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Thailand’s Transport Minister Does U-Turn on Compulsory GPS

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The department believed mass GPS installation would enhance road safety and prevent car theft. The devices could be made available at subsidized prices

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Thailand’s Transport Ministry has made an about-face after it announced on Monday the proposed installation of GPS devices in private cars and motorbikes will be on a voluntary basis.

Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob said the policy will not be compulsory and ordered the Department of Land Transport (DLT) to study the feasibility of the plan.

He said the department believed mass GPS installation would enhance road safety and prevent car theft. The devices could be made available at subsidised prices, he told the Bangkok Post.

The transport minister has given the DLT one year to carry out its GPS study. Currently, there are about 40 million cars and motorbikes registered with the department.

Mr Saksayam said earlier that GPS in private cars would be compulsory, which immediately drew ire from motorists who were concerned about the price of the device, the monthly fee for running the system and what amounts to an unprecedented level of state surveillance in Thailand.

It was initially hoped the system would detect vehicles breaching the speed limit and send data to a government-run server, which would automatically issue a traffic ticket to the driver’s address.

Mr Saksayam also said that GPS can also work in tandem with biometric technology to prevent vehicle theft by keeping unauthorised persons from starting the engines of cars or motorcycles and tracking the whereabouts of stolen vehicles.

The DLT will consult the Office of the Insurance Commission over the possibility of offering private vehicle owners who agree to install a GPS device insurance incentives.