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New Speed Cameras Catch You From Space 351

Posted by samzenpus
from the no-place-to-run-or-speed dept.
A new kind of speed camera that uses satellites to measure average speed over long distances is being tested in Britain. The "Speedspike" system combines plate reading technology with a global positioning satellite receiver to calculate average speed between any two points in the area being monitored. From the article: "Details of the trials are contained in a House of Commons report. The company said in its evidence that the cameras enabled 'number plate capture in all weather conditions, 24 hours a day.' It also referred to the system's 'low cost' and ease of installation." I can't wait to see the episode of MythBusters where they try to avoid getting a speeding ticket from a satellite.

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New Speed Cameras Catch You From Space

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  • Really? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by AnonymousClown (1788472) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @09:14AM (#31922496)

    The AA said it would watch the system “carefully” but it did not believe there was anything sinister. “It is a natural evolution of the technology that is out there,” a spokesman said.

    Ones "Natural evolution" is another's slippery slope.

    • Ones "Natural evolution" is another's slippery slope.

      A slippery slope into the claws of Skynet! This is how it starts people ...

    • Re:Really? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by vikingpower (768921) <<exercitussolus> <at> <gmail.com>> on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @10:49AM (#31924106) Homepage Journal
      Technology does not have such a thing as "natural evolution". Technology's evolution is guided by human beings according to certain needs and rationales.
  • Horribly misleading (Score:5, Informative)

    by pushing-robot (1037830) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @09:16AM (#31922528)

    The cameras are here on earth. They're just synchronized using GPS so the system can tell how long a vehicle takes to go from one checkpoint to the next.

    Data sheet

    • by pushing-robot (1037830) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @09:17AM (#31922538)

      Sorry about the broken link. The data sheet is here [pipstechnology.com]

    • by natehoy (1608657) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @09:18AM (#31922554) Journal

      Drat. And here I was hoping that MythBusters really would try to debunk that myth, and in typical fashion conclude the episode by blowing the satellite out of the sky.

      • by rvw (755107)

        Drat. And here I was hoping that MythBusters really would try to debunk that myth, and in typical fashion conclude the episode by blowing the satellite out of the sky.

        I think this would significantly advance privately funded space programs. Nothing motivates people (the male kind) more than destructing speed camera's.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Kazymyr (190114)

        If you mount your license plate on a spinning frame and make it rotate clockwise at 66 RPM, while at the same time rotating in front of it a sheet of polarized glass at 45 RPM in counterclockwise fashion, you make it much harder for any camera, satellite- or ground-based, to capture an image of it.

        Just a hint. [/tongue-in-cheek]

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Lumpy (12016)

          Better solution, fresnel lens. it significantly reduces the off axis legibility. use one that is only an inch off the plate and even a few degrees off center will be obscured and blurry.

          • by cayenne8 (626475)
            How about surrounding your license plate with a bunch of IR LED's....doesn't that blind [boingboing.net] CCTV cameras?

            If not that, sure would be cool to come up with some type of targeting system that would aim a laser into the camera lens and blinding it as you go by.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Kijori (897770)

            Given that the penalties for obscuring your licence plate are more severe than those for speeding it might be better to employ something a little less obvious to other drivers.

    • by Lord Lode (1290856) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @09:20AM (#31922588)

      The position and distance between the two camera checkpoints on Earth is known. And the time when you're at both checkpoints is known. Seems like a simple calculation to me. Why is there a satellite needed for this?

      If it were a camera on the satellite that recognizes the plates, now that would have been scary!

      • by wjousts (1529427) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @09:27AM (#31922690)
        To compensate for continental drift?
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        My guess is they'll use some kind of straight-line calculation with compensation built in for taking roads rather than actually driving in a straight line in order to estimate someone's speed. But how can they really prove anything when they have no idea what route was taken and how fast the car actually went? Technically all they're doing is taking a photo of something in two different spots at two different times. There's nothing being done to actually measure speed directly. How do they come up with
        • by Rogerborg (306625) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @10:05AM (#31923402) Homepage

          This is stupid.

          Well, I'm glad you're at least that self aware.

          A moment's thought would reveal that the road distance cannot be shorter than the straight line distance. If you set the cameras up to calculate speed based on the time and straight line distance, then the actual vehicle speed must be at least that speed or faster. They only have to show that you must have exceeded the speed limit, not exactly what speed you were doing.

          Roads may have different speed limits.

          Well, golly, you've got them there. There's no way they could set up the camera sites so that they can show that the calculated speed exceeded the maximum for any of the possible routes. I mean, an $80 SatNav can do those sort of devilish calculations, but no human is capable of such infernal feats of arithmagic!

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by ectoraige (123390)

          They don't have to know what route was taken. All they need to know is the fastest time you can possibly make the journey between points A and B without exceeding the speed limit, irregardless of routes. Sure, if somebody takes a few detours at twice the speed limit the system might not catch them.

          They don't have to have a solid number for your velocity. All they need is to show is that it was not possible to make the journey you made in the time you did without speeding. For the system to work as an effect

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by unts (754160)
            I hate to pick on people, but seeing your command of English seems generally good here goes... irregardless is not a word. It's either "irrespective", or "regardless", not a redundant mash of the two as that would be redundant.

            (Yeah, that last bit was on purpose.)
            • by MadKeithV (102058) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @10:30AM (#31923852)

              I hate to pick on people, but seeing your command of English seems generally good here goes... irregardless is not a word. It's either "irrespective", or "regardless", not a redundant mash of the two as that would be redundant. (Yeah, that last bit was on purpose.)

              Inconceivable!

            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by delinear (991444)

              Sounds like a perfectly cromulent word to me!

              Actually, the first recorded use of the word was, I believe, in the 1870s and it's endured pretty consistently since that time. I wonder at what point it becomes a real word, despite the redundancy. More interestingly, the term "mash" doesn't seem to mean what you think it does, it means to pulp something, not to mix two things together, so I'm guessing you either mean "mashup", which itself is a made up word with far less heritage than the one you're complaining

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by Red Flayer (890720)

            They don't have to know what route was taken. All they need to know is the fastest time you can possibly make the journey between points A and B without exceeding the speed limit, irregardless of routes. Sure, if somebody takes a few detours at twice the speed limit the system might not catch them.

            That's all well and good for the normals out there, but what about people like me?

            I never exceed the speed limit (ever!), but I routinely bend space in a loop for an immeasurable instant to pinch off the boring p

            • So what the hell am I supposed to do in the face of this annoying setup?

              Stop defying the laws of physics?

        • by feepness (543479)

          But how can they really prove anything when they have no idea what route was taken and how fast the car actually went?

          Especially the part where I loaded the car onto a car carrier just after point A and unloaded just before point B and THAT'S what actually exceeded the speed limit.

      • by Jezza (39441)

        Actually joining up the "sightings" of the car is pretty scary. I can see huge potential for abuse of this information either in realtime or retrospectively.

        • by rwa2 (4391) *

          Actually joining up the "sightings" of the car is pretty scary. I can see huge potential for abuse of this information either in realtime or retrospectively.

          Actually, I think it will be extremely fun to get identical plates on similar cars and see how fast I can convince the system the car was traveling...

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by fotbr (855184)

            I like the way you think. How many people are going to be driving cars with a cardboard version of Gordon Brown's tag taped over theirs?

          • by hcpxvi (773888) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @09:42AM (#31922968)
            Well, in the UK a trailer has to have a plate on the back that matches that of the car that is towing it. But it is quite common to see trailers with two plates on: the regular owner's plate stuck on quite firmly and that of the bloke he lent it to tied on with a piece of string. I therefore anticipate a rash of incidents where a trailer gets lent to someone and the owner then gets a £50000 fine and 3000 points on his licence for exceeding the speed of sound in a built-up area.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Glonoinha (587375)

          This is already happening in the US.
          They convicted a guy in Florida of a murder that happened in the NorthEast (like NY or Boston or something) based on his FastPass hitting the toll booths between the two. Granted it wasn't camera shots per se, but the technology is there and they are using it.

          • by cayenne8 (626475)
            "They convicted a guy in Florida of a murder that happened in the NorthEast (like NY or Boston or something) based on his FastPass hitting the toll booths between the two. Granted it wasn't camera shots per se, but the technology is there and they are using it."

            Hmm...note to self, if I ever live where I have to hit toll booths...pay cash.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by natehoy (1608657)

            Yes. If I recall the case correctly, his defense was that he could not have committed the murders because he was so far away, but the prosecution subpoenaed his FastPass logs and discovered that he not only drove up the highway on the day of the murder, but that the timing of his FastPass use coincided with the time of the murder.

            Keep in mind, though, that he was not convicted based on this evidence. He was convicted based on a bunch of other evidence. His primary defense was disproved using this evidenc

            • by I'm not really here (1304615) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @12:16PM (#31926166)
              No, it has not gotten anywhere for one simple reason:

              People would stop using the FastPass and would return to cash.

              Traffic would increase significantly, the cost of maintaining the entrance and exit points would increase due to additional staff required, and people would still speed, but no longer would get ticketed.

              The point of FastPass was to make it easier to collect money from drivers and to eliminate staffing costs. Adding in automatic speeding tickets to the system would kill the primary reason for the system's existence.
              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by russotto (537200)

                No, it has not gotten anywhere for one simple reason:

                People would stop using the FastPass and would return to cash.

                Right. Which is why they won't start doing it until pass-only routes become commonplace, so you can't return to cash.

                • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                  by wastedlife (1319259)

                  I noticed that most new exits built in the past year or two in my area are pass-only. So don't downmod the parent as being paranoid. We need as many people as possible using cash-only so that it would be too much of a loss in profits for them to drop the cash lanes.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Since the data sheet mentions that the cameras can endure long communications outages with the main network, they need a good way of tracking time. Putting a GPS receiver in to get accurate time signals may be cheaper than adding a very accurate clock.

        Embedding a GPS time code in images would also be more effective from a legal standpoint, since a defendant couldn't argue that the camera's internal clock was inaccurate.

        The cameras could also potentially determine their own location, saving a bit on install

        • by Marcika (1003625)

          [T]hey need a good way of tracking time. Putting a GPS receiver in to get accurate time signals may be cheaper than adding a very accurate clock.

          That can't be the reason; synchronizing to DCF77 time by radio is accurate up to the nanosecond and has been since 1973 -- and the receivers literally only cost pennies.

          • by vlm (69642) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @10:02AM (#31923360)

            That can't be the reason; synchronizing to DCF77 time by radio is accurate up to the nanosecond and has been since 1973 -- and the receivers literally only cost pennies.

            Perhaps the GPS clock works better than a DCF77 clock at high temperatures... like when the gatso is set on fire... See pics:

            http://www.speedcam.co.uk/gatso2.htm [speedcam.co.uk]

            Also, Conrad's 641138-89 DCF77 module is more like ten pounds, rather than "literally pennies" or whatever. At that price, what the heck, may as well upgrade to the GPS unit, especially if there are later plans to use the location data for something (tagging the ticket? Automatic distance determination to do the V=d/t calculation? Who knows?)

          • by delt0r (999393) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @10:29AM (#31923820)
            Any radio system can't be accurate to the nanosecond without position information relative to the transmitter, since light can only travel about 30 cm in that time. DCF77 is no exception.
        • by KDN (3283)

          The devices probably use GPS to get a time and location fix. Later on they probably upload data to a central computer that figures out who has to be speeding based on the maps between the various points.

          Have to wonder if these guys are using GPS receivers that are resistant to spoofing. You could really screw with the speed calculations if you make the unit think its somewhere else, or slew the time. A common theme in comp.risks is that designers of new products often rush to get products out to market, a

      • by oldspewey (1303305) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @09:34AM (#31922846)

        Why is there a satellite needed for this?

        Because just like how adding bacon makes any food better, adding satellites makes any technology better.

      • by hcpxvi (773888)
        My guess is that the GPS allows all the cameras on the system to have their clocks synchronised to the required level of accuracy. (GPS works by the satellites having atomic clocks on, after all). It may also provide accurate locations for each camera. Taken together with a digitised road map (to account for the fact that roads are not straight) you could then do the required calculation without having to measure the road distance between each pair of cameras.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by clone53421 (1310749)

          Yes, and you could potentially design a camera that could be put wherever you want, paired with another camera also wherever you want, and the system would adapt to its new location automatically. The system could synchronize with the GPS signal, locate the cameras on their digital map, calculate the road distance between them, and know the speed limit of the road on which the cameras were placed... all automatically. They could move the cameras every day if they wanted to. The only thing that a human would

      • The position and distance between the two camera checkpoints on Earth is known. And the time when you're at both checkpoints is known. Seems like a simple calculation to me. Why is there a satellite needed for this?

        I'm just guessing here, but satellite communication is one of the easier ways to do relatively low power long distance communication between far away places where it's uneconomical to run cable (do newscasters still report by satellite when they do on site reporting?). Assuming running cable isn't cost effective, really, the options are satellite, or cell tower communication (straight radio transmission over long distances requires a lot of power).

        Not positive why they're not taking advantage of the cell to

      • by T-Bone-T (1048702)

        Because the time isn't actually known. If Camera A records a vehicle at 16:41:38, according to its own, clock and Camera B records the vehicle exactly 1 mile later at 16:42:35, according to its own clock, the vehicle seems to be traveling at a certain speed that is not known to the driver. What if the vehicle was actually driving at 60mph? What if Camera A's clock is fast and getting faster or Camera B's clock is slowing down? By using a satellite to provide the time, all cameras have the same time and t

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by natehoy (1608657)

        The position and distance between the two camera checkpoints on Earth is known.

        Except for portable speed cameras, which I suspect is what this technology is all about. Actually, upon further reflection, this is probably more about eliminating the speed detection technology, and replacing it with simple "point-a-to-point-b" measuring.

        A GPSr chip is cheap, easy to use, and makes a camera aware of its own location. Hell, we've got consumer pocket cameras in the $300 range that can geotag images using a built-in GPS now. And I think that's what they are looking at here - eliminating th

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Thanshin (1188877)

      He's right. The cameras are ground based.

      The satellite is only needed in case a repeated offender has to be nuked from space.

    • by mapkinase (958129)

      So they track our movements now and if you moved from checkpoint A to checkpoint B too fast, they will fine you?

      Why not just give everybody a radio bracelet so they can monitor our jaywalking, visiting potential terrorist friends, and basically how often we take number 2.

      • by dr2chase (653338)
        Strictly speaking, they are tracking your car's movements.

        Clearly, you need a bicycle. Or maybe, a jetpack.
  • by Madman (84403) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @09:18AM (#31922548) Homepage

    Are you kidding?

    1) find the GPS receiver
    2) shoot GPS receiver with .50 Desert Eagle semi-automatic pistol
    3) write a letter to Gordon Brown telling him to fuck off

    • You missed the step about smuggling a Desert Eagle into the country.

    • Or install a GPS jammer in your car.

      In Belgium they're doing the same thing with video-analysis on "checkpoints" where they have traffice-cameras. At these locations (not gps) on which data they calculate your average speed. If you've been speeding on the trajectory, you'll be fined. No workaround yet, other then maybe a licenseplace SQL injection attack [areino.com].

    • by vlm (69642)

      Are you kidding?

      1) find the GPS receiver
      2) shoot GPS receiver with .50 Desert Eagle semi-automatic pistol
      3) write a letter to Gordon Brown telling him to fuck off

      As a quick examination of

      http://www.speedcam.co.uk/gatso2.htm [speedcam.co.uk]

      will show, the S.O.P. is to place a tyre around the camera and ignite. You see, you have to pay to purchase ammunition, but worn out tyres are free.

    • Actually, the two most popular methods of damaging the GATSO speed cameras currently in use are either throwing a tyre over the supporting arm and filling it with petrol, or drilling a hole in the side of the case and filling the body with expanding insulating foam. I hear that both are quite effective. Somebody also suggested elsewhere wrapping clingfilm around the whole thing; Even one layer is enough to foul the image to the point of the plate being unreadable.

      Guns aren't needed, just a little ingenuity
  • Will rain fade make so you can speed in the rain and not get a ticket?>\

    • Err, no. But it does make it more likely you'll crash and die - a sure way to avoid the ticket (or at least it's "ill effects" - the "death" thing kinda sucks though)

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by dotancohen (1015143)

      Will rain fade make so you can speed in the rain and not get a ticket?

      Only in a real heavy downpour, and you need to be flying (at least 120 KPH). Be careful not to slow down for "obstacles" such as turns and bumps, or they'll read your plate. Let us know how it works out.

  • How the hell can this be considered low cost and easy to install? I thought that sending things into space was expensive and since we strapped it to a rocket and waited for the fuel to explode that would not be very easy. And tickets from space seems a little unnecessary to me.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by wjousts (1529427)
      Nonsense. Fines for speeding will simply be increased to about £1,000,000. It'll pay for itself in no time.
    • by T-Bone-T (1048702)

      They are already in space. They are just adding GPS receivers to the cameras to synchronize the times.

  • mythbusters (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Fëanáro (130986) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @09:28AM (#31922702)

    The mythbuster episodes about speed cameras are horribly boring, since you know from the start that if they were to find something that actually works and is feasible, they would not be allowed to air it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Culture20 (968837)

      The mythbuster episodes about speed cameras are horribly boring, since you know from the start that if they were to find something that actually works and is feasible, they would not be allowed to air it.

      Except they did find and air one way: The changing plate system. Even more illegal than speeding though...

  • This sounds no different from VASCAR [wikipedia.org] which has been used since the 60s.
  • by SleepingWaterBear (1152169) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @09:32AM (#31922810)

    This isn't about speeding tickets. This is about creating a nationwide tracking system for Britain's highways. If they have cameras that can recognize license plates along Britain's highways, with all the information from all the cameras aggregated in one database, do you think they won't give the police access to this information to help track criminals?

    Given the recent history in Britain, it's a safe bet that the police will have immediate warantless access to this information, and thus the ability to track all the cars in Britain. I'm not sure this is completely a bad thing, but there are certainly some significant privacy concerns at play here. What if police officers decide to abuse this information? What sort of checks are in place to make sure it's only used for legitimate purposes? I could be wrong, and they might not be giving police access to the camera data, but, given the recent history, I would be shocked if they weren't.

    • by Madman (84403)

      Given how insecure government databases in the UK have proven to be I'm just as concerned about organized crime getting ahold of this info.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by slimjim8094 (941042)

      On the spectrum from 'privacy abuse' to 'legitimately useful', this would be a *lot* closer to legitimately useful than most things we hear about (like the London cameras).

      Is there potential for abuse? Of course. But cops are already looking for stolen plates, cars matching stolen descriptions, and I don't think that's a bad thing. This automates that.

      If it's done properly, it's not a threat to liberty - require a warrant, etc. It's well-established, whether we like it or not, that our use of the roads by d

    • by gizmonic (302697)

      What sort of checks are in place to make sure it's only used for legitimate purposes?

      What constitutes "legitimate"? After all, with changing political whims, what is "legal" today could be "illegal" tomorrow, and suddenly a "legitimate" use becomes much less so, even if it is technically "legal". Godwin's law aside, Nazi Germany was following it's own laws in most of what it did, but I doubt most people would call any of it "legitimate". Give a government a tool, and it will abuse it eventually.

      The government has no need to know where I am at any given point of the day, and trashing the pri

  • Hey, I've got a better idea: How about we have actual police officers on the streets? The nice thing about police officers is that instead of merely pedantically punishing the most measurable of laws long after the infraction has occurred, they can detect harmful behavior in progress even when it does not meet specific technical parameters and intercede. A visible presence also has an enormous deterrent effect on all kinds of criminal and negligent behavior. And even better, they are available to help with

    • by jimicus (737525)

      I believe the money from speed cameras in the UK by and large does go to the local constabulary.

      This has led to a situation where once you've been caught on camera, it can be remarkably difficult to get off even if there is demonstrably something wrong with the camera and you are demonstrably not guilty.

  • Cynicism (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MaWeiTao (908546) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @10:15AM (#31923580)

    I'm convinced that the only way to reduce crime and foster a positive relationship between the police and citizens is to have cops on the beat, walking the streets. This way they're forced to interact with people. Having them speed by in patrol cars, and even worse sit back at headquarters while cameras do the work only increases antagonism amongst the people and make it easier to the police to be abusive. You're not going to have a vested interest in someone if there's no personal interaction.

    Couple this with governments harboring some authoritarian tendencies and you're looking at real problems. Although I'm sure some will strongly disagree I'm convinced this is the general tendency for socialist governments. I'm not talking about socialism in principle, I'm talking about the tendencies more socialist nations have. Inevitably this attitude arises in government where they're convinced they're the caretakers of the people. They know better than their citizens and need to protect them. This tendency is exhibited in everything from protecting us from terrorists to reducing salt in our diets for our own good. And too often it's too far reaching and misguided. But it frequently it even becomes a necessity. Take government healthcare, if it becomes expensive treating people for a particular preventable condition you can guarantee that the action that causes the problem will be banned.

    So I'm not surprised by these totalitarian tendencies. And, especially in this case, it's hard to argue that the UK shouldn't be doing this. It's for our safety that we shouldn't be allowed to speed, isn't it? Of course, when there's a chance for the state to increase revenue, especially with minimal effort on their part, you can't seriously expect them to not jump at the chance.

  • Systems like this work better on paper than reality. To start, they're effective over fairly long distance open motorway routes. Most speeding isn't done over the entire distance. These systems would only catch people who quickly accelerate to a fairly high speed, hold that speed over long periods of time -- not not having to slow down for other motorists, construction, traffic, fuel, or road hazards. Drivers who are highly disciplined in their speeding habits and make significant effort to maintain th

  • In the US, several major toll roads (NJ Turnpike, MA Turnpike, Garden State Parkway in the northeast) have been using the time stamp on the toll tickets to determine your average speed on the road in use. If the time it takes to go from one exit to another is one hour doing the speed limit and you do it in thirty minutes, you can expect to be mailed a ticket.

    That system is fairly easy to implement as the roads are limited access and all vehicles will be passing through the toll booths at some point along th

  • by ZorinLynx (31751) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @11:11AM (#31924582) Homepage

    Speed limits and speeding tickets are a huge scam. They are mostly in place to generate revenue, not improve safety.

    Speed limits should be abolished, and police officers merely told to pull over people who are driving recklessly. This would improve safety and eliminate some of the antagonism people have towards the police.

    I was recently ticketed for doing 56 in a 40 zone. The problem is this 40 zone stops at the bottom of a highway offramp. I would have had to slam on the brakes to get from 70 (highway speed) to 40 in the amount of distance I was given to do it. This might have caused me to get rear-ended. Yet there was a speed trap just in front of the end of the ramp. There was hardly any traffic. I wasn't being unsafe. Yet they stopped me anyway.

    They should go after the kids who do 90MPH in a 40 residential neighborhood with straight pipes on their cars making noise at 3AM. But there's not enough money in that.

  • by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @12:15PM (#31926138)

    Duplicate the license (could use a photocopier).

    Pass a speed camera at point "A".

    Have your friend then pass the other camera several miles away a couple seconds later, giving you an apparent speed of several hundred miles per hour.

    Do this several times. Then speed as much as you want after that since you have a history of the cameras grossly mis measuring your speed.

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