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New Speed Cameras Catch You From Space 351

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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  • by Lord Lode ( 1290856 ) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @10:20AM (#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 Captain Centropyge ( 1245886 ) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @10:30AM (#31922744)
    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 such an algorithm or calculation? Roads may have different speed limits. Unless they have speed cameras on every single road, there's no reliable way to actually come up with a solid number for their velocity. This is stupid. And I wouldn't be surprised if someone managed to get it tossed into obsolescence fairly quickly.
  • by Glonoinha ( 587375 ) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @10:39AM (#31922940) Journal

    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.

  • Re:mythbusters (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Culture20 ( 968837 ) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @10:45AM (#31923028)

    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...

  • Re:mythbusters (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jochem_m ( 1718280 ) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @10:49AM (#31923088)
    Top Gear tends to be better at busting car myths than Mythbusters... Take the driving-behind-a-jumbo-flips-your-car myth for example... Mythbusters couldn't find a jumbo jet, so they used a much less powerful jet turbine. Then, the had to rig a complicated remote control system to the car so they could drive it... Top Gear got a jumbo, put a steeringwheel lock on the car, tossed a large brick on the accelerator, and presto, the car flipped behind the jumbo jet!
  • by jochem_m ( 1718280 ) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @10:57AM (#31923262)

    We have average speed checking systems here in the Netherlands, and it just works on averages. They pick stretches of road that don't have the opportunity to stop, or leave the road, and take your average speed. So, if the limit is 60, you drive 80 for the first half, realize you're being clocked, and drive 40 for the second half... no ticket.

    To be honest I find this system better than the single-point checking systems that are also widely in use everywhere.

    • It's ok to speed for small stretches, for passing or from lack of attention to your speed
    • It enforces a lower speed over a longer stretch. You can't just slam on the brakes for a camera and speed up right after.
  • Re:mythbusters (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Colonel Korn ( 1258968 ) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @11:02AM (#31923354)

    Top Gear tends to be better at busting car myths than Mythbusters...

    Take the driving-behind-a-jumbo-flips-your-car myth for example...

    Mythbusters couldn't find a jumbo jet, so they used a much less powerful jet turbine. Then, the had to rig a complicated remote control system to the car so they could drive it...

    Top Gear got a jumbo, put a steeringwheel lock on the car, tossed a large brick on the accelerator, and presto, the car flipped behind the jumbo jet!

    I saw that episode of MB, and it bugged me like almost every episode does. MB is a nice concept but they tend to simplify their problems poorly, keeping superficial elements the same and approximating away some of the key factors they should be testing. As an experimentalist, watching MB is often painful.

  • by vlm ( 69642 ) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @11:02AM (#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?)

  • Cynicism (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MaWeiTao ( 908546 ) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @11:15AM (#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.

  • by slimjim8094 ( 941042 ) <slashdot3@juGINS ... d.net minus poet> on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @11:16AM (#31923602)

    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 default gives up a bunch of rights - so it's not like this is anything new.

    I, for one, would be quite happy with such a system if it found my stolen car.

  • by cknowles ( 888150 ) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @12:34PM (#31925150)
    As an old photointerpreter from the Vietnam era, and a fanatic regarding aerial photography, I can assure you that civilian satellite-based cameras do not have the resolution to read license plates. There was once a concept of "infinite resolution film", but that was always theoretical and, if you think about it, could never be accomplished. As was said above, the cameras are earth-based. Only the speed computation using the GPS system is satellite-based.
  • by I'm not really here ( 1304615 ) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @01:16PM (#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.
  • by Maxo-Texas ( 864189 ) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @01:21PM (#31926288)

    Because most speed limits are unnaturally low (to account for rainy or other adverse conditions).

    In the past, most people sped by 5 to 10mph over the limit. The police didn't bother pulling them over-- they pulled over the "real" speeders.

    Now with money tight, they are starting to pull over more people (it's not about safety- it's about money).

    With automated systems, these unnaturally low speeds are enforced on 100% of the drivers.

    So what they need to do is get smarter signs combined with automatic communication with the cars and automated enforcement.

    A freeway might have an 80mph speed limit on a sunny day, a 60mph speedlimit during rain, and a 65mph speed limit on a clear night. All bluetoothed to your car so it makes warning noises if you are over the current speed limit. If you are over the speed limit for a significant time, then you get fined.

    A lot of the current body of law was passed when enforcement was 5% likely. So it is a bit draconian. If you have 100% enforcement and you don't want to be oppressive then the fines need to be more reasonable and more reasonably applied. (i.e. a 5 buck ding for breaking a realistic speedlimit by 10mph for a couple minutes-- but a bigger fine for breaking it for a full hour).

  • by Gordonjcp ( 186804 ) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @06:04PM (#31932242) Homepage

    your average speed can still net you a ticket
    ... and that's exactly the point. Having a GATSO-type camera with a Doppler speed detector and zebra-stripes on the road is worse than useless, because *people slow down for the camera and speed up once they've passed it*. That's really helpful for the guy half a mile down the twisty country road from the camera who is sick of people blatting past at 80mph, isn't it?

    The whole idea is to ensure that people stick to an average speed that is within the speed limit over a measured part of the road. If the cameras are a mile apart and you go between them in less than a minute, you were breaking the 60mph speed limit *at some point* on that journey. People tend not to drive part of the mile at 30mph then part of it at 90mph.

  • by fractoid ( 1076465 ) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @11:04PM (#31935126) Homepage
    Again with the snarky tone, you should get that adjusted. There are plenty of easy ways to go 'offroad' according to satnav without getting mud on your car. You could take a shortcut through a car park, take a back alley, or simply a side road that's not yet on the digital map, and suddenly you're reported to be doing 130mph through a school zone because that's the shortest route that the software knows about.

    Don't even try to argue, sir, the computer says you were speeding and that means you were.

Nothing is finished until the paperwork is done.