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Ray Gun Remedy?

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

The DriveWrite Archives

Ray Gun Remedy?

Geoff Maxted
December 4, 2013

Speed Radar
Technology is a wonderful thing. Or is it? Apparently a British company has demonstrated a prototype device capable of stopping cars and other vehicles using a blast of electromagnetic waves. It uses radio frequency pulses to ‘confuse’ a vehicle's electronic systems, thus cutting its engine. It seems that there may be several different manufacturers trying to bring similar devices to market.

I expect you can see where this is going. As an opening position the device’s primary use would be as a non-lethal weapon for the military to defend sensitive locations from vehicles refusing to stop. This, we must accept, makes sense. However, as you might expect,there has also been interest from the police who have stated that they believe this gizmo to have ‘potential’. As a tool to stop criminals or dangerous drivers it is possibly valid. There is no doubt that the use of tyre-bursting ‘stingers’ has its dangers, especially for rogue motorcycle users but, knowing the way things sometimes work in this country, where will it end?

In tests the device apparently works well using radar transmissions to confuse car electrical systems and thus stop the engine so that the car rolls to a halt. Fine on a test track but what would happen in the real world? It might be OK to stop an engine but what would the effect be on modern braking and steering systems? Also, the manufacturer stated that ‘it did not believe the device would have any effect on pacemakers’. ‘Did not believe’ is not the same as ‘absolutely’ certain. This gadget could bring a whole new meaning to the expression ‘heart-stopping moment’.

DriveWrite is not so much concerned that this device exists so much as the other uses to which it will be put. Anything that helps protect our armed forces is fine by me but, call me paranoid, things like this have a habit of creeping up on us in various invidious ways. A sudden loss of power in the car will cause alarm and possibly panic. Use of this device must be strictly controlled.

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