back to article Microsoft demos creepy car stalking system

Windows Phone 7.5 and Azure are letting one Microsoft director stalk his kids while they’re on the road. His Windows smartphone app allows a third party to track a car fitted with a Viper SmartStart GPS system and monitor its speed, location, engine revs and battery – or lock and shut down a vehicle if it’s stolen. Jeff …


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  1. LaeMing

    Sandszuist Jr. says (circa 2050)

    "I just love the way this technology allows me to track and micro-manage the old guy."

  2. DavCrav Silver badge

    "While the idea sounds interesting, El Reg has concerns. Bluescreening is bad enough at the desk, but slightly more serious when you’re flinging a couple of tons of car down the freeway."

    Then have it run Linux; no problem.

    1. TeeCee Gold badge

      Then it would only be suitable for kids and housewives.

      Why? No working drivers of course.

  3. oldtaku

    It may be creepy, but it's what most parents here want

    Most of the Internet is for porn. Almost every parent wants this, even if they won't admit it.

    Services like this are proliferating like mad over on the US side of the pond, since we're raising our kids in a smothering atmosphere of manufactured fear - if you let your kids outside or lose sight of them for a second, they'll be raping old minority nuns in a flash or get brutally dismembered by Mexican flash mobs snorting meth, and that would mean you're a Bad Parent. Most mothers here would have no problem chipping their kids like a dog if it were allowed.

    You guys are already living in a surveillance society, you should understand this - though I guess there's a bit of difference between your government knowing everywhere you're going by tracking your cell phone and your mother knowing the same.

    So Microsoft's giving consumers what they want for once - parents get tracking, kids get big garishly colored social network tiles.

    1. Lamont Cranston

      As a parent, I'll come clean and admit

      that I do appreciate the proliferation of porn on the internet.

      Other than that, I'm not sure what you're on about.

    2. Shonko Kid
      Big Brother

      " it's what most parents here want"

      I disagree, I think that it's enough that technology can provide kids with a 'panic button' and let them get on with the messy business of growing up without constant surveillance/intervention/nannying.

      Kids need to be taught that freedom is the greatest gift and learn the responsibility to use it wisely, not 'micromanaged' *shudder*

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Sadly you're right but it's not entirely our fault though. It's the mass media dragging up and blowing out of proportion, every rape, murder and abduction case to make us all feel like there are bogey-men lurking around every corner. We're made to imagine that the second we let our kids out of our sight, they will be raped and murdered before their school bags hit the floor!

      I don't want to be tracked and I will not track my kids. Yes, no doubt I will be funding their mobile phone habit but I would prefer they have one so they can call for a lift when they have done something bloody stupid like spent the cab/bus fare on MaccyDs or more clothes. My missus will be unbearable when we let our kids out on their own but it has be done, they need to be out in the big bad world. If we give them enough sense and drum in the stranger-danger message, all things being equal, they will be alright.

  4. jake Silver badge


    "“We’re taking a 2012 Mustang and dropping a 1967 body on it, blacking it out and building the supreme technology car,” the heavily tattooed Ryan Friedlinghaus, founder of West Coast Customs, told the crowd."

    Ryan's an idiot. I mean, seriously ... A '67 'stang? C'mon ... and "blacking it out" is pedestrian, at best ...

    1. LateNightLarry


      I'd much rather have a '67 'stang on a 2012 chassis than one of those grotty shoebox imitations from the 1980's... Now if I just had $20k to restore my '67 'Stang... Yeah, I actually have one, sitting in the back yard waiting for me to save enough money to do a total restoration on it... Has to sit in the back yard because it hasn't run in 15 years, since the engine gave out at 256,000 miles.

      Flames because I plan to burn up the highways when I get it restored...

      1. jake Silver badge


        My point was that if he's starting from scratch, a 64 1/2 fastback or '65 convertible would be a better starting point. Or perhaps a '69 ... build a neo bogus Boss :-)

        Couple hints for the rebuild: Purchase a '67 Cougar parts car. Use the 9 inch rear end, the C-6 (unless you have a T-10) and the power disc brakes. Gives you five bolt rims, too. Also consider having the Cougar front buckets reupholstered, they are better than the '67 'stang seats in a "drivers car". Ask your local Mustang shop to do a "Shelby drop" on the front end, and while you're there get an Export Brace and better anti-roll bars and shocks. They REALLY improve the handling. A good engine package would be a 351 Windsor with a 400M crank, gives you about 409ci in a Ford small block. On today's gas, I'd recommend 4V 302 heads. Don't go larger than 16" rims & 50 series tires. Ultra big wheels & ultra low profile tires eat wheel bearings and make the vehicle ride like a truck. Looks like hell on a '60s Mustang, too ... IMO, of course.

        Me? Restore old Fords? NEVER! ;-)

        Unless you're planning on a "stock" restoration, of course. Enjoy your old friend, regardless. And for GAWD/ESS's sake, drive the thing when you're done! Drives me nuts when people restore a car like that and turn it into a garage ornament ... A friend of mine has a Concourse-winning 1954 Mercedes 300SL that is on it's third restoration. He and his wife use it as a daily driver. The other folks in the 300SL club look down their noses at him. He just smiles sadly at the poor bastards as they push their toys onto their trailers as he drives by, on the way home.

  5. Herby

    So where is the location of...

    <Ctrl><Alt><Del> on the dashboard.

    Maybe there is a combination on the radio that will work?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    ...he does that to his kid, I dread to think what he does to those who report to him.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "I love it when we can use technology to micromanage our families”

    To quote a lovable rogue of a tennis player:

    "You cannot be serious!"

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    “I love it when we can use technology to micromanage our families,”

    W O W! Does anyone else think he's a bit woohoo?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Control Freak much?

    1. hplasm

      Should be working

      for S. J ...

  10. Tony S

    Circa 1975...

    ...I had a conversation with a political activist. When I questioned his stance, he responded with " the people will do what we damn well tell them". I found that really creepy at the time, and this is absolutely no different.

    I can see value in the authorities having data on traffic flow, so that they can actually manage the roads better (not being ironic) and even plan for future growth. There are lots of other things that this can do that will be a positive benefit to many others, all of which is very laudable.

    But all it takes is one individual that thinks they know best. (hey, they may even be right some of the time, but that's not the issue).

    But I wouldn't want someone deciding that I am a "threat to society" based on nothing more than I disagree with their political views. I certainly wouldn't want them to be tracking miy movements - not because I do anything wrong, but because it is only a short step from there to them manipulating data about me to "prove" that I am a menace.

    There are simply too many people about that think they can fix all the problems of the world by micro managing everyone's lives. I would suggest that anyone that thinks that is the way forward should immediately be chipped themselves, and then have their whole life exposed. Maybe then they would think twice (I actually doubt it, but then I am a very cynical person).

    No coat, just the tinfoil hat please.

  11. Shonko Kid

    “I love it when we can use technology to micromanage our families,”

    that is one of the scariest statements I've ever heard.

    And that's why they deserve, nay NEED, to FAIL.

  12. Blofeld's Cat Silver badge

    With apologies to the Beach Boys...

    Let's see what she's doing... (Well she got her daddy's car)

    ...Looks like she's eating fast food again. So much for the diet.. (And she cruised through the hamburger stand now)

    ...That's not the route to the library... (Seems she forgot all about the library)

    ...I'm sure she said she was going to the library... (Like she told her old man now)

    ...That music is far too loud. I'll apply the volume limiter... (And with the radio blasting)

    ...and wind back the rev limiter... (Goes cruising just as fast as she can now)

    ...Oh she shouldn't be doing that... (And she'll have fun fun fun)

    ... I'll remotely disable it. ('Til her daddy takes the T-Bird away)

    1. Graham Marsden

      Re: With apologies to the Beach Boys...

      Damn, you beat me to it, I was going to post something similar ending with "She can't have fun, fun, fun 'cause dad's disabled the T-Bird today!"

      1. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart

        Why disable the whole car?

        No particular place to go

        So we parked way out on the kokomo

        The night was young and the moon was bold

        So we both decided to take a stroll

        Can you imagine the way I felt?

        I couldn't unfasten her safety belt

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Heard of an example a while back

    Someone phoned his daughter on her smartphone, asked where she was. She lied.

    He told her she was lying, told her exactly where the computer said her phone was located and told her to come home immediately. He sat there watching her moving across the map of his town, then she crossed a motorway and stopped moving.

    Half an hour later she got home. The uber-expensive smartphone was still on the motorway at this time.

  14. Shonko Kid
    Big Brother


    I hate that term, and the concept behind it.

    it's a technique used by a certain type of person, that has no direct control or influence over a situation, and feels deeply uncomfortable about that (can I say 'impotent'?). They force those involved, those who do influence the outcome of a situation, to constantly report back any change or action, or more often, lack of change as it was only a minute ago you asked, just let me get on with it DAMMIT!! </tangent> These people need to learn to just relax and go with the flow.

  15. Azrael
    Black Helicopters

    Y'know, while I usually wave my hands and cry about how the sky is falling whenever I see something like this, I'm surprisingly comfortable with it this time.

    I have huge issues with toll roads storing data on who went through and using it to track movement (rather than just track who hasn't paid), issues with the government reading emails, and all that jazz.

    But I'm OK with an opt-in ability to monitor my own car, to see where it is, and what it's doing.

    I'm OK with someone being able to see where I'm driving *if I'm driving their car*, I'm OK with parents being able to see what their kids are doing with the car, and I'm OK with companies being able to see where their company car is being driven.

    Because I can easily bypass this by buying my own car, or taking public transport.

    If parents want to micromanage their kids... that's not how I'd like to parent, but it's their choice.

    If the kids don't want their parents tracking them, then they can choose to do without their parents' car. They can get a part-time job, buy their own POS car, or try to reason with their parents and get the monitoring turned off. If their parents insist on monitoring, well, who am I to tell someone else how to manage their family? No abuse is happening here.

    Freedom goes both ways. Sometimes we have to give people the freedom to micromanage things that they own, including their own cars.

    Now, if the government wanted a backdoor password to also be able to monitor the cars, or worse, insisted that the monitoring was installed in all new cars and couldn't be turned off... yeah, I'd be VERY unhappy about that.

    1. John G Imrie

      buy their own POS car,

      Which their parent will promptly fit with the tracker.

  16. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

    Risk averse society - Fear and paranoia in parenting

    It seems most parents fear their kids will be doing exactly as they did when they were young themselves, but while their parents couldn't stop them putting their lives at risk and doing all sorts of dodgy or dangerous things (that's part and parcel of enrolling in The University of Life), as parents themselves they will.

    At the drop of a hat parents seem to become 'total fascists' partly driven through belatedly realising what they risked themselves but the 'bad parent' label and universal condemnation if things go wrong is what really makes it that way.

    The old standard when I was a kid was, "don't come running to me if you break a leg", and if you did you could expect a bollocking on top. These days a child breaking a leg is seen as failure and negligence by the parents; it's probably considered child abuse and necessitates the parents being punished. It takes a brave parent to risk that.

    Society needs to loosen up; accept risk as a fact of life.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I heard a saying once...

      Allegedly attributed to the Native Americans:

      "A parent's job is not to keep their child from touching the campfire, it's to keep their child from falling into it."

      As with many things, acheiving the right balance is not an easy proposition. Too much hovering and they never learn to be self sufficient, not enough and they potentially never learn appropriate rules, boundaries and limitations (yes, I just quoted the Dog Whisperer).

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      We pass these sayings down without thinking!

      "don't come running to me if you break a leg"

      That's just pure, logical genius, LOL!

      Almost as bad as my own Dad's oft quoated and bizarrely gibberish comment when I pissed him off, "Son, you don't half give my a**ehole a headache!". A quote he no doubt got from his parents and one I try to resist using with my kids, lest it completely confuses them!

  17. Christoph

    Of course you should micromanage your kids

    But only if you're poor.

    In this country, if you are poor and your kids commit a crime you can have your benefit cut off and be thrown out of your house. How else can you protect yourself but watch every thing your children do, every minute?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      if you are poor, you should make a special effort to send your sons to Eton. Then whatever they did would just be 'youthful high spirits'.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Harry Potter readers will recognize this.

    Anyone who is flinging a couple of tons of car down the freeway under control of Microsoft Windows would permanently have their status - Like Mrs Weasly's clock - on "Mortal Peril"

  19. Stuart Castle Silver badge


    "West Coast Customs has built vehicles for such luminaries as Paris Hilton and Justin Bieber, and it will be working with Microsoft to build in Kinect motion control, heads-up displays on the windscreen, and on-board computers for navigation and control."

    Kinect motion control? In a car? I can just imagine it. You hold your hands up , grip the virtual steering wheel, then move it as if you are holding a real one while waggling your feet around controlling the virtual peddles..

    Oh wait..

    1. The Fuzzy Wotnot

      Oh dear!

      Dread to think what the Kinnect will do when you get cut up, flip the "bird" to other party!

  20. Gordon Fecyk

    No unsigned, untested drivers driving this car

    "Bluescreening is bad enough at the desk, but slightly more serious when you’re flinging a couple of tons of car down the freeway."

    That's OK, pretty sure MS isn't going to permit ATI, Intel, or Nvidia hardware and drivers on it. Majority of bluescreen crashes solved. :-)

  21. Dan 63


    until my daughter gets her room tidied she's not going anywhere near my car!

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Of course, a Microsoft invention…

    "His Windows smartphone app allows a third party to track a car fitted with a Viper SmartStart GPS system and monitor its speed, location, engine revs and battery – or lock and shut down a vehicle if it’s stolen. Jeff Sandquist, senior director of developer relations for Microsoft and self-confessed car nut, said he loves the app because he can follow his daughter around remotely while she drives her VW Beetle."

    "APRS has been developed since the late 1980s by Bob Bruninga, callsign WB4APR, currently a senior research engineer at the United States Naval Academy. He still maintains the main APRS website. The acronym "APRS" was derived from his callsign."

    Yes, I do this on my bicycle…it saves me getting a phone call asking "Where are you?" They can look it up on … or I have my own system:

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There was an Old Lady...

    I guess this is the fly...

    This is the spider:

    This is the bird:


  24. multipharious

    Blue Screen?

    I have been using Windows 7 since RC2. The number of Blue Screens may be counted on one hand...and I narrowed it down to a problem with dual displays and a version of Supreme Commander that was not handing the pre-RTM OS. Since the release bits, I have had more or less zero problems on the household and work machines. Not sure who fixed that one problem...but I have not had others that caused a BSoD.

    The stripped down automotive version (embedded) doesn't have to deal with the kitchen sink, non-standardized OEM hardware + software ecosystem either. My own car is running proprietary it better? Nope, during a performance driving course with the same model car I have, it sustained a complete software crash which took me out of radio contact with the instructor. The car kept running, but I was forced to swap vehicles. It's just software. Is Windows Embedded better? I would guess Microsoft has more practice at exception handling than some of the car manufacturers that try to be software companies.

  25. Keep Refrigerated

    Reminds me of an old joke/meme...

    So life once again imitates art?

    If GM had developed technology like Microsoft, we would all be driving cars with the following characteristics:

    1. For no reason at all, your car would crash twice a day.

    2. Every time they repainted the lines on the road, you would have to buy a new car.

    3. Occasionally, executing a manoeuver such as a left-turn would cause your car to shut down and refuse to restart, and you would have to reinstall the engine.

    4. When your car died on the freeway for no reason, you would just accept this, restart and drive on.

    5. Only one person at a time could use the car, unless you bought 'Car95' or 'CarNT', and then added more seats.

    6. Apple would make a car powered by the sun, reliable, five times as fast, and twice as easy to drive, but would run on only five per cent of the roads.

    7. Oil, water temperature and alternator warning lights would be replaced by a single 'general car default' warning light.

    8. New seats would force every-one to have the same size butt.

    9. The airbag would say 'Are you sure?' before going off.

    10. Occasionally, for no reason, your car would lock you out and refuse to let you in until you simultaneously lifted the door handle, turned the key, and grabbed the radio antenna.

    11. GM would require all car buyers to also purchase a deluxe set of road maps from Rand-McNally (a subsidiary of GM), even though they neither need them nor want them. Trying to delete this option would immediately cause the car's performance to diminish by 50 per cent or more. Moreover, GM would become a target for investigation by the Justice Department.

    12. Every time GM introduced a new model, car buyers would have to learn how to drive all over again because none of the controls would operate in the same manner as the old car.

    13. You would press the 'start' button to shut off the engine.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Updated (in two senses)

      14. Once a month, on switching off the ignition the car would continue to run for 10-15 minutes with a strict warning not to disconnect the battery. On the subsequent attempt to start it the car would remain motionless for a similar period, again with a warning not to try switching it off

      15. The engine power and efficiency would have increased a hundred fold since this meme was invented but it would take just as long and cost just as much to go anywhere as it did way back then.

  26. stockds

    We have the know how..... company actually sells tracking solutions like this. We specialise in tracking high value assets but we have a few customers that like to track their cars mostly for milage expense claim validation (business vs. private miles) and sometime for lone worker monitoring (part of EU regulation to ensure lone workers are safe and well).

    However we did think about extending into tracking kids cars - but not with a "I want to see where they are all the time" but by allowing the parent to setup waypoints so that they know child got to [insert important places here] safely. For example child driving to Uni - parent gets message when child enters boundary 2 miles around Uni. Parent happy that child got there safely, child happy they are not being snooped on with too much accuracy. One of my directors actually uses this tech to monitor a daughter when she enters and exits as nasty junction she doesn't like - she feel happier know that if she has an accident Dad will know very quickly that she never left the junction and that help can be on the way.

    We haven't launched and marketed the solution - yet but we are considering it. Any thoughts?

    1. Dave 15 Silver badge

      3 rings

      This was the free and easy 'got here safely' message used by my family for years... from kids to grand parents, just give 3 rings when you get home/uni.... no one picks up, no cost.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      That's really rather sad

      "to monitor a daughter when she enters and exits as nasty junction she doesn't like"

      When my daughter started getting to the "scared of the dark" age, I bought a big torch and told her it was a Monster-Frightener! My wife and I spent time with her in the house with lights off, out in the garden and going to late evening walks in the local country park just getting used to what it's like in the dark, "fighting" it with the torch and how the "monsters" are just all in your head. Now she's not bothered by the dark at all.

      How will kids ever learn cope if you don't help them overcome their fears and let them go their own way? I appreciate you have a financial angle on the whole paranoid-parent thing but that's really quite a sad state of affairs when parents fit tracking devices to their kids cars just because they're scared they might make a mistake on the road!

  27. NomNomNom

    Not so bad

    Once the kids figure out how to send a false signal

    Where am I?

    I am standing right behind you watching you thinking I am 10 miles away

    Whose creeped out now?

  28. xyz

    They're a bit late to the party aren't they?

    My girfriend's company already manufactures all this stuff and has done for years. They can put it in at the point of manufacture or aftermarket, however the motor manufacturers only allow telematics (maybe MS should look this up in a dictionary) in where they think there is a consumer need and obviously no customer has identified a need for a car to be tracked by other members of their family. Fleet managers do, some insurance company products do, so that's why the stuff is aftermarket, but it's a whole different kettle of smelly fish wanting your nearest and dearest knowing your every move and actually going into a dealer and saying "Oh I want the track-me package too."

    I was beginning to have new hope for MS, but this just proves they're led by a bunch of pervs living in 1995.

    1. LateNightLarry

      They're a bit late to the party aren't they?

      Doesn't the On-Star system in GM cars have the same tracking ability, even if it's not activated except in a vehicle accident, so far. Their ads always have the On-Star operator knowing exactly where the car is when they call to help. I would be surprised if there's not a built in way to activate it so dear old dad can track his baby girl.

  29. Gannon (J.) Dick

    in loco helicopterentis

    "Jeff Sandquist, senior director of developer relations for Microsoft and self-confessed car nut, said he loves the app because he can follow his daughter around remotely while she drives her VW Beetle."

    "El Reg hopes for his sake Sandquist’s kids aren’t picking his retirement home."

    But thanks to the new Patricide 1.0 app announced jointly by a consortium of Google, Apple, Oracle, Yahoo, IBM and a bunch of other people who can remember being teenagers, they won't have to!

  30. The Fuzzy Wotnot


    "Jeff Sandquist, senior director of developer relations for Microsoft and self-confessed car nut, said he loves the app because he can follow his daughter around remotely while she drives her VW Beetle."

    Can't anyone trust anyone else these days? Yes sure I am dreading it when my little girl starts walking to school on her own next year but I'm sure my parents worried too when I started going out on my own. However I'm still alive and healthy so it can't have been that bad out there in the big bad world!

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Whoop Crash!

    Thats the sound of da remote cease

  32. Dave 15 Silver badge


    Can really imagine this now... can shut down the car remotely.... yes, love that idea, half way up the 'freeway' with a huge 'truck' a few feet from my tail, suddenly some app has a hiccup, my car reacts by just stopping... nice one.

    As for being stalked... if your parents can stalk you like this I wonder what the safeguards against anyone stalking you?

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