevant data, including vehicles’ location and speed, to a central server stored at the Department of Land Transport.

If the measure is enacted, motorists would be forced to pay up to 3,000 baht for a tracker device and an additional monthly fee of 300 baht, he said.

When a reporter asked whether privacy should also be considered, Saksayam replied, “We have to see what consequences from installing GPS might be. There could be a lot of benefits. At least, there would be fewer crimes, such as car theft. Regulating speed via GPS might also reduce accidents.”

He said public opinion would be solicited for the idea, which could take at least six months before it becomes a ministerial regulation. Saksayam added that he believed the tradeoff is worth it.

“I concede that some issues may affect civil rights, but it won’t cause much damage to them,” the minister said. “And it can lead to a reduction of accidents and losses.”

Public transport such as buses and vans are already required to have GPS devices onboard, but some operators said they could not afford to pay for the trackers.

Thailand is ranked by the World Health Organisation as the fifth highest road toll in the world, per capita. At least 11,000 people have died in road accidents so far this year, according to media reports.