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"If you don't care about science enough to be interested in it on its own, you shouldn't try to write hard science fiction."
- Frederik Pohl

Cop Block  
  A device that allows law enforcement officers to shut down the engine of a suspect's car or truck.  

When patrolman Porter chased a big rig trailer truck down the Arizona highway, he had more advanced technology than mere flashing lights and sirens to stop suspect vehicles.

Sometimes, however, the bad guys are a step ahead.

"...When the truck's driver ignored his lights and siren and the trucks failed to respond to Cop Block, the patrolman became aware he might have a situation..."

All cars and trucks in the U.S. were now required to have Cop Block. A patrol car could radio a coded signal that slowed and then shut down the engine. Workarounds were illegal and the fines were expensive, plus real jail time.

From Quantico, by Greg Bear.
Published by Vanguard in 2007
Additional resources -

Note that Keith Laumer used a similar idea - the police control-override - in his earlier 1965 novel A Plague of Demons. While fictional police chases make for enjoyable movie footage, real-life chases can be dangerous for police officers and the public. A recent study showed that from 1994 through 2002, there were 2,654 crashes involving 3,965 vehicles and 3,146 fatalities during police pursuits. About sixty-five percent of those killed were in the fleeing vehicle and thirty percent were occupants of vehicles not involved in the pursuit. Forty police officers and more than one hundred pedestrians also died. The study used data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System and the Crashworthiness Data System of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Note: The missing chapter mentioned in the interview excerpt below has now been made available on Greg Bear's website: see Chapter 5 from Quantico.

In an interview with Technovelgy.com, Greg Bear had this to say about Cop Block:

    Technovelgy: Let me ask you about Cop Block - the idea that a patrolman could send a signal to a car's engine and have that car stop.

    Greg Bear: "I think Onstar kind of does that, doesn't it? [No, it doesn't - ed. But it will in 2008 - Onstar Locator] When officers put out these "lure cars" to catch thieves the cars will lock their doors and shut their engines off on command. Cop Block is kind of a general version of that. The society I'm speculating on ten years from now has gone through a lot of trauma and it really is giving up some of its freedoms for more efficient law enforcement. I don't know if this is really something we can see being allowed but it's certainly something that is doable. You see the car, and you see the serial number on the car, and the cop can scan the serial number and they can shut down your engine."

    T: It seems to be doable. But then the next novel you write with Cop Block in it will need to have someone who successfully hacks Cop Block and who drives through town stopping everyone else's car.

    GB:: "In my novel, my main character has basically done that. He has rewired the RFID tag in his truck. Actually, I think this chapter will be republished because it has been cut from the printed version of the novel."

    T: This is something that is not in the book?

    GB: "This is part of a longer chapter on the patrol officer who is tracking the truck. It's about a 3,000 word description of the technology he has on his car and his attitudes towards patrol. The patrol officers are where it all begins; all investigations follow based on their work."

    T: But this was removed from the book.

    GB:"It was removed because of length - I'll be putting it on the website." [now available- ed.]

    T: That's not the excerpt currently (04/12/2007) on the site? You're going to put this "unpublished chapter up later?

    GB: "That's right."

    T: I don't know if I can count that as "published technovelgy" for the site... I hate having to make these determinations. [Laughs]

    GB: [Laughs] "Well, maybe you can annotate it."

(Read the rest of Greg Bear's interview on Quantico.)

Comment/Join this discussion ( 1 ) | RSS/XML | Blog This |

Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Quantico
  More Ideas and Technology by Greg Bear
  Tech news articles related to Quantico
  Tech news articles related to works by Greg Bear

Cop Block-related news articles:
  - DJI Phantom Drone Now With GPS Blocking

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