The Telegraph reports that European Union police officials are quietly meeting to develop a system that would allow law enforcement to kill any car's engine from a central control facility. The fundamental technology already exists and is deployed with some auto manufacturers — GM, for example, offers "Stolen Vehicle Slowdown" as a service on 2009 and newer OnStar-equipped vehicles — but the goal of the EU effort appears to be a standardized, mandated system that would be controlled directly by police, not by car companies. If pushed through, The Telegraph suggests that it would be required by the end of the decade.

The technology already exists

Reaction to the news has been strongly negative, with one member of British parliament saying that "the price we pay for surrendering our democratic sovereignty is that we are governed by an unaccountable secretive clique." Another questions the liability to governments should the kill switch be triggered accidentally while a car is traveling at highway speeds, potentially causing a crash. Besides the concerns about an invasion of privacy and freedom for law-abiding citizens, it's easy to imagine the potential for catastrophic consequences if the "switch" fell in the wrong hands.

Documents obtained by The Telegraph claim that the technology behind the remote-stop feature has yet to be developed — but considering that automakers have already developed it on their own, it seems unlikely that police would face engineering roadblocks if it ends up being mandated.