New multipurpose traffic cameras in the EU

A new multipurpose traffic camera which can identify license plates, recognise the distance between vehicles, see whether or not a driver is wearing a seatbelt as well as detecting speeding is being created as part of an EU program, ASSET. The program is a research project which means there is no guarantee that any member state will actually take up the scheme, but it would seem to fit with the policies of a number of them, notably the UK, which has already a nationwide network of Automatic License (or Number) Plate Recognition (ALPR or ANPR) cameras.

The story has been reported in The Guardian which notes that, despite concerns about the automation of road justice, many of the UK organisations which currently oppose speed cameras seem to be tentatively in favour of this camera which is even more restrictive of the ‘drivers’ rights’ that such organisations claim to represent… which is somewhat curious.

Corrupting automated surveillance

OK, so automated surveillance systems are always right, aren’t they? I mean, they wouldn’t allow systems to be put into place that didn’t work, would they?

Image from t-redspeed system (KRIA)
Image from t-redspeed system (KRIA)

That was probably the attitude of many Italians who were supposedly caught jumping red lights by a new T-redspeed looped-camera system manufactured by KRIA. However, the BBC is reporting today that the system had been rigged by shortening the traffic light sequence, and that hundreds of officials were involved in the scam that earned them a great deal of money.

Now, the advocates of automated surveillance will say that there was nothing wrong with the technology itself, and that may be true in this case, but technologies exist within social systems and, unless you try to remove people altogether or by developing heuristic systems – both of which have their own ethical and practical problems – then these kind of things are always going to happen. It’s something those involved in assessing technologies for public use should think about, but in this case it seems they had thought about it, and their only thought was how much cash they could make…