Biden’s Infrastructure Bill Puts Big Brother in Your Car: Scary Enough to Make You Buy Used Cars Forever?

  • The Biden infrastructure bill includes a rider for kill switches in new cars
  • In-car subscriptions creep into new cars, and could push consumers to used models
  • Should we be worried about our driving being watched?

A rider is another addition or amendment to an already existing piece of legislation. In this case, that legislation is the Biden infrastructure bill that was signed into law a while back. And the rider? After 2026, manufacturers must install a kill switch into your new car. Is having Big Brother in your ride a big deal? Or will this, coupled with the slow creep of in-car subscriptions force consumers into used cars free of Orwellian concepts?

The moment the Biden infrastructure bill was signed into law
The signing of the Biden infrastructure bill | Alex Wong via Getty Images

The Biden infrastructure bill will put a kill switch in your new car

Let’s talk about this kill switch. A kill switch is a device used in any application to immediately shut down the attached appliance. Think of the power button on your phone as something similar. It causes the appliance it’s mated with to become immediately inoperable. Now, the Feds want to put one in every new car. Do we need to be as alarmed as former House Representative Bob Barr’s article says we should all be?

As with most things political, the answer is a bit of both. The legislation tacked onto the Biden infrastructure bill stipulates that a safety device must “passively monitor the performance of a driver of a motor vehicle to accurately identify whether that driver may be impaired.” Obviously, that sounds like a measure to stop drunk or impaired driving. But, as Barr points out, this kill switch could be a huge breach of privacy.

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Are new cars scary enough to buy used?

Toyota's logo, who recently attempted to introduce in-car subscription services
Toyota and BMW have pushed for monthly in-car subscriptions before | Charly Triballeau via Getty Images

Because of the kill switch, you’d no longer have total control over your car. If the car thinks you’re drunk, high, or other, then you aren’t going anywhere. Hopefully the Uber you call doesn’t have the same problem? Moreover, Barr says this will be an open system. That means a third party (perhaps your insurance company or the police) can access the system at any time. Barr thinks that means someone other than the authorities or the insurance agent will eventually get in.

The loss of privacy in vehicles is a scary thing. We already sign leases that mete out the total ownership of a car over a period of years. Now, consumers could be under constant surveillance for misbehavior because of the Biden infrastructure bill. Orwellian? Perhaps. But a far less scary issue could also push consumers away from new cars. In-car subscriptions. You may remember that Toyota now wants you to pay monthly for remote start. Or that BMW once tried to put Apple Carplay behind a paywall.

Toyota and BMW have tried in-car subscriptions, and others will follow

A new BMW interior with black leather and chrome accents
BMW wanted you to pay monthly for Apple Carplay | Sjoerd van der Wal via Getty Images

Features of a car you rightfully own becoming locked behind a paywall, like Apple Carplay, is infuriating. Those of you that drive old cars may be thinking you’re the smart ones right now. In the future, it’s possible many others will start to see the logic in driving a used car. Regardless, as with anything remotely political, we encourage you to do your own research via nonpartisan sources and trust the experts.

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