back to article Data protection and surveillance: Swapping the speed camera for ANPR?

When on holiday in the Dordogne two weeks ago (feels like two months now!), I picked up a Sunday Times newspaper which stated that the government was reducing grant-funding for speed cameras. This was given the thumbs-up by the paper which reported that many motorists see such cameras as a tax first and a life-saver second. …


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  1. mmiied

    wate a minuite

    "ANPR technology uses the fact that the surface of vehicle number plates, except for the lettering, is covered in tiny inverted hemispheres that cause any light radiation to be reflected back to the source"

    so if I take a hammer to bits of the numberplate will they stop being readable by ANPR or use any number of diffrent methords to flatten the bumps or make the numbers reflective?

    1. Bram


      you do know that number plate standards have been included in the MOT especially for the introduction of ANPR, they'll just fail your MOT next time you go in, or if the police stop you.

      Everyon get ready to hail Stalin

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    Some nice fat IR diodes posistioned to direct IR down on to my number plate.

    Should create enough interference to thwart that idea...

    Should be legal to as you are not modifying the reg plate in any way at all...

    1. mmm mmm

      Cornz 1.. So..

      Yeah, just like laser jammers, eh?

    2. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

      Depends on how the law is formulated..

      I know in my country, *any* activity that aims at preventing the reading of a license plate by whatever method is deemed illegal and get you into serious trouble..

      But yes, using some IR-transparent plastic can make it impossible to even see the LEDs unless the cop is smart enough to use a mobile phone, or spots your car on a surveillance ANPR as a luminous blob. After that it may get expensive...

  3. Marky W

    "Relax - the physics lesson is over!"

    No, no, no, no, no. We actually *like* that sort of stuff here.

    (with apologies to any humanities graduates who've wandered here by mistake)

  4. Tim #3

    Industry lobbying

    I expect there is a huge amount of lobbying from the security industry for more ANPR cameras. Everyone who has delivered them will have been amazed at the cost, what should be a £50 camera on a pole ends up costing an absolute fortune, with shocking prices for the camera, housing, software (hyper expensive licences), the pole ("special design" of course), controller box, data storage (a HDD, but 10-30 times the price) and connectivity & installation charges. Hence why the security companies can afford the best lobbying firms.

    Oh, there are technical install issues- afaik the new ones installed on the A149 & A537 still have not been switched on, many months after their installation. I wonder if the taxpayers are getting a refund, after all I bet the (short) warranty is running out already.

    1. Bram

      surprisingly not

      I know some of the guys who worked on it, its solely for the police force

  5. max allan

    They've gone a bit mad round Wiltshire

    Driving onto the M4 at J16 there is what appears to be an ANPR.

    Driving off at J17 onto the A350 there is one quite well hidden in the trees.

    At the Chippenham end of the A350 there is another one.

    With such ubiquitous coverage they could easily start to use them as speed cameras, even though you would have had to drive slower to go round junctions, there could still be times when you didn't slow down much for the junctions and went too fast and managed to get your average speed above 70 for that section (for example late at night when there is noone around to have a crash with and no children walking on the road)

    I think it's time to have a google maps app to plot their locations. I would suggest using street view to find them but all 3 of those mentioned have been put up in the last few months.

  6. Anomalous Cowturd

    How much?

    10,502 ANPR cameras, at how much a pop?

    I know we are all paying for these, but whose budget do they come from? Home Office? Police forces? County councils?

    As for the data retention of two years, ridiculous. This is just encouraging data trawling. How about a retention period of say, the time it takes to cross reference the number plate with insurance / Road Tax / M.O.T. / Police databases. No hits? Delete.

    However, I for one shall not be holding my breath for a major change of direction in this regards. Once those bastards get hold of ANY data, they are very reluctant to give up the "right" to retain it, or use it for purposes other than those for which it was originally collected.

    And how is it that the old bill can get a working system with virtually no hiccoughs, yet the DWP or NHS systems are complete shite and don't work? And don't give me that tired old "War on Tourism" baloney.

  7. Witty username


    So millions of pounds of public money will be spent, people will still die in car accidents as speed is rarely the deciding factor (hitting something usually is), more people will get pointless fines thus pushing them further into debt (some to the point of suicide, as demonstrated recently), pushing the country futher into debt and depression, all because some mary whitehouse esque sheltered NIMBY retard is looking for a scapegoat.

    Brilliant job guys. What about all the accidents caused by drink, drugs, mobile phones, loss of concentration, tiredness, worn components (tyres/brakes etc), people driving the wrong way up motorway sliproads, poor road conditions (potholes (thanks local council!), no lights on fast roads etc), poorly thought out roadworks, getting run over by police cars (look it up), etc etc etc.

    i wonder what the accident rate is like on the german autobahns?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      "speed is rarely the deciding factor"

      "people will still die in car accidents as speed is rarely the deciding factor (hitting something usually is)"

      Speed is almost always a crucial factor in the *outcome* of the accident and whether someone dies or not. It turns an insurance claim into a funeral.

      1. Witty username


        Speed != accidents

        Inappropriate Speed + inexperiance + loss of control = accidents

        i wasnt advocating treating town centers like a race track (an urban location that wont be effected by average speed cameras unless they are literally in every square inch of the town), what i mean is 90~ mph on a empty motorway in a properly serviced car driven by someone who isnt a fucking tool shouldnt be a problem, yet its that example that will get punished.

        This wont stop Billy the generic chav racing past a school in his bangin' 1.2 corsa and plowing through some pedestrians, this will simply serve as another money making scheme to rip off innocent members of the public.

        daily mail esque rant over. On a side note, would James Bond style revolving numberplates render you immune to this? =D

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Not immune...

          ...unless you have valid insurance, tax and ticket for all your identities. You'd probably be better off using the flamethrower attachment on the cameras

      2. The Original Steve


        "Speed is almost always a crucial factor in the *outcome* of the accident..."

        True - but there's a lot of other factors. Condition of the vehicle, weather, other traffic, experience etc.

        How about a curfew for drivers with less that 20,000 miles under their belts? Or maybe only cars that have been serviced in the last 3 months can go out in the rain?

        A factor it maybe, the cause it's not so often. The cause is normally driving for the conditions - including the surroundings, time of day, weather, vehicle condition and other road users.

        I personally hate speed camera's - there is no grey area, no circumstance is taken into account and it targets just one small factor of something that contributes to the outcome - NOT the cause.

        Make the tests tougher, put actual police officers on the road that STOP tailgaters, people that don't indicate, lane hogs, overtaking on blind corners etc.

        But there is no magic silver bullet that can be palmed off to technology then is there? The solution would be the traffic police actually working rather than sitting in a van pointing a camera or speeding past 60MPH traffic themselves whilst not attending an emergency.

        So we end up with a bullshit policy that serverly targets a factor that makes some accidents worse rather than targeting the cause. Policy costs a fortune, does little to reduce accidents or deaths and has an impact on nearly all drivers regardless if they are driving safely or not.

  8. Guido Esperanto

    to play devils advocate

    you say ANPR works using IR to have the light transmitted back from a license plate.

    Is there anything (ignore the law bit here) to stop people installing IR lights around the license plate?

    Whilst invisible to the naked eye, I'd expect the ANPR would just see a sheet of IR light where the number plate should be.

    I'm not condoning such action, but wondered if that would work. On the other hand, more unscrupulous types will be using false plates and/or your car.

    1. Marcus Aurelius

      Interesting question

      Is there anything (ignore the law bit here) to stop people installing IR lights around the license plate?

      I don't think the law says that number plates have to be legible under IR light; it specifies the lettering style/height/spacing/coloring etc, nothing about what light frequencies the lettering has to be visible in.... :-)

  9. Tigra 07
    Thumb Up

    Love it!

    Let's just have every square inch of road covered in cameras.

    You want to speed and be a jerk on the road to other motorists, pedestrians and cyclists, then have a fine

    1. Anonymous Coward

      I drive a BMW.

      I'm a jerk to other motorists, pedestrians and cyclists at any speed, not just over the speed limit. In fact I stay under the speed limit sometimes just to piss people off. you know, keeping myself a couple of mph under the speed of a pedal-cyclist, doing 50 in the long, straight, empty, turning-less 70-limit road near work and only speeding up when someone tries to overtake me. That sort of thing.

      However, none of this is captured on speed cameras- or even ANPR (in fact my constant erratic swerving helps lower my average speed with this system!)- so I'm clearly a safe driver.

      STOP? Yes, I do. Wherever I damn well please- after all, it's safe to screech to a stop in the middle of a dual carriageway so I can answer my phone. I'm going slower so I'm being safer, and phoning while driving causes crashes, don't you know!

      (also, that's a lie. The only people I've ever seen do this are aged Vauxhall Agila drivers who are downright dangerous but wouldn't get pulled over because they're going under the speed limit)

      1. Intractable Potsherd

        @ AC

        Bravo!!! I add Renault Scenic and Citroen Picasso drivers to the list of almost certainly dangerous but below the speed limit.

        Have one on me!

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Yay for the classics

    "ANPR technology uses the fact that the surface of vehicle number plates, except for the lettering, is covered in tiny inverted hemispheres"

    But my number plate is a piece of black sheet steel with white letters riveted to it ... does that mean ANPR cant pick me up then? ... not that my car is actually capable of going that fast anyway :D

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon


      I would expect the black steel to radiate quite a bit of IR of it's own accord, which would be occluded by the white lettering, enough for software to enhance and read your plate.

      On the other hand, a plain, transparent sheet which had tiny inverted hemispheres, placed over the top of your plate should do the trick quite nicely.

      1. xyz Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        ..and only $20 per pair

        ...from all good North American stockists, or IR absorbing coatings at around $80, or if you want to get really serious, ex-Yugoslavian finest IR interference equipment at around $800...and very good they all are too.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Every time I got to the airport long term parking it uses this automatic number plate reader and always confuses a 0 for D. In that case the scanner is no more than a few feet away. Quite how a scanner 30 ft up a pole can read it in bad weather is beyond me!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Had a similar problem at a border crossing recently...

      drove up to the check point, all quite normal... next thing I know a bunch of armed guards asked me and my family to get out of the car... they proceeded to go through all our lugguage and kept us hanging round for half an hour before starting to ask us some really weird questions...

      turns out their camera had misread the number plate and the false reading matched a reported stolen and later used in a robbery vehicle. never mind the fact that it was a different colour and make vehicle and most robbers don't have young kids in the car... but technology trumps common sense.

  12. Miffo

    Mixing up ANPR & where does the cash come from?

    This article seems to mix up ANPR used by the police to catch people with no insurance and ANPR used in roadworks to detect speeding.

    I think there was one place (I forget where) where they used ANPR or some sort of average speed check on a ring road to enforce speed limits. The council declared it a bit of a disaster as the earnings did not pay for the installation. Everyone slowed down. Don't recall the effect on accidents - just surprised the council were openly more worried about the cash. I don't think this system is very common for permanent installations.

    I'm not sure where the author gets the idea that councils who are removing fixed speed cameras for financial reasons are going to suddenly get money for ANPR cameras from somewhere . I think it mentioned lobbying - those same lobbyists who would have failed to keep the fixed cameras presumably.

  13. Dr Dan Holdsworth
    Jobs Horns

    Possibly, but you're missing something here

    Actually, you're missing a couple of things. Firstly, ANPR is expensive as speed cameras go, and secondly if you believe the Government's own figures on what causes road accidents then only about 5% are actually caused by excessive speed. Even if you double that figure to allow for excessive speed reducing thinking times and causing accidents, then speed cameras are only going to prevent 10% of accidents maximum, assuming that they are 100% effective at this. Once again this is a fallacy; speed cameras are only effective against drivers who care if they get points on their licence. Disqualified drivers won't care, drivers of stolen vehicles won't care, and people driving cars on false number plates once again aren't going to care a jot about ANPR or any other sort of speed camera.

    The problem here is that you're starting from a false premise; initially you assume that speed cameras have an effect on driver behaviour, and that the effect they have is a good one. This has never been proved; at no time has any safety camera partnership actually set out a controlled trial where emplacing speed cameras has been compared to doing nothing on a road where accidents have occurred (although useful alternative treatments in addition to speed cameras and the "do nothing" control would be road re-engineering, and increased police patrols). The only statistics that I am aware of which look at the effect of speed cameras under controlled conditions are what happens in motorway roadworks. In this instance, Gatso cameras increase the accident rate by a statistically significant amount, ANPR increases the accident rate by an amount which is only just significant, and increased police patrols strongly decrease the accident rate. All levels are compared to the control, of no extra police and no cameras.

    So, I'd conclude that ANPR is not likely to be widely deployed and if it does, I'd reckon that the sport of speed camera vandalism is going to get a lot more widespread...

    1. Anonymous Coward

      "...caused by excessive speed"

      "Government's own figures on what causes road accidents then only about 5% are actually caused by excessive speed"

      Same fallacious point usually wheeled out by pro-speeders. The speed affects the *outcome* of the accident. Saying that it's not usually an factor in the root cause of an accident isn't the whole picture and it's ignoring the huge part that speed has to play in *every* accident out there.

      1. BlackMage

        Title required

        "Same fallacious point usually wheeled out by pro-speeders. The speed affects the *outcome* of the accident."

        You seem to be deliberately missing the point and trying to divert attention with a statement of basic physics. Since only 5% of crashes are caused by excessive speed, that means that 95% are caused by something else. One of the major objections to speed cameras is that they target the cause of only 1 in 20 crashes.

        If the intention was genuinely to improve road safety it would be far better to determine the causes of the other 19 in 20 and tackle those instead. A short list from my daily experience: stupidity, incompetence, recklessness. Sadly to actually deal with those problems would be politicial suicide as all but the 17 year old drivers can vote. The following measures would be unpopular but effectively cut the crash rate:

        * Make the driving test tough enough to be meaningful. Include motorway driving and skid pan as mandatory parts of training. A driving license is a privilege for those competent enough to handle the responsibility, it is not a right.

        * Mandatory 3 yearly retests for the over 70's. It doesn't matter that you've had X decades of driving, ability is proven to diminish with age and your ability now is what matters not your ability X decades ago. Your desire to dawdle to the shops does not trump everyone else's right not to be endangered by your lack of ability.

        * Mandatory re-qualification for drivers causing a crash resulting in injury. Mandatory training "refresher" courses for causing lesser crashes.

        * Limitation of power for new drivers like with motorcycles.

        * Limit who new drivers can carry as passengers to close family members. Prevents peer pressure causing recklessness but allows acting as family driver to gain experience.

        I'm not a "pro-speeder", I'm just against arbitrary, unproven limits and the failure of critical thinking that usually accompanies them, just to target 1 crash in 20.

        1. Anonymous Coward


          "A short list from my daily experience: stupidity, incompetence, recklessness"

          All descriptions that can easily be applied to speeding. What annoys me about speeding is that it's not accidental. People still have accidents but they don't intend to. Factors which a driver conciously decides to undertake whilst driving (speeding, texting, boozing etc..), are utterly unforgivable.

      2. Steve X


        Well, who'd have thought that speed matters. better get those red flags out, guys. 4MPH wil soon be illegally fast.

        Of _course_ speed affects the outcome of accidents. So do cars, FFS, but we're (hopefully) a ways off banning them. That doesn't mean restricting everyone to 4MPH. It means using common sense to drive at an appropriate speed for the conditions, something which *NO* speed camera can police.

        If people who caused accidents while speeding were treated the way drink drivers are it would improve things, but that would require a degree of judgement by the police with the consequent expensive training, whereas dumb cameras that book everyone, combined with courts that deliver a cursory smack on the wrist, are cheap.

        Where speed contributes to an accident, make it an automatic dangerous driving charge with mandatory ban, and jail if anyone is injured.

        1. Anonymous Coward


          "Where speed contributes to an accident, make it an automatic dangerous driving charge with mandatory ban, and jail if anyone is injured"

          Speed contributes to pretty much *every* accident.

      3. Anonymous Coward

        Stationary objects do not collide with one another.

        Saying speed affects the outcome of an accident is just fatuous (no matter how many asterisks you put around the word 'outcome').

        All accidents (not just RTAs) involve two or more objects colliding at speed (stationary objects will not collide with each other). Thus speed affects the outcome of every accident.

        True as this is it is hardly the point when attempting to reduce accidents, because accidents are cases where something happens that causes speed to become an issue. The question, then, is what are these 'somethings' and what can we do to prevent them.

        There are plenty of somethings besides excessive speed that can cause accidents - inattentive driving, lack of appropriate vehicle maintenance and poor driving conditions being just three.

        This is the whole picture, not just the partial picture you'd like to believe is the whole.

      4. Graham Marsden

        @"...caused by excessive speed"

        The point you miss is that it is excessive speed *FOR THE CIRCUMSTANCES*!

        Which is more dangerous? Doing 80mph on an empty motorway or doing 70mph on the same motorway when it's crowded with traffic and covered in fog? The answer is (or should be) obvious, but which one gets you a fine and points on your licence and which one doesn't?

        Putting in ANPR cameras will force people to stay under the limit, but it won't stop them driving like idiots.

      5. Intractable Potsherd

        @ Ac re "pro-speeders"

        The outcome of ALL physical accidents is a function of speed. If I hit you accidentally with a plank of wood, the outcome depends on whether the impact is slow or fast (relative to the speed you are moving).

        Now, what was your point, beyond stating the obvious?

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      @Dr Dan Holdsworth

      "So, I'd conclude that ANPR is not likely to be widely deployed and if it does,"

      I think that should read "that ANPR is should not be likely to be widely deployed"

      That fact that a policy will either make *no* difference or have a negative impact on the problem it *supposedly* addresses has very *little* impact on whether it is carried out in the UK.

      Especially with the *massive* existing data retention and *zero* oversight from the Information Commissioner's office.

      How long does it take to check a car's registration to confirm it has (or has not) got valid insurance? Stolen?

      Only otherwise we have a situation of "We'll keep the data and if a crime *is* committed somewhere hereabouts we can just check it to be safe."

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    On retention

    Basically, not keeping data around you don't strictly need is an obvious way to start with reducing threats to privacy, and is already law in, for example, the Netherlands, where it is snubbed wholesale by police, government, and government aligned corporations alike. Ho hum.

    But it is a good principle, as is gradually reducing the information you have to keep for a while so it becomes vaguer and vaguer until it vanishes. So I'd propose to, instead of keeping all the plates read, keep a list of plates you're looking for (added on court order, treat it like a surveillance order like wiretap, please), and have them automatically be flagged to surveiling plod. "This plate we're looking for is *there*, *now*, go earn yer pay." Only plates that're flagged can be kept for 30 days, all the others are instant statistics, perhaps by vehicle class. If that's not long enough, get a better, leaner, faster police. Technology is no excuse for papering over your own inadequacies with.

    If such a system isn't something the plod wants to deal with, I don't want to give them any system at all. After all, if they can't be discreet, they can't be trusted with any sensitive data. And if they can't be trusted, they lose the support of the people, and if they do that, they no longer have a basis for doing their thing and we're better off without. Because they're there for us the people, not against us. Why is that so hard for "THEM" to understand?

  15. Nigel 11
    Black Helicopters

    I hate to say this, but ...

    Hate to say this, but as a motorist I much prefer average speed cameras. What riles me about the other sort is that if you are driving safely, you are watching the road with occasional glances at your speedo, and it's all too easy to go past a camera at 10% over the legal limit because of a change in road gradient or even a sudden gust of tailwind. It's far harder to exceed the speed limit on average over several miles, except by wilfully speeding.

    However, if they go down this route, I hope that they give reasonable consideration to raising the motorway speed limit to 90 (at which speed many routinely drive, and the police leave them to do so).

    As for the privacy angle: there's no reason to keep numberplate data stored for more than a day to do speed enforcement. Long-term storage is therefore a separate issue. And since ANPR recognises numberplates, it does not provide legal proof that one was driving at the time. The plate could be a clone, or stolen. Or you might have lent your car to someone ... months later you can't be expected to be certain.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. JP19

        The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits

        Going through motorway average speed camera sections I have to put on my specs so I can stare at my exact speed in small print on the GPS.

        1. Graham Marsden

          I have to put on my specs...

          ... so I can stare at my exact speed in small print on the GPS.

          Why not just make sure your speedo (which should be legible and if it isn't, you shouldn't be driving) is at or below the limit because it probably reads 10% high already?

          Oh, of course, I know why not, you're one of those people who thinks that it's a Speed Target instead of a Speed LIMIT.

          1. JP19

            Speed Target instead of a Speed LIMIT

            When the number on a stick is less than the speed you would otherwise be driving at of course it becomes a target. The more strictly and accurately the number on a stick is enforced the more it becomes a target.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    Given that over 10% of the drivers in london are uninsured, and one thing that ANPR does is identify vehicles without insurance and notify the local police, how can ANPR be viewed as a bad thing? Unless you think having an uninsured driver drive into to you is somehow a great freedom that we don't want the state to take away from us?

    1. Intractable Potsherd


      .... that was the only thing the powers that be used them for, we'd not be having a great discussion about it. It is a major fallacy to take one point for which something may be useful, and then say "of course [the something] is good".

      P.S. I do, in a sense, regard it is a great freedom for people to be able to break the law with the possibility of not getting caught, because that means we are free from intrusive surveillance. We should walk into a world where all crime is detected and punished with EXTREME caution.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ANPR and speed

    Incidentally, ave speed cameras work better for speed management than fixed point cameras because anyone who speeds now has a satnav on their screen to warn them when to brake. Ave speed systems don't have such simple workarounds.

    For anyone who says -and we've seen it already "that most accidents aren't caused by excessive speed", they are missing the point that excessive speed (and the kinetic energy that shedding that velocity brings) is a key factor in damage and injury.

    For anyone walking or cycling ANPR and ave speed cameras can only be a good thing. As for the "state tracking me" story, if you have a mobile phone, they were doing that anyway.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down


      "For anyone who says -and we've seen it already "that most accidents aren't caused by excessive speed", they are missing the point that excessive speed (and the kinetic energy that shedding that velocity brings) is a key factor in damage and injury"

      Only if you have an accident, so priority should be on reducing accidents, not on the band-aid of mitigating the damage from them. Penalizing speed alone has not been shown to have any effect on accident numbers, ergo it isn't a useful tool in preventing accidents. Tackle the cause, not the effect.

  18. MonkeyBot

    Accident Blackspots

    "In this way, specific surveillance of an accident black spot by a speed camera is replaced by general surveillance of all vehicles passing the cameras. Perhaps privacy advocates who are against ANPR should start having public love-ins with privacy-friendly speed cameras near their home?"

    The problem is that those non-ANPR cameras aren't all at blackspots. I regularly drive to Lincoln on a road that's considered a "Red route". There are a few cameras near the entrance/exits to villages where the speed limit drops from 60 to 30 which are quite sensible.

    There are also temporary cameras which are all placed on long straight stretches of road and at the bottom of hills. The sharp corners which regularly have skid marks leading to car shaped holes in the hedges don't have cameras anywhere near them.

  19. BristolBachelor Gold badge


    "... the Surveillance Commissioner has no remit because overt use of ANPR (or any related database) is not covert ..."

    So all the ANPR cameras are marked as such and highly visible? Thought not.

    Funny though if someone is dressed in civies or hiding following someone, that is covert. So surely the current batch of ANPR cameras are covert?

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RE: Speed / IR / Numberplates etc.

    (1) If you doctor your numberplate, either by covering or painting it or by shining IR lights on it you are committing a number of offenses, many of which carry harsher penalties than a speeding ticket. I am pretty sure the ANPR systems are set to flag up any cars whose number plates are not readable - then it is a simple matter of getting a human operator to read the plate from the traffic cams.

    (2) Even if speed is only a factor in 5% of accidents, that equates to something like 150 deaths per year, or one every other day. Simple physics also states that as f=ma then the faster the car is travelling on impact the badder the impact will be.

    (3) Fining people for speeding is not a pointless "tax" on motorists. It is a fine on motorists that either cannot or will not follow a few basic rules. It is no more a tax on motorists than fining thieves is a tax on shoppers. Conversely, if you can afford to run a car you should be able to afford the fine - if not then don't do the crime. Simples, as the really annoying Meerkat would say.

    (4) To the BMW guy travelling at 50 mph on a long straight empty 70mph road - I call bullshit. To count as a 70Mph road it must be a dual carriageway, so if it is empty as you say then they will just cruise past you at 70 (or more likely 80-90) anyway.

    (5) As for speed cameras not catching unlicensed or stolen cars, that is both irrelevant (this is about enforcing the rules for the people who think it is bad to nick a car but OK to speed) and untrue (can be used to locate stolen cars and also to flag up cars with no assigned insurance).

    However, I do think that the speed limits should be re-evaluated and significantly raised where appropriate, and also that knocking down cyclists should be decriminalised. I am not suggesting we should be encouraged to knock them down, but I don't think it should be particularly viewed as a bad thing.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      RE: Speed / IR / Numberplates etc. → #

      1). Doctoring number plate. Minor penalties compared to speeding. Mostly to do with failing an MOT. Shining IR lights on a plate won't work. The key thing is that the plate will reflect light to the source. So the camera's light source will still get reflected back to the camera. Same tech is used in road signs.

      2). Speed. 150 deaths a year. Wow!! Really worthwhile to spend millions on cameras and such like. The rail industry which is already calculates the cost of a life in excessive amounts would still have some way to go to match that death calculation figure.

      3) Fining. It is pointless since most law abiding people will not get the tax, only those making a mistake. Those whose driving is really dangerous won't be stopped by a camera or a fine (if they can be found). So the the criminals don't pay, but the law abiding public do pay. Not fair. Fining thieves does not tax shoppers because you have the criminal.

      4) BMW driver. Err, can't understand satire can you.

      5) Unlicensed/Stolen. So cameras are all about catching speeders. A significant factor in RTAs. Really worthwhile. They do nothing about stolen cars which are pretty likely to cause an accident. They do nothing about unlicensed/uninsured cars as they also likely not to have a registered driver.

      Then you go and show yourself to be a total prat by saying that it's ok to knock down cyclists. Injuring anyone, pedistrian, passenger, cyclist, motorcyclist is always a crime and is always a bad thing.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @AC 13:16

        (1) Knowingly doctoring a number plate to avoid identification can be tried as conspiracy to pervert the cause of justice and can send you down for two years. Personally I'd rather 3 points than 2 years chokey.

        (2) If you think 150 preventable deaths per year is no big deal, then all I have to say is fuck you.

        (3) By definition if you break the law (by speeding) you ain't law abiding. Do try to keep up.

        (4) Err, can't understand pedantry can you?

        (5) This is about ANPR cameras, although aimed at speeding drivers they can also be used for tracking stolen / unlicensed cars. It was some other guy who claimed they were no use wrt these things, I was merely pointing out how they are more useful in that regard than not using them

        (6) [the cycles bit] I refer the gentleman to the answer he gave in (4) some moments ago.

        Now go away, or I shall taunt you a second time.

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Not so

          "(2) If you think 150 preventable deaths per year is no big deal, then all I have to say is fuck you."

          The question is more a case of if it is good value for money.

          Is it right to spend 5 million to save one life. How about a billion? How about 10,000?

          At what point is the right balance?

          150 deaths a year in the grand scheme is nothing. If one of them is your child, it is a big flippin' deal.

          But then you can't run a country's finances like that.

    2. Sooty

      @ number 4

      a dual carriageway doesn't necessarily have more than one lane. In fact it would be harder to overtake on a single lane dual carriageway than on a 'normal' road.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @ Sooty

        In order to classify as a 70Mph speed limit a road has to have more than one lane in both directions and have each direction of traffic (each carriageway) physically separated.

        A single lane dual carriageway has a speed limit of 60mph

    3. mmm mmm

      Lee RE: Speed / IR / Numberplates etc.

      You don't half talk a lot of shit.

  21. ShaggyDoggy

    IR heat

    There's heat at both ends of the car - radiator and exhaust.

    A small diversion of some of that heat onto the plate is all that's needed.

    Only needs to be on one character.

    Or you could clingfilm the plate.

    Or laminate it.

    Or spray it with transparent suncream.

    Or realise that ANPR uses UV not IR

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "I'd argue that with average speed cameras people end up spending the entire time they are going through an 'average speed' zone with their eyes glued to the speedo instead of paying attention to whats important! (No, not the fitty in the car next to you, the road!)"

    I would argue that anyone who cannot regulate their speed within a small amount either way either should work harder and buy a car with cruise control or really should not be on the road in the first place.

    Given that average speed cameras do not increase accident rates I suspect your argument is based upon a flimsy desire to be allowed to drive how you want regardless, rather than any evidence or facts.

    1. JP19


      "Given that average speed cameras do not increase accident rates I suspect your argument is based upon a flimsy desire to be allowed to drive how you want regardless, rather than any evidence or facts."

      I suspect your argument is based on a flimsy desire to force people to drive how you want regardless, rather than any evidence of facts.......

    2. Anonymous Coward

      No privacy for you from government spies

      "Given that average speed cameras do not increase accident rates "

      It's not given and I'd say they will. Regardless of what the installers of said cameras say, they have a strong financial motive to lie.

      Also these cameras make a permanent records of wherebouts of innocent citizens, which is a method usually used as a additional punishment of convicted criminals.

      Tell me why is that necessary? Recording the whereabouts of _everyone, every time and all the time_? What is the crime a car owner has done to get punished like that? Driving a car is enough?

  23. Fred 24

    Multiple number plates?...

    I'd be interested to know how these things would decide which number plate to read if a second number plate is visible in the rear window?

    What if more than one vehicle had a decoy plate with the same numbers?

    Just a thought?

    1. Tim #3

      Might work

      Basically, they recognise any number-plate style text - for instance if a van has a company's phone number along the bonnet & that is showed with enough contrast then the camera will read it & log it - it actually picks up all sorts of junk data, anything the OCR stuff can make into a series of letters or numbers, then the software filters out (or is meant to...) all the non-numberplates. If you had two different plates on your car then it depends whether it could read them both quick enough, the equipment 2-3 years ago was not too fast either. But if so you could be sent two fines I guess. You'd need your dummy plate located below the real one, as they read in a beam angled to pick up from the bottom first.

      More than one vehicle with same numbers will throw up a few errors I guess, but frankly it's a tad impractical.

      Simplest avoidance techniques for average speed ones- either a wrong or dirty number plate, or when within range of the camera tuck in momentarily very close behind an artic- this works, is a bit scary tho.

  24. N000dles
    Black Helicopters

    Not only for speeding......

    You're a ramraider in a stolen car. You and your fellow ramraiders drive to another town 200 miles from your house with someone following you in another car for the getaway. You get to your destination, drive through the door, load up and go. Find your nearest quiet place to transfer the load and set fire to the stolen car. You escape in the car that was never near the scene and you can't work out why old bill are knocking at your door a few hours later. You've been done by ANPR and the tools associated with data mining the database with all the recorded hits logged. This isn't something the Police will be looking to do in the future..... The future is now!

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge


      "You're a ramraider in a stolen car. You and your fellow ramraiders drive to another town 200 miles from your house with someone following you in another car for the getaway. "

      "You've been done by ANPR and the tools associated with data mining the database with all the recorded hits logged."

      Or indeed *anyone* the police don't like.


      They've heard of it.

      "They came for the ramraiders..."

  25. Gerrit Hoekstra

    Actually, ANPR uses bog-standard security cameras

    ...that have no IR filter and a lens surrounded by IR diodes for "night-time ops" at ca. £600 a pop. There is no unusual technology involved here.

    What makes this system expensive is the lashings of captured images and interpreted data that needs to be stored (up to 3 full-car photos are taken per car in some cases) and handled in a legal and data-compliant way, and the tricky integration with legacy parking lot / border control / law enforcement systems etc. If you have seen some of these systems, you will know how laughably ‘legacy’ they are, so don’t expect a new wave of the Blairite privacy invasion just yet.

    BUT: You cannot hide by obscuring a few characters on the plate: Simple information theory principles and the occasional DVLA cross-reference of car colour, make & model, rules such shenanigans out. Sorry.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      You drive a car, you are a cash cow

      "and handled in a legal and data-compliant way, "

      Who cares? Who's there to challenge that when police says it's handled properly and you, as guilty party, have no access whatsoever into camera part of the system. Neither does your lawyer.

      You drive a car, you are a criminal _and_ a cash cow. No charge has ever gone down because of mishandled data and never will: These cameras are for making money and no legalities may not interfere in that: Rememer tha the judge can decide that and he will, too. Any "evidence" is a formality, the judgement is fixed. Every time.

      You need only a announced speed and a register plate and 100% of the charges will stick. Of course, the motivation here is _money_ and collecting it.

      Who cares about justice where there's money to be made, eh?

  26. SImon Hobson Bronze badge

    IR LEDs and such

    I believe there have already been prosecutions for adding IR LEDs set up to 'dazzle' the cameras. I think "perverting the course of justice" was the charge.

    Of course, the obvious way to deal with the issue is to drive a popular make/model/colour of car and keep changing the plates regularly - every few weeks so you don't get caught out when some innocent owner starts getting all the nastygrams and has his registration record flagged as having been cloned. But I'm sure none of the criminals have thought of that yet ... oops, perhaps I shouldn't mention it.

    On the other hand, I have observed that (for some vehicles at least) it is possible to place the number plates so as to not to be visible to the cameras whilst being completely legal.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Even murderers may have justice but car owners may not.

      "I think "perverting the course of justice" was the charge."

      Which is ridiculous charge, the current road tax system at large is a giant perversion of the course of justice and big thievery which has no justice at all.

      Even murderers may have justice but car owners may not: Driving a car (ie. speeding) is _worse_ crime than murder. _Everyone_ is convicted while some percentage of murder charges are dropped. Not speeding charges, no no.

      And don't tell me that it's your choice: _Everyone speeds_. All. Including you.

      All it needs is one missed speed limit post (because you _couldn't see it_ because it was behind the lorry you were passing) and you a criminal. Posts convieniently are only on the one side of the road, as they were purposefully placed like that, eh?

      Whatever it makes to make more money.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    "raising the motorway speed limit to 90" - weather or not?

    And presumably also reducing the speed limit to 40 mph (say) in poor conditions ? Definitely 40mph for vehicles with fog lights switched on, because fog lights (front or rear) are for use exclusively in conditions of poor visibility, and 40mph would seem a fair speed limit for if the visibility is poor, whether it's motorway or anywhere else.


    A minor change to the Construction and Use regs would enforce this from the factory onwards without police involvement and with very little cost to drivers: 'fog lights on' (and/or 'wipers on') is an input to the engine management and restricts the maximum speed.

  28. Anonymous Coward

    "do nothing about unlicensed/uninsured cars "


    The ANPR (both fixed and in-vehicle - yes this stuff is in police cars and vans too) stuff talks **in real time** to a database that knows which vehicles are licensed and which vehicles are insured. If Plod want to wait nearby on a bike or whatever and come and get you as you drive past untaxed or uninsured, they can when it sees you, or there are other ways.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Surveillance and money

      "The ANPR (both fixed and in-vehicle - yes this stuff is in police cars and vans too) stuff talks **in real time** to a database that knows which vehicles are licensed and which vehicles are insured."

      And conviniently records to central database that were you are and what's your speed at the same time. Every time and every owner.

      It's all about surveillance and money the speed tax brings: No-one gives a damn about accidents.

  29. JaitcH
    Thumb Up

    Where can we buy "tiny inverted hemispheres"?

    Once again Register has revealed many useful facts. Thank you! No doubt many inventive minds will be researching the subject and even trying them out.

    Now I have to find a source for "tiny inverted hemispheres" - maybe 3M does them black paint.

    Or would painting over the existing "tiny inverted hemispheres" with white paint be sufficient to confuse the cameras?

    The infra-red LED sources are easy, rows of these surrounding the number plate should impress the hell out of the cameras.

  30. Mark C 2
    Thumb Up


    Get a motorcycle, motorcycles don't have number plates on the front, only on the back.

    1. Alfie Noakes


      Which is why those "nice" people at the Highway's Robbery^H^H^H^H^H^H^HAgency have just installed REAR facing SPECS/ANPR on the A38 between Weeford Island and Bassett's Pole (that's in WarksStaffWestMidlandshire). Oh, and they have reduced the speed limit on a dual carriageway from 70mph to 60mph just to help catch more fish :(

      Nowt to do with the regular bike meets on a Summer Tuesday's evening hey?

    2. Rakkor

      Not any more

      SPECS3 Cameras are also rear facing, so that little avenue of fun has been removed from us bikers

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Britain achieves efficiency Stasi could never dream of

    "The legislation will determine, by law, the use and retention of CCTV/ANPR images."

    Overly optimistic statement: It will make those mandatory with 5 years retention period: Stasi would have loved this kind of fully automatic surveillance society where _everyone_ is monitored _all the time_ and data stored in computer to be joined with other data automatically. The police don't have to ask you legendary "Where were you 5 years ago?", because _they know it better than you ever will_.

    Britain and other EU countries are only 40 years behind DDR in surveillance, but oh boy do they make use of modern technology in that and achieve efficiency Stasi could never dream of.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    I wonder how well they clean the data they collect.

    Forget your customised ego plates. I wanna see a good sql injection custom numberplate!

    Paris - also interested by sql injection?

  33. Mips
    Jobs Halo


    There is a significant difference between a Gatso and ANPR: Gatso is standalone ANPR is network attached. Then there is a question of the application of the technology. The Gatso is simple two images at a timed interval, originally on film but recently digital. This can be analysed at any time. ANPR when not set up correctly and also sometimes when the vehicle is not obligingly in the right position on the road can produce spurious results: they might produce three number for each vehicle and one might be correct.

    Now where is all this additional information traffic going to go and what about that remote camera in a country lane somewhere? Time to liven up all that dark fibre.

  34. david 12 Silver badge

    Number Plate recording in USA

    There are states in the USA where no average speed cameras are in use, on the basis that the Police State is not allowed to investigate and record you unless there is a reasonable suspicion that you have committed a crime

    Some of the Founding Fathers apparently thought that was a reasonable restriction on state powers.

  35. ShaggyDoggy


    ANPR cams are up poles. Work out the angle range that the hemispheres reflect back to cam. Tilt your plate from the top ever so sligthly so that the reflect will not hit the cam. Plate still perfectly visible to a human in visible light (check the regs)

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    IR Diodes no but...

    IR diodes don't work. Unless you have them angled exactly for every camera the picture will be taken. For IR based ANPR the only counter is a sheet of hot mirror material. Hot mirror is used to filter IR from the spectrum in photographic equipment whilst passing the visual range. So place it on your plate and it will look normal in visual light but all IR will be reflected. The camera just sees a very bright rectangle as the IR is reflected across the whole plate.

    Plods with ANPR in vehicles don't normally see the IR image they just get the numbers displayed and checked so you won't be found out that way, unless you are the only car on the road in which case they may wonder why yours doesn't register.

    Two problems however. Hot mirror is very expensive and is also fragile.

  37. srd275

    Any speed camera iis a bad policy

    Speed were never about safety. Any other version is no different. As the late Paul Smith of Safe Speed once stated on his web site. A speed camera is like using a hammer to fix a watch.

    Most speeding problems are the result of under set limits, not people going nuts. Further most speed related crashes (not simply speeding, but going TOO FAST for conditions) can occur above or below the limit. Many in fact occur below the limit and point to the fact that there is a small group of drivers who are unsafe AT ANY SPEED.

    You can't solve those problems by simply adhering to a political limit on the side of the road enforced by scameras.

    I would check out or

  38. Anonymous Coward

    A couple of things

    There have always been legally enforceable standards for registration plates and their visibility, that pre-date ANPR and Speed Cameras. It has always been illegal to obscure, use a silly font, variably space, and paint the securing bolt to turn a number into a letter. they have always been a good reason for the police to stop you if they want too.

    Also there are at least 30,000,000 vehicles on UK roads, if you were to record each one every time it passes an ANPR camera in a central database, and retain it for any length of time, you would have a very large and very expensive database, baring in mind that the government actually has to pay for the system to be maintained and used, and that some of the key tools tend to be priced on data volume. This is why very little ANPR data is retained, and that which is is only connected with active investigations, basically the government can't afford that level of surveillance, in either hardware or man power. Just because it's possible, doesn't mean it's done. ANPR mostly works on the, do I need to know about this vehicle, yes or no, if no, ignore it, or possibly retain the data locally for a short period and the throw it away. Systems like London Congestion charge have a financial imperative to retain the information and that's covered by the user charge, but there is no user charge on ANPR, you don't pay for it registering your vehicle.

    Also look at the benefits, ANPR helps in Criminal and Terrorist investigations, and helps identify people who don't pay their TAX, MOT and Insurance, something I pay moor than my fair share of because others don't.

    Your privacy is protected because you are just a few sightings out of 100's of million per day.

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