Western nations plan digital force fields to thwart vehicle terror attacks

Abandoned cars litter the scene following the terror attacks on London Bridge last month

LONDON // The recent attacks in the British capital – and across Europe – which have seen terrorists of all ilk use so-called ‘lo-fi’ tactics like driving vehicles into crowds of innocent bystanders could be tackled through the use of a new technology which will essentially set up a digital force field around sensitive locations.

Following such attacks at London Bridge and Finsbury Park in June, and Westminster Bridge in March, and similar outrages in Stockholm, Sweden, in April, and the attack on French national holiday Bastille Day in Nice last July, authorities across Europe have been looking at how to counter the threat of cars and vans being used as deadly weapons.

With scores of people killed in this fashion, and with Western intelligence services expecting more such non-military attacks in the future as Islamic terror organisations such as Isis lose their purchase in Syria and Iraq, innovative ideas are coming to the forefront – the most persuasive of which is ‘geo-fencing’.

Essentially, the technology that the British department of transport is looking at would see digital perimeters being thrown around sites such as the House of Parliament. Satellites would send down a footprint of the area that needed to be protected, and this information would be transmitted to vehicles in the designated areas.

With practically every modern car being controlled by on-board computers that regulate all it systems, the electronic boundaries could be used to enforce speed limits, forcing all vehicles in the zone to travel at speeds that couldn’t be harmful to pedestrians.

This technology is already being used in Sweden, The Times reports, following the use of a truck to kill four civilian in the capitl Swen there earlier this year. National automobile makers such as Scania and Volvo have been involved I what has been called a “technical solution to enable only authorised vehicles to be driven within a geographically defined area”.

Trak Global Group, a British company based in Cheshire, is similarly working on a system that will use information stored in the black box of commercial trucks to allow external controls to stop or slow the vehicle.

Andrew Brown-Allan, director of Trak Global’s research division, told The Times: “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.”

A spokesman for the department of transport 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.”