back to article London's King of Clamps shuts down numberplate camera site

The inventor of the much-hated London wheel clamp has shut down a website which advertised a automatic numberplate recognition system which he'd claimed was capable of spotting tax dodgers, disabled people and terrorists. Trevor Whitehouse voluntarily closed the site ANPRinabox.com after parking activists filed a complaint …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The small ironies of life.

    A bloodsucker getting Lyme disease....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      Re: The small ironies of life.

      Did you know syphilis is spirochaete like Lyme disease? Pity he didn't get that too.

      Great headline: Parasite gets infected by parasite carrying parasite.

    2. JC_

      Re: The small ironies of life.

      A bloodsucker getting Lyme disease....

      I've never understood the hatred toward parking-rule enforcement. Without enforcement, drivers take the piss and we end up with chaos and selfishness like in Rome or Bombay.

      If it's wheel-clamping in particular that's hated, keep in mind that fines don't always work. A sheik double-parked outside Harrods won't give a damn about a fine, but he won't want to come back to an immobilised or towed Bentley.

      1. Michael Hutchinson

        Re: The small ironies of life.

        The small irony is that one of the most widely used weapons against people parking in the wrong place, is to immobilise their vehicle so it stays in said place.

      2. T. F. M. Reader Silver badge

        Re: The small ironies of life.

        "Without enforcement, drivers take the piss and we end up with chaos and selfishness like in Rome or Bombay."

        Or maybe not, as proponents of "shared space" argue - and implement with reasonable success in Europe (notably in the Netherlands, but even in some places in Blighty) and beyond:

        http://www.spiegel.de/international/spiegel/controlled-chaos-european-cities-do-away-with-traffic-signs-a-448747.html

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shared_space

        1. JC_

          @ T. F. M. Reader

          Right at the bottom of the Spiegel article you linked to it states this:

          Now traffic is regulated by only two rules in Drachten: "Yield to the right" and "Get in someone's way and you'll be towed."

          Which is exactly my point! There has to be enforcement or it's chaos; not friendly chaos, but the bedlam of cars & trucks blocking the road simply because they get away with it.

          On Exhibition Road, the council says this: "Exhibition Road is a Restricted Zone with two way traffic along the whole length of the road. Parking is prohibited anywhere in the road except in marked parking bays. We do not need extra signs or ugly yellow lines to enforce a Restricted Zone."

          The yellow lines don't do the enforcement, the threat of fines/towing/clamping do!

        2. PatientOne

          Re: The small ironies of life.

          ""Without enforcement, drivers take the piss and we end up with chaos and selfishness like in Rome or Bombay."

          Or maybe not, as proponents of "shared space" argue"

          We have chaos and selfishness in the UK with parking. Just go near a school at kicking out time. Your link won't fix that: The parents already think they've got a right to park as close to the school as they can get, just so they don't have to walk so far to fetch their kids. Oh, and they also don't care if they block the road by standing in the way with their car doors open, getting their kids settled into the back of the car.

          It's one example, but there are a lot of schools and a hell of a lot of feckless parents.

          1. JC_

            Re: The small ironies of life.

            We have chaos and selfishness in the UK with parking. Just go near a school at kicking out time. Your link won't fix that: The parents already think they've got a right to park as close to the school as they can get, just so they don't have to walk so far to fetch their kids

            I couldn't agree with you more about the schools. I cycle past Pembridge Hall ("Preparatory School for Girls") in Notting Hill everyday and it's a nightmare; over-privileged parents thinking that £10,500 / year also gives them the right to park the 4x4 wherever they want, even if it causes accidents.

            All it needs is enforcement - there is none. I guarantee that if every illegally parked car was being ticketed/towed/clamped then the bad behaviour would stop overnight and we'd all be better off for it.

            1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

              Re: The small ironies of life.

              I couldn't agree with you more about the schools. I cycle past Pembridge Hall ("Preparatory School for Girls") in Notting Hill everyday and it's a nightmare; over-privileged parents thinking that £10,500 / year also gives them the right to park the 4x4 wherever they want, even if it causes accidents.

              All it needs is enforcement - there is none. I guarantee that if every illegally parked car was being ticketed/towed/clamped then the bad behaviour would stop overnight and we'd all be better off for it.

              There was a complete uproar at a school nearby that happened to be on a vital through road. The parents (following the usual rule of "requiring" the largest possible vehicles for the smallest, palest kids) couldn't possibly have their kids walk more than 30 seconds to their waiting personal-bus. It was often the case that they parked up a full hour before the school closed and waited, as close to the school as possible. Given that this waiting was on a bus stop, pedestrian crossing, single and double yellow lines, blocking private drives, too close to road junctions and so on, let alone the obligatory double parking and parking on both sides of the road, the parents were given notice that traffic wardens would visit the following week. Which they did then given the uproar of the lazy parents, the police had to be called to sort it out and the following week the police just started off escorting the traffic wardens. Then the parental health-and-safety brigade got involved and any child that walked (using their own legs for what they are designed for) more than 10 metres because they were no longer allowed to illegally and obstructively park where they damn pleased and had to walk along a, safe and wide, public footpath to where their car was parked.

              In the end the obnoxious parents made it so expensive for it to be policed / patrolled that the local authorities gave up trying to enforce the laws of the road.

            2. Ed_UK

              Re: The small ironies of life.

              "... gives them the right to park the 4x4 wherever they want..."

              May I propose a solution? Make it illegal to enable power-steering on any vehicle UNLESS it is in the posession of a bona fide farmer. That might just dissuade the mummies from deploying their tanks for the school run.

              1. fruitoftheloon
                WTF?

                Re: The small ironies of life.

                Ed,

                Unless of course you happen to live in the middle of Devon, and actually have used the beasty concerned (ours is a Jeep) to actually go exploring.

                Ironically when we bought it, the dealer was astonished that it won't just be used on the road.

                In our 150 yard long st there are 15 4x4s. Btw when it gets snowed in, the farmers and 4x4 owners sort out a roster to look after folk that need to visit doctors etc

                Isn't village life lovely?

                J.

        3. Youngdog

          @ T.F.M. Reader - Shared Space

          I am all for it - Exhibition Road at 30mph feels like The French Connection. Only sticky wicket I can see is the assumption that drivers (and pedestrians) are right minded people who will be more careful when faced with uncertainty. In the same way that our continental cousins tend to become gregarious when drunk rather than unruly like us Brits, our reactions to different stimuli can vary depending on cultural norms. What works for the Dutch might not work over here!

          1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

            Re: @ T.F.M. Reader - Shared Space

            Exhibition Road at 30mph feels like The French Connection

            Well the whole saga of Exhibition Road was pretty comical in a lot of ways, including the desire to hide everything so blind or visually impaired people, or more nobody all, knew where the pavement stopped and the road started.

            It was almost pleasant at one point when the speed limit was set to 15/20 mph and it was designated to be a pedestrian priority zone. Well, it was pleasant as a pedestrian when there were drivers who could read or just cared.

            Since it's back to "normal" now, it's the usual impending death trap of diplomatic cars driving along the pavements, taxis doing whatever they felt like doing (such as u-turns in the middle of busy traffic and driving within no lights) and the bedlam of the odd speeding lunatic or just gaggles of tourists finding repetitive ways to stand in the way of cycylists. My personal favourite was the inane restiction of the delivery access to the V&A museum which made it even harder for the poor buggers to reverse a semi-artic through narrow gates while trying to get out of the main road before they were accosted by taxi drivers.

            1. Stevie Silver badge

              Re: @ T.F.M. Reader - Shared Space

              Setting a speed limit at 15 or 20 mph is a waste of time anywhere in the world because people simply will not obey it (even the police and pushbikers from what I've observed).

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The small ironies of life.

          > Or maybe not, as proponents of "shared space" argue

          The bastards!!! Where's the fun in breaking the rules if there are no rules??? :'(

          Seriously though, I have noticed that the countries with the most courteous drivers are also those with less signage, very few roundabouts, and free of so-called "pacifiers", speed bumps and other stuff.

          I know correlation does not equal causation and all that, but it did get me thinking. I for one like living somewhere where when you give way to someone, not just him but also the drivers behind thank you, and where parking space fights are over yielding the place to the other driver.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The small ironies of life.

        Nothing wrong with parking rule enforcement. That's not what this is about. It's about someone taking rather more pleasure and/or profit from it than is normal or healthy.

      4. Psyx

        Re: The small ironies of life.

        "I've never understood the hatred toward parking-rule enforcement. Without enforcement, drivers take the piss and we end up with chaos and selfishness like in Rome or Bombay."

        Instead we're charged over a pound to rent thirty square feet of space with zero attached maintenance fees for an hour while traffic wardens circle like fat buzzards, waiting eagerly to charge us another 70 notes for going 5 minutes over.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Parking Enforcement

      Parking Enforcement is one thing.

      but the un-regulated private industry quickly turning into plain old extortion.

      That is the reason wheel clamping and vehicle towing on private property is now illegal, because the people doing the clamping couldn't control their greed and became a problem so they had their clamps taken off them.

      1. John Nuttall

        Re: Parking Enforcement

        Pity that the local councils that equally cannot control their greed don't get their clamps taken off them too. Parking regulation long ago stopped being about enforcing sensible parking and is now just a revenue raising scheme. Manchester being a classic example where the council has covered the city centre with double yellow lines and unused loading bays while increasing metered parking times to 8pm seven days a week damaging the city centre economy. Of course the council themselves have a private car park, some animals are more equal than others

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Maybe the site was cross referencing http://www.askmid.com/ and making the assumption that any uninsured vehicle was up to mischief?

    1. jonathanb Silver badge

      Well look at the claims in turn

      He claims his device can read number plates. I don't know if that is true, but OCR does exist, and it is possible with current technology to do that. It could be true.

      Lets look at the other claims:

      It can detect speeding. Average speed cameras do exist that record number plates and the time taken to get from one camera to another. This claim could be true.

      It can spot tax dodgers. If it was linked to DVLA's car tax database, then it could check that. Devices that do that are used. This claim could be true, but only in respect of car tax dodgers.

      It can spot disabled people. Blue badges are issued to people, not cars. You can use it if the badge holder is in the car, or if you are going to pick up the badge holder. It is not possible for this claim to be true.

      It can spot terrorists. There is no database of terrorists linked to registration numbers. MI5 and MI6 may have some terrorist-linked registration numbers on file, but there is no way you can make the claim that this devices will spot terrorists.

      It can spot car theives and shop lifters. If a car is reported stolen, the registration number is forwarded to police and traffic wardens, and they will look out for it. In this respect, it might find stolen cars some of the time. There is no way it could find shop lifters.

      1. JohnMurray

        Cars registered to disabled persons are zero-tax, so that would show in a dvla query.

        As for terrorit detection...maybe the car is registered to a Mr BinLaden?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          There's plenty of person related info logged against vehicle registration numbers on the Police National Computer, so throwing a VRN at the PNC and DVLA feeds would provide pretty much everything he claimed, except the current weight of the HGV.

          Although all he's doing is reading a registration number.

          Anon, because I didn't tell you that.

          1. BrownishMonstr Bronze badge

            ...except the current weight of the HGV.

            It is possible to calculate the weight assuming the following is known:

            • Model of the HGV
            • Characteristics of the HGV suspension springs, such as spring stiffness, original length with no cargo
            • Calculating the length of the suspension spring is precise and accurate

            By calculating the force:

            Change in Force = Spring Stiffness x Change in Spring Length.

            You can find the mass of the cargo:

            Change in Force = Change in Mass x g

            Divide Force by g (~10m/s2) you could calculate the mass of what's inside.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Sorry, no. A lot of lorries use air-pressure for suspension, or a combination.

              Also, springs get baggier as they are used. Two equal springs on the same model used for the same length of time would be different if -for example- one lorry routinely carries heavier loads than the other. There's too many variables and you'd need to know so much about the individual lorry and it's history that it'd be easier to simply drive it to a weighbridge.

              You might be able to use the ANPR box in conjunction with a pressure strip embedded in the road but my gut feeling is that there would be accuracy problems. Estimating the weight of a laden lorry from a self-contained box would seem to me to be a nugget of purest bollocks.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                A few tons, give or take a couple dozen.

                > Estimating the weight of a laden lorry from a self-contained box would seem to me to be a nugget of purest bollocks.

                Well, he didn't make any claims as to the *precision* of his estimate, did he?

              2. Vic

                > You might be able to use the ANPR box in conjunction with a pressure strip embedded in the road

                Such pressure hoses are used for measuring vehicle weight - but IME, this is purely for census gathering, not enforcement of any kind...

                Vic.

              3. DanDanDan

                I wonder if the frequency of oscillation could be added as an additional factor. That way, you have oscillation frequency in addition to height of the load (average height of the load given it's moving). Would that not be enough? I know it's complicated by the damping of the system (maybe assume critical damping? Then measure the time for the oscillation to settle and infer the spring constant and mass...)

          2. Stevie Silver badge

            There's plenty of person related info logged against vehicle registration numbers

            [MODE = "SINGSONG"]

            Rental ...

            [/MODE]

        2. A Nother Handle
          Holmes

          "Cars registered to disabled persons are zero-tax"

          JohnMurray, do you have a source for this claim? I'm not being awkward, it really would be useful to know.

      2. PatientOne

        "It can spot disabled people."

        Some vehicles are registered as disability vehicles: Specially modified for wheelchair users. Those his camera would be able to detect - it they linked to the DVLA.

        1. JimmyPage
          Headmaster

          @PatientOne

          Vehicles supplied to recipients of the mobility component of the higher rate of DLA* are eligible for a 100% discount on VED for their primary vehicle. So the DVLA database works there.

          However, not all cars with 100% VED exemption are driven by the person claiming the benefit. Like my wife, for example. Her eyesight is too poor to drive, so I am the driver.

          1. PatientOne

            Re: @PatientOne

            @JimmyPage

            Sorry, posted a bit quickly and wasn't clear on my point: His claim to detecting disabled drivers could be based on the detection of disability cars. Nothing to say the driver is disabled, just that the number plate appears on a 'disabled' list. However, as you notes, a lot of disability cars are driven by parnters or parents for the same reason why you drive for your wife, so the claim is misleading at best and fraudulant at worst.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: @PatientOne

              Been thinking more about this. Firstly, there's springs and springs. Spring A is made of lab-quality spring steel, manufactured to intolerant tolerances and individually licked to a mirror finish by master craftsmen. Spring B is cheaply imported from $country and is made out of whatever was in the yard that would fit in the smelter. They're going to perform differently.

              Another thing not considered is load distribution...if a lorry is loaded down one side with heavy stuff (does happen - it can get very boring in a warehouse) then any form of measurement using the appearance of the lorry is going to show it as massively overloaded on one side and slightly lighter than air on the other side. So even at best you'd need 2 boxes to look at each side of the lorry.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        BUT....

        remember most of the time crooks will change the number plate. So unless it can also match the plate with the type and colour of car.....?

      4. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

        "It can detect speeding. Average speed cameras do exist that record number plates and the time taken to get from one camera to another. This claim could be true."

        Knowing the time it takes to get from A to B wouldn't make it a clear breach of the law without some other levels of proof added.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          "Knowing the time it takes to get from A to B wouldn't make it a clear breach of the law without some other levels of proof added."

          But this is just how average speed cameras work. The photos and calculated average speed between cameras is a legally accepted piece of evidence.

          What they can't do is tell if you drove at 100mph after passing the first camera and then pulled over and stopped for a while before reaching the next camera.

          As per other posts further down, whether they actually work or not is a another matter.

  3. NomNomNom

    By recognizing plates that have appeared in two places too quickly he would be able to prove the vehicle must have sped between those points.

    By archiving plates he would be able to track the prior location of terrorists and criminals once their plate #s are known after the attack.

    By spotting spelling mistakes on personalized # plates he would be able to identify dislexics, which is a recognized form of disability.

    Any car with a Northern registration # is likely to contain one or more tax dodgers.

    So yeah it makes a lot of sense to me, it's a shame he got shut down. Another sad example of the crackdown on civil liberties.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @nom

      Nice

    2. Thomas 6

      I think you are getting confused. Us in the north are benefit scroungers. We don't have enough money to be genuine tax dodgers. Those are all in the south.

      1. TitterYeNot
        Coffee/keyboard

        "Us in the north are benefit scroungers. We don't have enough money to be genuine tax dodgers. Those are all in the south."

        Well played sir!

      2. Rob Daglish

        No, I'm in Copeland, so I'm now an Obese Benefit Scrounger. Official, innit?

    3. Otto is a bear.

      ANPR

      As London Congestion Charging found out, number plate recognition on its own is no good, there are cars around, and more than you would think, that have false plates, so vehicle images are captured for evidence. This is so that little old ladies living in Scotland don't get charged for Bob the Builder skipping the congestion charge. There is a difference between a disabled driver and a blue badge holder, the two are not the same. The disability exemption is linked to disability allowance entitlements, blue badges cover a wide range of disabilities.

      ANPR systems will flag vehicles of interest, for example, no tax or insurance, and depending on the installation will either have a local list, or will report all vehicles back to a server. One suspects that the Police have more than just that. There is one ANPR system that measures traffic speed between two points, but uses a one way hash of the plate to record the data.

    4. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "By recognizing plates that have appeared in two places too quickly he would be able to prove the vehicle must have sped between those points."

      Unless the plates have been cloned.

      Around 10% of cars in greater london are now running with no insurance and a lot of those are on fake plates. There's a known scam involving use of the same plate on multiple vehicles to avoid congestion charges, etc.

      As another poster noted, you'd need to match the model and colour too - and even that's not enough because putting the plates from an insurance writeoff onto a stolen car of the same description has been a scam operating for more than 30 years.

  4. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    Phone Phreaking?

    So he's started a crusade against phone freaking? Welcome to the last century or perhaps he has been reading this

    http://www.historyofphonephreaking.org/faq.php

    either way, this evil is hardly at the top of people thoughts these days. Let him spend his time solving something that really isn't important today.

  5. Ross K
    Black Helicopters

    Whitehouse has recently recovered from Lyme Disease and has launched a "crusade" against phone phreaking.

    Phone phreaking is a problem that needs a "crusade"??

    1. Frankee Llonnygog

      There's been a resurgence

      It's on the rise again since the discovery that you can use Mongolian throat singing to generate DMTF tones without hardware

      1. Ross K
        Thumb Up

        Re: There's been a resurgence

        Cool, all I need to do now is find a payphone.

        How hard could that be?

        1. Frankee Llonnygog

          Re: There's been a resurgence

          Just look out for the familiar red Mongolian Telecom yurt

  6. AlbertH

    Scary Stuff

    It actually scares me that so many people could be gullible enough to believe the claims of this clown - particularly at under £1000 per unit.

    I've worked on ANPR and £100k single point systems (like used in garages in an effort to stop "drive-aways") are never better than 45% accurate. The Police systems (typically £2m and upward) achieve close to 80% accuracy, but no better.

    There are NO systems with anything approaching 100% accuracy.

    Errors are very frequent, so if you're logged on the way into an "average speed" zone, you'll probably be missed on the way out (or vice versa) - they're no real deterrent at all. If you're "convicted" by one of these systems, ALWAYS contest it in court - the Police will invariably back down because they cannot be absolutely certain (to the degree required as "legal proof") that it was your car that they logged.

    The London "Congestion Zone" ANPR cameras actually are not automatic - they're bogus. There's a large room full of CCTV operators in Lambeth who watch video from the cameras, and type the numberplates in by hand. This is almost as flawed as the automated systems (so can usually be successfully contested)!

    ANPR? Don't make me laugh! Under £1000? Ha!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Scary Stuff

      It may be worth noting NOT to speed in those areas, as you cannot be certain the system was just a numberplate recorder, it may have taken time stamped photos too!

      1. JohnMurray

        Re: Scary Stuff

        Or you can use a motorcycle.

        Mines the BMW.

    2. dogged
      Boffin

      Re: Scary Stuff

      I currently work on ANPR and your figures are roughly correct, in daylight. Remarkably, we get closer to 90% accuracy at night using infra-red cams.

      (Aside - we find errors are actually more often a factor of OCR than ANPR as such. We get a clearer image to read at night using IR).

      The thing that got me about it was that most of this functionality is going to require a PNC check and each and every PNC check you perform will cost you money. It costs individual police forces, it would cost individuals a lot more, plus a full security screening and logging of all usage.

      On the whole, I find the notion of ANPR in a box unlikely. Not least because our mobile units are currently equipped with four daylight cams and one IR cam and getting something that can handle and decode five simultaneous streams for under a grand seems a bit like... well, bullshit, frankly.

      1. JeeBee

        Re: Scary Stuff

        So ANPR is a bit rubbish - which suggests the current numberplate system is not ideal.

        A QR-code of the numberplate would be quite small, and could be done in the form of a window sticker that is suitably reflective, and can be mounted on the rear and front windscreens (avoiding muddy numberplate syndrome).

        ANPR readers should be able to use suitably high resolution cameras that can actually detect these QR-codes in the images.

        So all that's required is for the government to issue these QR-codes to everyone in the country, and to make not displaying one an offence. Any image that an ANPR detects doesn't have the QR-code can go to human verification of the number plate and a fine for not displaying it (or for driving with obscured windows).

        But yeah, you're not going to sell such tech for a grand a box, are you?

        1. jonathanb Silver badge

          Re: Scary Stuff

          The font used for numberplates is designed for use with OCR systems. I'm not really sure a QR code would be any better. With the current system, if the computer can't read it, it can ask a human for help, and usually the human will be able to read the number plate from the photo. However, a human would not be able to read a QR code.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Scary Stuff

            > However, a human would not be able to read a QR code.

            Don't underestimate the geekiness of some people.

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Scary Stuff

          "A QR-code of the numberplate would be quite small, and could be done in the form of a window sticker that is suitably reflective, and can be mounted on the rear and front windscreens (avoiding muddy numberplate syndrome)."

          Thanks to the aerodynamics of estate cars, as well vans, buses, lorries etc, the backk is often very, very dirty, including the rear window of my car. With a centrally mounted rear wiper there's no where on my back window I could place a a QR code sticker that would be readable without obstructing my view.

          The same can apply to the front windscreen in that it's illegal (I think, IANAL) to attach things to the windscreen inside the area covered by the wipers or which will obstruct the drivers view of the road.

          (This includes satnavs stuck in front of the drivers face or just under the rear view mirror!!!!)

        3. Tim Bates

          Re: Scary Stuff

          "A QR-code of the numberplate would be quite small, and could be done in the form of a window sticker that is suitably reflective, and can be mounted on the rear and front windscreens (avoiding muddy numberplate syndrome)."

          You've never seen a car with a dirty window? A few km of proper dirt road will cover the windows in most cars with enough dust (or mud if it's been raining) to prevent stickers on/in the window being clearly visible.

      2. Peter Simpson 1
        Black Helicopters

        Re: Scary Stuff

        I currently work on ANPR and your figures are roughly correct, in daylight. Remarkably, we get closer to 90% accuracy at night using infra-red cams.

        Here in Massachusetts (actually, it covers the entire east coast of the USA), we have something called EZ-Pass. It uses a combination of RF transponders and ANPR to bill for tolls. It works up to 70 mph, and there are several examples of this up and running. At night, you can just see the visible bit of the IR flash as it reads the plates. The slow-speed lanes have fixed illumination and the plates, of course, are reflective.

        I suspect there is a manual reading of illegible plates going on, and I understand that the plates aren't used unless there's a problem with the transponder signal. Still, quite impressive.

        Yes, there's a whole subset of drivers who refuse to use it, because they don't want the guvmint tracking them. They're the ones in the long lines, which, according to our overlords, will soon be gone, as the system is about to displace the toll-takers (overpaid relatives of politicians), with license plate readers used to bill those without tags (at a higher rate, presumably)

        // and it sure beats having that ashtray full of change (or waiting while the chap in front of you digs through his)

      3. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Scary Stuff

        (Aside - we find errors are actually more often a factor of OCR than ANPR as such. We get a clearer image to read at night using IR).

        Surely the answer is to fit IR filters/lamps and NOT rely on daylight?

        1. dogged

          Re: Scary Stuff

          No. IR is directed whereas ambient light is all over the bloody place.

      4. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

        Re: Scary Stuff

        Some of the ANPR systems used in my city use active illumination and are quite accurate both day and night.

        The scene is illuminated with an infrared flash which works in conjunction with the license plate retroreflective background to produce a very high contrast image. I'm not certain, but some systems may take a second picture without the flash and subtract this background data from the IR illuminated one, leaving only the reflected regions in the data (a fast and expensive camera is needed).

        The resulting success rate is high enough to encourage compliance with tolling and parking regulations with a minimum of human oversight. You might get away with the occasional infraction, but with a reliability of over 50%, you will get caught more often than not.

        1. dogged

          @ Paul Hovnanian

          I agree that's a workable solution but it's not really my field. I do mobile ANPR fitted to squad cars so the light you have is all you have.

          To the person who states that banks of operators typing in number plates are part of the ANPR system - don't be ridiculous. The "A" stands for "automated".

    3. Neil McAliece

      Re: Scary Stuff

      With a hi resolution camera I'm sure the reliability of ANPR would get much better.

      1. dogged

        @Neil McAliece

        Probably not - the issue is not the clarity of the frames usually; more often it's the OCR being unable to cope with the angles involved.

        This changes under IR because the letters/digits on EU numbers are not in fact reflective but the rest of the plate is.

        It's an offence under UK law to make the letters on your number plates reflective by any means, but actually rather simple to do and (for obvious reasons) hard to enforce.

    4. Steven Jones

      Re: Scary Stuff

      ANPR average speed cameras do not rely on the number plate recognition for proof of speeding. They are backed up with photographic evidence. In that respect they have the same issues as fixed location speed cameras. So miss-identification can still happen, even with humans reading plates, not to mention the problem of cloned plates. However, the system is not dependent on the number plate recognition algorithms for convictions as they would certainly not be sufficient evidence.

      Also, it doesn't require 100% accuracy, or anything approaching that to be a deterrent to speeding. It only requires a credible chance of being caught. Even if there was only a 10% chance of being caught (which would require only about 30% accuracy), how many people would be willing to take the chance, especially as you might go through hundreds of such sections every year (long roadworks often have several of these sections).

    5. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Scary Stuff @AlbertH

      The problem is that with ANPRinabox.com taking the website down, we will probably never know what was being sold exactly. But looking at the page El Reg refers to and the other pages on the WaybackMachine, it is obvious (to me) that what is being sold is a service offering, not a standalone ANPR appliance!

      What London Congestion Charging is running is an ANPR system, that room full of operators is part of the system! In fact once you look at it that way, all the claims made by ANPRinabox.com that el reg lists can be substantiated!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Scary Stuff @AlbertH

        "The font used for numberplates is designed for use with OCR systems. I'm not really sure a QR code would be any better."

        Yeah it would...you could auto-goatse the police several times per day. Seems better to me.

    6. fruitoftheloon
      Thumb Down

      Re: Scary Stuff

      The london cameras are bogus?

      My derriere matey, I was lucky enough to be one of the core team that actually managed the project to deliver the first iteration.

      I also spotted the info about 10% of vehicles in london having cloned plates, funnily enough tfl didn't mention that in their bid documents

      In the first version tfl wanted three teams of 10 folk 'checking' that the vehicles having flagged up as not paid what they should have 24/7 (hence apparently due a fine), were those that matched the visual (colour camera shot) with that from the relevant dvla record. We proved that employing people to do this would actually make the system less accurate...

      TfL never were terribly good with numbers!

      I seem to recall the first cloned vrm (a red mondeo i think) that popped up was apparently that of a senior tfl manager. We were pretty sure it wasn't his car as it was parked in our car park at the time...

      My ha'pennies...

  7. John 98

    Probably true

    If you have access to enough camera feeds, police logs etc., surely you can do everything he claims - E & O E, as someone has pointed out? As Freedom of Information brings various benefits, it also brings this rather dubious one. Short of passing a law (unenforceable) against data mining - ha! ha! - I suspect we have to learn to live with it.

    Freedom of information = Death of Privacy - discuss! I feel a Reith Lecture coming on.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ASA

    The ASA... ah, yes. The advertising industry's self-regulation chocolate teapot, "that ad campaign which you ran several months ago and is long since finished anyway was misleading and shouldn't appear again in that form, which is irrelevant since you've long since replaced it with some other misleading ads instead. Also here's a token rebuke"

  9. Scott Broukell
    Meh

    Just wondering?

    What might be the reaction of a (future coming to you soon) self-drive Google Car et al to being clamped. Would said vehicle perhaps be aware, via sensors, that it had been clamped (and therefore advise its owner accordingly) or would it make every attempt to drive off when later commanded by it's, remote, owner? Perhaps future clamps will have embedded chippery that will alert said vehicle to the clamping predicament? - but then fiendish souls could rig clampless chippery to just disable the vehicle by making it think it was clamped. Or, better still, said vehicle might be able to detect approaching clampers and remove itself to another, less clamp-prone, location. Just saying.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Just wondering?

        surely you could just tell it to drive around the block a few times while you do your shopping?

        Exactly, which will play merry hell with traffic congestion schemes. Even allowing for fuel costs it's probably still cheaper to do that than to park in most cities these days.

    2. Boothy Silver badge

      Re: Just wondering?

      You get clamped for parking illegally (or at least that should be the reason).

      But no need to do that with a self driving car, as long as the law allows it to continue driving without you in it..

      I can image you'd drive to where you want to go. Find no parking spaces near by, or only very expensive ones. So get out and tell the car to go find a space somewhere else.

      If you're going to be a while, the car could drive a mile or two out of town and park somewhere for free. Then just head back to pick you up with a press of a button in an app.

      If you're only there for a short while, get the car to drive around for a bit.

      None of this is exactly environmentally friendly, but if they don't provide adequate or affordable parking, it's what they will get.

      1. ravenviz

        Re: Just wondering?

        Clever solution:

        • pay your tax

        • pay your insurance

        • obey speed limits

        • park where you're allowed

        • pay for it

        Penalties are meant to be, er, penalties.

        *I have a friend who does not pay on trains because 'it should be free', go figure!

        1. ElectricFox
          Terminator

          Re: Just wondering?

          You think it's bad with the number of cars taking up road space with only 1 person in them... Wait until the fleets of empty driverless cars being sent to free parking take over!

          1. Scott Broukell
            Meh

            Re: Just wondering?

            Dear Sir, I should very much like to register a complaint with regard to your Auto-E-car Parking map system. Last Thursday afternoon, whilst visiting my tailor on the Commercial Road, my vehicle promised me, in all good faith, that, having dropped me off at said establishment, it would promptly dispatch itself to a legitimate and legal, clamp-free, parking zone and await my further instruction, whilst measurements were taken and the finest cloth examined. Upon completion of my duties at the outfitters I summoned my vehicle forth, but, alas, to no avail. It later transpired that due to a 'glitch' in said mapping system, my vehicle had rather unwisely chosen the Shadwell Basin as a legitimate parking zone. It will take me months to dry out the patent leather seat covers and damasc covered interior upholstery, let alone drain the rest of the mechanical parts. I demand you recompense me forthwith and also refund the 3 Guineas, 11 and sixpence I was forced to hand over in order to be ferried home on public transport! Please ensure that your systems are kept up to date at all times henceforth.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Just wondering?

        "park somewhere for free."

        It'll be the only choice until someone manages to make a reliable robotic arm so the car can reach around under the seat for some change and insert it into the parking meter/ticket machine as well as a camera with OCR to read the instruction which buttons to press and when, possibly having to type in the cars reg. number too.

        Yes, there are "pay by phone" systems, but that's only of use if you've already registered and the car can identify the parking location code on the sign.

  10. Chad H.

    Considering all the ASA seems to be able to do is say "Please don't run that ad exactly like that again", I think he doth protest too much.

  11. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Happy

    Have we found Matt Bryant's real identity?

    There's a certain "quality" to the man's comments that suggests we might.

  12. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Thought I'd have a play

    my computer can read in about 2000 characters of text on an A4 sheet with about 95% accuracy in about a second. That's lower and upper case and a mix of fonts.

    ANPR should be pretty easy.

    Need some way of accessing the police databases now...

    Oh look there's a fifty on the floor officer, have you dropped that can I get it for you...

    1. Richard Plinston

      Re: Thought I'd have a play

      > ANPR should be pretty easy.

      Are you suggesting that cars should be fitted with clip on number plates so that they can be put into a flat bed scanner for recognition purposes ?

  13. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    WTF?

    All that *without* a 2nd camera or linkup to DVLC or other database?

    I smell BS.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    >Clamps King insisted the system was capable of all these things and more.

    It even knows why kids love Cinnamon Toast Crunch!?

  15. Frenchie Lad

    And the Weight

    I've worked on weighing in motion systems for HGVs so that part of the claim is feasible except of course it costs quite a bit more

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: And the Weight

      @Frenchie

      AveryWeightronix ? I worked on a project back in 2000 to implement an ANPR module to the stock weighbridge suite ("Weighman") as more companies wanted unmanned weighbridges without the drivers having to do *anything* (it was scary how many of them managed to fail to swipe a card).

      Had a great day out at the NEC at an artificial vision exhibition. Some of the ANPR stuff even then was quite good. And expensive !

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: And the Weight

        Aren't many weight limits "unladen weight" - On car spares websites you can enter your number plate and it shows your exact make and model - so it wouldn't be too hard to cross reference that against the weight of the vehicle...it's not too much to assume this would be possible for lorries.

        On balance many of his claims look plausible/possible.

      2. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: And the Weight @AC

        >implement an ANPR module to the stock weighbridge suite

        Whilst this would satisfy the fuzzy requirement "determine the weight of an HGV", looking at another page (web.archive.org/web/20130128125943/http://www.anprinabox.com/products.html) it is obvious what ANPRinabox actually mean:

        "Tolls: Having read the number plate we can determine the make model of a vehicle and charge accordingly. Caravans and trailers can also be detected with additional cameras.

        Weight limit: In a similar manner to 'tolls' a HGV can easily be detected and prosecuted."

        This page is also interesting as it effectively defines exactly what ANPRinabox claim for their product, in it there are no statements that supports the AC 'parking activists' complainant's claim that "ANPR in a Box claimed their cameras could automatically check whether a driver was disabled, assess whether a car's tax was up to date, determine the weight of an HGV and check whether a car has valid road tax or MOT." So suspect the AC 'parking activists' complaint was deliberately malicious, which raises a question just how much effort ASA put's into confirming the basis of the complaints it receives...

  16. Caesarius
    Joke

    Obligatory Steven Wright Quote (1)

    I had trouble goin' home from there 'cause I parked my car in a tow-away zone. When I came back, the entire area was gone. ... For a while, I didn't have a car, I had a helicopter. But I had nowhere to park it so I used to just tie a rope to it and leave it runnin'.

    (1) Well, I think it should be obligatory.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Happy

      Re: Obligatory Steven Wright Quote (1)

      That would be the one with "I was in a speed reading accident. I hit a comma at full speed." ?

  17. IsJustabloke
    WTF?

    Er....

    we were able to see his company's claims that the ANPR in a box system could detect "car thieves, terrorists or undesirables such as shop lifters"

    Shop lifters? ANPR can detect shop lifters?!?!?!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Er....

      Shop lifters? ANPR can detect shop lifters?!?!?!

      Yeah. If it sees daylight under Debenhams it takes a photo.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What is it with the name Whitehouse?

    Does it predispose people to being raging arsehats?

  19. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    Hooooold on ... I seem to remember another Whitehouse who believed it to be her Purpose On Earth to get in everyone else's business. Any relation, or is the name just a magnet for this sort of nonsense behavior?

  20. ComputingData

    Phreaking!

    I've known Trev for ages and he's not really a bad bloke. What shocked me is what he said about Phreaking and his mountaing a campaign against it....

    My first thought was that the reporter had put that in just to get Trev hacked to death (I don't mean in the literal sense!). So I rang him up, and he admitted he did say that!!!

    I was shocked, as I may or may not have been a hacker in the past (with a particular taste for Phreaking!). ;p

    Anyhow, it turns out that Trev misunderstood what the terms meant and is really after a 'gang' of people from Serbia who used his SIP PABX to front a cheap telephone call system. Nothing to do with Phreaking, just a bunch of script kiddies ripping someone off. lol.

    If 'Jasper Hamill' would like to get in touch with Trev them I'm sure he can explain things further, might make another good article.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Phreaking!

      We do tend to overlook the 'dark web', which is increasing in size and contains many systems such as SIP servers that are attracting attention from undesirables.

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