back to article Infra-red cameras to tackle congestion in Leeds

Trials of technology to enforce use of a high occupancy vehicle route into Leeds will start next month. Leeds City Council has agreed to trials of the latest version of technology which will automatically count the number of people travelling in cars on a high occupancy vehicle lane into the city centre. The trials are expected …


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  1. Anonymous Coward


    Hmmm... I wonder if having heated Front seats will fool that technology?

  2. Henny


    who's going to be the first to patent and release an IR LED based person shaped seat cover?

  3. Anonymous Coward

    In unrelated news

    Sales of mannequins in Leeds have rocketed...

  4. Chris Collins

    Inflatable friend

    I understand that our American cousins have been resolving this problem with some sort of inflatable human replacement. You can have one for the house AND car.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Posh new cameras

    As a resident of Roundhay and knowing the current fad for some the less desirable locals to carefully remove security cameras with a pair of cable snips and brute force, I give these new IR ones about 36 hours before they are on sale in some of the quality public houses in West Yorkshire.

  6. Jonathan

    Will then fine...

    So does this mean they'll know when I have a body in the boot?

  7. Jon

    Rear Passenger

    What if person 2 is sitting behind the driver (assuming front facing camera) or a baby in a baby seat, Its face is samller than my hand? Too many false positves to make it work.

    The only way to autmaticlly inforce this I can see is RFID ID cards for evreyone born then if peole have to carry these so can't lend them to somone you can see who is in each car!!!!

  8. Anton Ivanov

    Re: Infra-red

    This one will be entertaining.

    Bookmakers should start taking bets on what will happen first:

    1. Heated mannequins

    2. Lawsuit from Renault. Renaults have this nice thick layer of IR-reflective coating on the windshield of all higher spec models. Unless the system uses visual as well as IR these cars are likely to register as "no driver/no occupant".

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    A mannequin with a hot water bottle in a hole bored in the top of the head should do the trick. I already car pool so wouldn't welcome anybody actually doing this.

  10. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    My passenger was in the back seat...

    ...and is a child, so probably has a face no larger than my hand.

    I'm also curious about the "IR" part of this. It would need a fairly high resolution camera (by IR standards) working at frequencies which aren't absorbed by glass. Either someone is spending pots of cash on expensive hardware, or the system is an optical camera for face recognition coupled to a low resolution near-IR sensor that simply identifies the temperature of the face-like object in the passenger seat. In the latter case, a picture of a face with a hot cigarette lighter poked through the nose would probably suffice.

  11. Steve

    For Sale - Human Torso sized dummy

    Is there a marketing opportunity here, a life sized human torso with a cigarette lighter attachment to heat it up to 38 C.

    Or alternatively, duck down below the dash as you drive past. When they fine you and claim that your car had 0 occupants you can say that it's clearly a software error.

  12. bobbles31


    Can I just have a balloon full of hot air next to me?

    Its ok, its sunny out today!

  13. richard

    total crap

    the car sharing idea's been around for years, how it's still being approved i really cannot comprehend. you are penalised for being the sole person in your car?! so i can drive a 4x4 with two people in but if i have a smart car with just me in i get fined, that's a better situation?!

    i'm penalised because i don't know anybody else at work who lives near me? and i have to pick them up on a morning? and we'll have to leave work at the same time?

    it really is one of the most bollocks strategies in years, why not make the lane into a bus lane?

    how does this encourage people to use public transport?

    -total confusion

  14. Dan

    What if I...

    Get me an autopilot a la George in Airplane?!

  15. Mark Thomas

    It's not the first

    "Cars travelling on the Leeds high occupancy vehicle lane, the first of its type in the UK, are permitted two or more occupants."

    There's one in Bristol, you can even read the writing "2+ Lane" on google maps,+bristol&ie=UTF8&ll=51.504414,-2.496953&spn=0.000663,0.001514&t=k&z=20

  16. Kevin Johnston

    Space used

    So apparently 20% of the public use 80% of the road space.....would love to know how they came up with that figure as it looks to fall in the category of '84% of statistics are made up'.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is designed to stop...

    ...people from using dogs, mannequins and blow up dolls.

    BBC website side the infra-red checks for blood and water.

  18. spencer robinson

    So what happens if you sit behind the driver?

    So how will the system check if the passenger sits behind the driver. Its al clever having a system that can distinguish between someones warm hand and a face, but how does it work for those passenger it can see!

  19. Dazed and Confused

    And for safety

    For safety all passengers should be in rear facing seats, which should make this interesting too. Of course no one does use rear facing seats but then no one is really interested in safety.

    I can't see why the council are complaining that manual checks are too expensive. At £30 a pop, that over 5 hours minimum wage. Doesn't look like a high skill job to stand by the side of the road and count to more than one. They are likely to catch more than two per shift, the council have got to end up quids in.

  20. Matt


    The current system doesn't work because it's difficult to see into vehicles travelling at speed. Well, if they're travelling at speed there isn't a congestion problem is there!

    Sounds like another revenue raising idea to me. Funny how everything these days is solved by more taxes or a new law........

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Mother & Child in Back Seat, Father Driving

    Bit of a nasty one this. Quite frequently me, my wife, and my little boy drive around and use these 2+ lanes (in Birmingham), so we qualify.

    However, wifey and baby are in the back, and there's only me in the front.

    How on earth do I prove that there is actually more than one person in the car, when the camera angle will probably be such that it will look down on the car and won't be able to see rear seat occupants?!

    My word against theirs, no doubt.

    Congrats, uni students!

  22. Tom
    Dead Vulture

    @ Jonathon,

    Just wait a few hours mate, the more dead they are, the less heat they give off :)

  23. rory alsop


    That's a damn good point. The solution should be that if cars are moving at a sensible speed (not sure what it is on that road) then there obviously isn't any congestion so they shouldn't charge. The system should deliberately be limited to only take pictures if cars are travelling at low speed.

    In other news, where I live, the council has tried its best to mess up the roads (adding bus lanes where they are unnecessary, introducing one way systems and even closing entire roads) but it is still faster for me to drive the 17 miles to work than get the train. And it is less stressful, more pleasant and fun.

    Down with public transport as a revenue earner! Can we not just copy the Germans - they are great at making efficient public transport AND fast roads!

    (Tux - because I can)

  24. Anonymous Coward

    Useless lane

    I car-share every morning and my logical route would take me along this 2+ lane in Leeds. However, because so many single-occupant cars use the 2+ lane, it's barely worth using. I always have an adult sitting next to me so I would have no concerns about falsely being identified as abusing the lane. I therefore eagerly anticipate the implementation of this new technology, and the (hopefully heavy) fining of those who ignore the rules and GET IN MY WAY. Yes, even those with a single child in the back seat that the camera can't see. Not my problem (see selfish statement below).

    Of course, because of the congestion on this very road, my route to work takes me along more minor streets. I then force my way out at the front of the queue, 500 metres after the end of the 2+ lane, via a supermarket car park. I am a selfish driver, yes.

  25. spezzer
    Paris Hilton

    well spotted Mat!

    also...what happens if i turn up the heater in my car and the passenger ducks below dash or behind seat - what if theres a dog sat in the car?

    also arent these infra-red cameras used on police choppers? you never see the passengers in a car on police, camera, action! all you see are the engine and exhaust and the streaks of heated tarmac as the tyres fall off!!

    i'm not convinced this can work - is it all just a cover to spend the budget surplus from collecting too much council tax?

    (paris coz she would look hot in my car)

  26. Greem

    Tested at Loughborough Uni

    The system was tested on the University's main gate for a number of months. Made it bloody expensive coming into work, I can tell you!

  27. Greem
    Paris Hilton

    Also from this establishment...

    ...from the brain of Dr John Tyrer comes the "displaced water method" of ensuring that the size *and* weight of a pair of breasts is used when sizing a bra.

    He has had the dubious privilege of doing so for Trinny & Suzannah (on telly, no less). The things people do in the name of research!

    Paris because... well, it's a comment with boobs in it.

  28. David Knapman

    Re: It's not the first

    @Mark - it is the first *Leeds* High Occupancy lane in the UK. I'm almost certain.

  29. Richard Gadsden


    The whole point is that the car-share lane is clear and you can drive at speed, while the single-person lane next to it is congested

  30. Trygve Henriksen

    About cheating...

    Won't all pictures that is assumed to show a violation be examined by a person?

    As for rear-seat passengers.

    Maybe they'll be using two or three cameras to get pictures from more angles?

  31. Dan Clarke
    Dead Vulture


    Easy there Bristol boy: the A647 was the first 2+ lane in the UK when it was launched about 10 years ago. The (separate) Roundhay Rd route is a newer one.

  32. James Haigh


    Two things;

    First, as pointed out this will be the first of its type, as its type will be one which is monitored by these cameras.

    Secondly, when it opened in 1998, it was the first HOV lane in the UK.

  33. Red Bren
    Black Helicopters

    Leeds CC misses the point again.

    As a biker, I could potentially benefit from this system but I still think it's stupid! Why do Leeds City Council always seem hellbent on choosing expensive and inappropriate solutions to problems? First they built guided bus ways which take up twice the space of a normal bus lane, cost more to build and maintain and can only be used by modified vehicles. Now they're wasting my taxes again on costly equipment that will probably generate more false positives than actual infringments.

    Surely it would be far cheaper to introduce tidal traffic systems and rush-hour bus/taxi/motorbike/cycle lanes, to make the most of the existing infrastructure? The money saved could be used to provide a reliable bus service and subsidise the extortionate fares. That would do far more to reduce congestion & pollution!

    Oh but then the government wouldn't be able track your movements...

  34. Andy
    Paris Hilton


    Everyone knows it's not 84% of statistcs but 83.994%.

    Why Paris? Cos she can use me as her blow up auto pilot anytime

  35. Mark Malley

    I think they're missing the point

    Instead of spending all of this money on cameras and enforcement, why don't they solve the root of the problem and build more roads?

    (I wanted to say "route of the problem")

  36. SImon Hobson

    Cough, splutter !

    "Won't all pictures that is assumed to show a violation be examined by a person?"

    You mean, just like all Gatso pictures are (supposed to be) checked by a human before the ticket is sent out ?

    I went to Leeds - once. What a f***ing horrible place to try and get anywhere ! I thought Oxford was rabidly anti-car, but Leeds was far worse. I spent 1/2 an hour or more trying to get to my destination (yes, adding to all that congestion) because everywhere I went I kept coming up against bus lanes etc. So half an hour of driving round to get about one mile - so much for reducing traffic !

  37. Haku

    Not thermal imaging

    When they talk about infra-red I can only assume they mean the type of camera that can see in the dark by way of infra-red lighting, not thermal imaging which sees heat, thermal cameras cannot see through glass so they'd be useless for trying to count the number of people in a car.

  38. grom

    Re: It's not the first

    @ David: It's not even Leeds' first High Occupancy lane - there's already one in Pudsey near Intake High School leading into Armley.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    HOV lanes

    In the US, we've got HOV lanes too (along with the tasering). I've never found them to be terribly useful due to psychology, though - on the Long Island Expressway, people in the HOV lane tend to slow down to match traffic jam speed in the other lanes. People with clear road ahead will drop from 75 to 45 if the people in the other lanes (who can't get into the HOV lane) are going 45.

    It figures that this is the one way NYC drivers are magnanimous...

  40. Anonymous Coward

    Time this technology was permanently scrapped

    Along with bus and cycle lanes. If any council wants a HOV, bus or cycle lane it must widen the road to accommodate it. Although NuLabor renamed the Road Fund License to try and disgiuse the face that they are stealing it, the excessive tax paid by car owners should only be spent on road construction and maintenance.

    While the infra red cameras are being collected for scrap, they can also collect Gatsos and all those unacceptable average speed cameras as well as the tarmac wasted on so - called 'traffic calming', this should be used to repair all the unmaintained pot holes.

  41. David Cornes

    Anti anti-car

    The article on the BBC website had the usual boilerplate guff from the car lobby knuckleheads, warning against poor drivers being charged incorrectly, and also this comment which made me chuckle:

    "Other motoring organisations have raised doubts about the principle of the lanes, saying there is not enough road space."

    Isn't that why there's congestion in the first place??

  42. m

    invisible driver....

    Quite a few manufacturers - BMW, Renault amongst others - offer infra-red filtering windscreens as an option. They work very well, and stop virtually all infra-red....oops, summons that car, it hasn't got anyone in it all.....

  43. Christoph
    Thumb Down

    How will they deal with false positives?

    There is no possible way that this won't won't get large numbers of false positives. How are the victims supposed to prove that they had a passenger? They get a ticket days later saying "You are guilty, pay up".

  44. Trevor Watt

    InfraRed is so much more than just thermal imaging

    All plants contain chlorophyll. The military have used a type of Infrared spectroscopy for years to find non-chlorophyll masses on the battlefield, which is why the camouflage nets, clothing and paint used by the military contain a substance that mimics the infra-red absorbency of chlorophyll.

    So these devices are clearly going to use this technology to find molecular bonds that reflect or absorb a very specific infrared light so finding water and blood. It is there in the story for those who don't care to read it properly.

    So clearly a plug in mannequin is not going to cut it.

  45. DZ-Jay

    Re: Trialled?

    >> "Preliminary versions of the system have been trialled"

    "Trialled", seriously? Just which dixionaricon is this guy usifying?


  46. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    The Reality of The HOV Lane

    Here are some realities for this "Congestion Management" solution the infamous HOV Lane.

    1) Not many people actually abuse it, certainly not enough to justify a camera and the odd one of two who have used a dummy should be let off on creative principle of British Fair Play. After all they went to all that trouble for 2 minutes (see # 9)

    2) It increases congestion massively

    3) Leeds Public Transport is too expensive, unreliable and slow

    4) The Goverment refused to support a super tram system and now they have purple bendy buses that hold less people than normal buses

    5) Not many people actually use it

    6) The people who do abuse it tend to drive unregistered cars that they bought off an man in the pub. These people also set off speed cameras and escape fines from them as well

    7) It's going to upset the public even more

    8) Its a solution to a problem that doesnt exist and shouldnt exist even if it did as the HOV lane is just wasted road.

    9) The HOV lane is sooo short that the effective benefit for someone who car shares is about 2 minutes saved journey time out of about 40 minutes to get into Leeds

    10) It runs twice a day but no one bothers about the afternoon bit.

  47. Andy Goss

    20/20 hindsight

    I remember when Leeds had trams, lovely double-decker trams with stained glass windows. Trains, trams, park-and-ride, we have the answers, but we lack the political guts to implement them.

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