The UK government is planning to install high-tech digital force fields around iconic buildings and bridges to block terror attacks using vehicles in the country. The UK’s Department for Transport (DfT) is investigating the use of internet-based solutions to counter a recent spate of terror attacks using cars and vans to plough down pedestrians in busy areas, according to ‘The Times’. London has witnessed three such attacks this year, including an attack on the Parliament in March, and at London Bridge and a mosque in Finsbury Park last month. According to the report, UK ministers are interested in the development of technology such as “geo-fencing” systems that employ satellites to create electronic boundaries around specific sites. It would connect with on-board computers in cars to prevent unauthorised vehicles gaining access or slowing them to walking pace.
DfT confirmed that the government was also looking at the use of technology to prevent attacks using vehicles as weapons. A DfT spokesperson said: “Departments across government have been working together with the police and the security service to explore what more can be done to prevent the malicious use of vehicles as a weapon.” “As part of this, the Department for Transport is exploring what role potential vehicle safety technologies can play in mitigating this. This work is at an early stage.” Sweden is already adapting the technology to vehicles in response to an attack in Stockholm in April when a truck was driven into pedestrians on a busy shopping street, killing four people. Vehicle manufacturers including Scania and Volvo are involved in trials of the technology.
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The Swedish government said that geo-fencing was a “technical solution to enable only authorised vehicles to be driven within a geographically defined area”. It could also be used to limit vehicle speeds, officials said, with demonstrations of the system planned for next year. A British company is also reportedly working on similar technology by using telematics — black box-style devices — to shut down a car or lorry when it has been hijacked. Trak Global Group, based in Cheshire, is working on a driver ID mechanism that links the black box with the owner’s smartphone, disabling the vehicle if the phone is not present. A separate system could also send out an alert to emergency services in the event of a hijacking or vehicle theft.
Andrew Brown-Allan, director of Trak Global’s research division, said: “It is now possible to immobilise a vehicle remotely, using the technology that goes into a telematics black box… We need to harness this relatively new technology to stop terrorists turning vehicles into weapons of mass destruction.”