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UK License Plate Cameras Have "Gaps In Coverage"

Unknown Lamer posted about 2 years ago | from the can-you-track-me-now? dept.

Privacy 283

Aguazul2 writes "UK police are sad that despite having the most comprehensive driver surveillance system of any developed country, there are still gaps in their coverage. From the article: 'The cameras automatically record plate/time/location information and send it to a central data store, which has complete nationwide records for 6 years.' Also interesting is that an unspecified 'particular driving style' can be used to evade detection by the cameras. It appears, however, that criminals are well aware of the cameras and take other routes. Big Brother technology, coming soon to a country near you!"

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Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41146023)

So let it be !!


Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | about 2 years ago | (#41146069)

Surely you mean it sounds doubleplusgood...


Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41146113)

You are speaking words of wisdom.


AK Marc (707885) | about 2 years ago | (#41146335)

Let it be.

more cameras (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41146049)

Get better license plate cameras. I saw a van try to run someone down and then drive off quickly. I bet they never got caught.


Dr. Hok (702268) | about 2 years ago | (#41146059)

It's OK as long you're not seen by two cameras at the same time.


Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41146311)

Is that why the M25 keeps coming to a standstill?
Occasionally a car gets turned to stone and the Laundry hushes it up?

Re:SCORPION STARE (4, Interesting)

xaxa (988988) | about 2 years ago | (#41146317)

I think the "unspecified driving style" is to drive straddling 2 lanes, then the alignment of the camera is wrong. They do say it's impractical ...

Re:SCORPION STARE (2) (245670) | about 2 years ago | (#41146323)

I'll bet it's crane style.


Terje Mathisen (128806) | about 2 years ago | (#41146391)

I would guess that simply tailgating a big van/lorry past each camera would be sufficient to make the licence plate unreadable.

I know that this happens on some automated toll roads here in Norway...



Chrisq (894406) | about 2 years ago | (#41146657)

I think the "unspecified driving style" is to drive straddling 2 lanes, then the alignment of the camera is wrong. They do say it's impractical ...

I once saw someone do this. There was a sign saying "left-turning traffic use both lanes" and he obviously thought that it applied to individual cars, as he passed this sign he moved into the middle!

tick tock (4, Insightful)

epyT-R (613989) | about 2 years ago | (#41146061)

bit by bit, freedom is chipped away in the name of safety. I know I want no part of such a society.

Re:tick tock (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41146077)

It's pretty obvious now that Ted Kaczynski was right.

Re:tick tock (1)

epyT-R (613989) | about 2 years ago | (#41146087)

yeah.. how depressing..

Re:tick tock (1)

epyT-R (613989) | about 2 years ago | (#41146125)

I don't agree with his anti technology stance, but the concept of 'oversocialization' rings true for me.

Re:tick tock (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41146285)

Interesting. Care to elaborate?

Re:tick tock (4, Interesting)

epyT-R (613989) | about 2 years ago | (#41146427)

Well basically, people end up forced to disguise motives for actions taken if they don't comply with a social status quo that demands moral justifications for almost everything. In other words, one doesn't have a right to something unless it complies with a 'universal' morality. As this status quo becomes less and less compatible with basic human needs, it breeds all kinds of passive aggressive behavior as individuals attempt to get their legitimate needs filled without feeling institutionally programmed guilt or getting in to trouble with authority. Today, it's bad enough that it's almost impossible to have a truly honest discussion about anything truly important nowadays, never mind live truly satisfying lives. I think this dynamic is one of the first causes of political problems in western countries, or any country that claims a representative government. The more 'socialized' and interconnected the society, the more powerful this dynamic becomes.

His statements about 'lack of meaningful work' are also interesting. Having large numbers of people seriously unsatisfied with the daily grinds they must endure is definitely a key component of social unrest. We anesthetize ourselves with cheesy entertainment or embed ourselves in (or generate) trivial real life drama to hide from this. Sometimes we combine the two (reality tv). While most would be quick to state how hard the back breaking rural lifestyle was, 12hr work days cooped up in office buildings are not any better. They may in fact be worse. He sees technology as the enemy because of this.

As far as technology goes, I admit it enables this to happen with more efficiency, but I think the solution lies in fixing the root causes, not attacking tools. As the drug and gun wars have shown, attacking tools solves nothing.

Re:tick tock (5, Insightful)

shitzu (931108) | about 2 years ago | (#41146249)

Not even for safety. It is chipped away for an *illusion* of safety. Does anybody know anyone who feels more safe than a couple of decades ago thanks to all the modern surveillance tech? I don't.

Re:tick tock (5, Funny)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 2 years ago | (#41146359)

The government does.

Re:tick tock (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41146365)

It's both for safety and for economic gain via improved traffic flow. These things aren't meant to create some kind of marauder's map of cars in the country so civil servants can giggle at how much they know about you. They are average speed cameras, meant to replace older radar speed cameras.

If you measure speed at only one point, people find out where the cameras are and exceed the limit between cameras then slow down dramatically as they are about to pass the speed trap. That's both dangerous and it wrecks the smooth flow of traffic.

Tracking average speed over a long stretch of road genuinely is safer.

Re:tick tock (3, Insightful)

epyT-R (613989) | about 2 years ago | (#41146449)

which is all based on the assumption that speed limits are about safety. They're not.. If traffic is smooth, then it is safe...even if it's going 80 in a 65. Best leave it be then. If traffic is rarely smooth, then the road needs to be redesigned so that it is.

Re:tick tock (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41146551)


The UK government actually wanted to increase the speed limit on motorways, but was forced to concede in the end that the safety case didn't allow it. It would cause too many accidents. They initially believed that since modern cars had better safety systems and build quality than when the original limits were set, a higher speed limit would have no effect. They conducted a review, and ultimately scrapped the plans, because after looking at the evidence they knew damn well that it would cause more deaths.

Re:tick tock (1)

epyT-R (613989) | about 2 years ago | (#41146575)

..and you trust the relevant agencies when they have obvious conflicts of interest? All roads aren't equal you know, in some places perhaps they're correct. In most cases I'll bet the limits are lower than they need to be. It's more likely some politicrats were afraid their backers would lose ticket revenues.

Re:tick tock (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41146633)

Now you're just being silly. The changes to speed limits were proposed, then moved to public consultation. The review wasn't just a few guys sitting in a room trying to decide how to be stereotypically evil and selfish. The state of the motorways in this country was examined by independent groups and charities, as well as by the government.

Perhaps you are forgetting that the UK has a functioning democracy?

Re:tick tock (1)

ByronHope (2669333) | about 2 years ago | (#41146453)

Bollocks, slow drivers and lane changing that forcing motorists to slow down impede traffic flow. Ticketing minor speeding is nothing more than revenue raising.

Re:tick tock (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41146525)

There can be more than one cause of needless traffic jams. Badly designed speed cameras are certainly one of them.

Re:tick tock (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41146373)

Your prose is incredible, representing the whole lifetime of your argument. It has a beginning, where you make a point, a middle, where you develop it with a question and an end, where you kill of the idea that you proposed only two sentences before.

Maybe my sarcasmometer needs some fine-tuning?

Re:tick tock (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41146455)

you feel safer now?

Re:tick tock (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41146385)

Police officers, ambulance crews, shop workers, railway station staff ... and of course me.

But not the handful of Slashdotters who are convinced that sometime their "freedom" might depend on their ability to slit someone's throat and get away with it. Nice "freedom" you have there, shame if anyone else uses it on you first.

Surveillance is only the ability to see stuff. No-one who knew what freedom was would object to other people seeing things. In fact many of the worst evils of our society have come from not seeing things, often from willfully /refusing/ to see them. Much harder to do that when they're recorded and played back for you to watch at your leisure.

Re:tick tock (1)

epyT-R (613989) | about 2 years ago | (#41146461)

oh so we serve police officers now? It's our job to make them feel safe? I thought they were supposed to serve us? Well..the humans must be shoved. They will go down the stairs.. Space has a terrible power after all.. ..and being able to see everything is absolute power. We all know what that does..

Re:tick tock (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41146493)

Which would be fine if only things that harm other people are illegal. But that's not the case a huge amount of personal decisions that affect no one but the person themselves, are illegal (with the mountain of laws we have almost everyone is doing something illegal). These people aren't worried that a surveillance state will be used to catch the evil murdering crims (they already know how to beat the cameras), they are worried it'll be used to bust them buying a weed cigarette before a concert.

Re:tick tock (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41146647)

Ah yes, of course the next "freedom" argument. The things you want to do are /illega/ or are /disliked/ so it's best to do them in secret and hope not to get caught. Therefore, rather than demanding the right to "buy a weed cigarette before a concert" you demand that we get rid of all the cameras so that you can do it secretly and damn the poor fucker who does get caught doing what you /do/ but pretend not to.

That's worked out so well for us. Don't enforce civil rights, ban cameras so we don't have to see these nasty pictures of lynchings. Don't decriminialise homosexuality, ban cameras so that no-one can prove who you were kissing in the street.

The world we have is one where hypocrisy is often visible and rightly damned. You'd have us return to the Victorian era, where everyone pretends not to see the horrors they perpetrate. Where everybody does it and everybody persecutes the few who make the mistake of admitting it. A civilisation of lies.

While you're at it, the "murdering crims" aren't the comic book masterminds you imagine them to be. They get caught on camera /all the time/. Sometimes they even get caught by the camera showing nothing at all. Why was there no CCTV footage of that murdered British girl after she supposedly left the house? The police will have suspected right away that it's because she never left, which is why they're apologising to her mother for not finding her body in the attic of the house the same day they were called in.

Re:tick tock (2)

Hazel Bergeron (2015538) | about 2 years ago | (#41146269)

The worst problem is that those lacking in logic will assume that, since safety is used as an excuse, safety must be a bad thing to strive for.

Whatever excuse is used, it must be understood that the underlying cause in this case is the accumulation of power. It is accumulation of excessive power - whether in government or corporation - which we must resist.

When any new idea is proposed anywhere, the first thing to ask must be: "Which groups benefit?" If anyone actually or potentially disproportionately benefits, then the idea is wrong. A massive system of nationwide tracking has the obvious potential to disproportionately benefit those who would control movement and behaviour, therefore it is wrong.

(Contrast this with, say, the NHS, where - as long as the corrupting influence of private sector leeches is removed - the only way anyone can benefit is by becoming as healthy as anyone else with access to the NHS. Therefore the NHS is a "big government" idea which is also excellent.)

Re:tick tock (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41146581)

The problem is general lacking in logic (common sense) is the reason the government keeps enforcing harsher and harsher laws, we used to be able to decide stuff for ourselves now the government is to scared to let us, and wants to watch and make sure we are obeying. I'm not sure if harsher laws caused people to stop thinking for themselves or the other way around, but the effect snowballs.

Re:tick tock (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41146393)

What freedom are you worried about losing here? The freedom to exceed the speed limit?

That one really does have a significant safety advantage you know, and enforcing traffic laws is not new.

Stop being so dramatic.

Re:tick tock (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41146535)

Yeah the speed limit is all about safety that's why cops never go over it.

Re:tick tock (1)

epyT-R (613989) | about 2 years ago | (#41146585)

Actually, no. The three things that prevent accidents are:

1. situational awareness
2. driving skill
3. vehicle condition

Slowing everyone down only masks the problem, and, long term, makes people worse drivers. Idiot proofing just makes for better idiots.

Re:tick tock (0)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | about 2 years ago | (#41146615)

But in the event of an accident (which you acknowledge is inevitable because the bell curve means that there are always idiots on the road), speed is the biggest contributor to the damage it produces.

E = 1/2 mv^2

So energy scales with the square of velocity, which means more fatalities as speeds increase.

Re:tick tock (1)

epyT-R (613989) | about 2 years ago | (#41146611)

The loss of freedom that comes from excessive accumulation of power? The only reason to have such surveillance systems is to use the collected information against the surveilled masses. Honest traffic safety hotspots can be monitored by individual cop cars when necessary, and if they are continually problematic, then it's time to call in the civil engineers to fix the issue. There is no need for ubiquitous surveillance to solve this problem. That's why I think it's bogus.

Re:tick tock (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41146445)

It's not like you have much of a choice. Even if you can get into another country, most countries are using the current opportunity to limit rights and increase surveillance any way. Then when it comes down to it, it dosen't even solve anything cause the bad guys no how to beat it, so it only catches the mostly honest anyway (pissing off the public too much, isn't defiantly not smart).

Not Gaps (5, Interesting)

N1AK (864906) | about 2 years ago | (#41146063)

There is no national plan to cover the whole road network in these cameras which makes saying there are 'gaps' in coverage a little misleading (it even says so in the article). It may well be a hint that universal coverage is a de facto goal of many involved in deploying these cameras. Weird and wacky driving may help you avoid detection but in many cases the bahaviour would draw attention to you and would be counter-productive.

Re:Not Gaps (2, Insightful)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | about 2 years ago | (#41146073)

There is no national plan to cover the whole road network in these cameras yet

There, fixed that for you.

Re:Not Gaps (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41146129)

It may well be a hint that universal coverage is a de facto goal of many involved in deploying these cameras

There pointed out for you that he was already saying that. Thanks for being redundant.

Re:Not Gaps (1)

N1AK (864906) | about 2 years ago | (#41146215)

How dare you finish reading my posts, and worse use that deviant behaviour to correct someone who in the finest /. tradition got bored after a sentence and wandered off! ;)

Re:Not Gaps (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41146637)

The logical fallacy of Slippery Slope in effect.

Re:Not Gaps (1)

mirateu (2717061) | about 2 years ago | (#41146635)

W Polsce jest gorzej.

Driving style above 8bit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41146067)

While investigating a deadly car accident in Norway recently, police suggested the car had been driving above 256km/h which avoided recording from the speed camera.

Re:Driving style above 8bit (2)

cheater512 (783349) | about 2 years ago | (#41146115)

What? They only use 8 bits to store the speed of the car which then crashes the system before it records the image?

Re:Driving style above 8bit (2)

pe1chl (90186) | about 2 years ago | (#41146241)

There probably was an integer overflow during the conversion of a floating point to a fixed point number, which shut down the primary control system and the backup shortly after eachother (because they were running the same software) and sent the vehicle offcourse.

Re:Driving style above 8bit (1)

fa2k (881632) | about 2 years ago | (#41146609)

If it was an integer overflow, the speed would just be interpreted as s - 256, where s is the original speed. If the car was doing 280, the camera would think it was going at 24 km/h.

Re:Driving style above 8bit (1)

lordandmaker (960504) | about 2 years ago | (#41146195)

Another good reason to work in mph! :)

As usual (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41146081)

Massive privacy invasion and the people it's ment to keep tabs on know first how to evade the fancy schmancy system.

Are we, law abiding citizens, really that untrustworthy? What for does the police exist, anyway? My word, they've forgotten themselves.

Take that Julia and Winston (1, Redundant)

gmhowell (26755) | about 2 years ago | (#41146085)

Yeah, because Julia and Winston are supposed to take the train, not drive.

Burden of Proof? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41146103)

The world is only now waking up to the dangers of 'big data', and having faceless corporations track your every move across the internet, or your purchases, or your contacts via social media. Governments quite like corporations doing this, since once the data is mined and analyzed, they can get it via court order, for free, with laws that prevent the companies from telling their customers.

What's happening with motoring is similar. Placing ANPR technology on main roads implements the whole-scale surveillance of a nation. Gone are the days of having to have a court order to tap a phone or intercept someone's postal mail. Now, the data is collected and analyzed first - essentially presumed guilt, not presumed innocence.

The linked article suggests that there are ways of defeating ANPR technology. There are perhaps two. The first is to steal the license plates of a different car. This trick has been around for years, and extensive effort has been put into supplying license plates that show clearly visible signs of this - they fracture and turn black. The other is somewhat more dangerous, which is to know in advance where all the cameras are, and then tailgate a large truck past the cameras.

In short, the police have the inclination, budget and incentive to build out a better and better tracking system until even these few gaps are gone.

A more important question, however, may be to step back and look at where the balance now lies in terms of personal freedoms versus state power. The theory of a democracy is that it provides a 'government by the people', yet I wonder how many people are comfortable with the current state of play?

Re:Burden of Proof? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41146145)

This trick has been around for years, and extensive effort has been put into supplying license plates that show clearly visible signs of this - they fracture and turn black.

A far simpler option is to make your own convincing fake. Soon possibly with a 3D printer.

Re:Burden of Proof? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41146227)

Try driving parallel to a lorry, the camera at the side of the road won't be able to see you. Won't help if the camera is overhead.

Extreme Tailgating also help, but is very dangerous.

Re:Burden of Proof? (1)

Another, completely (812244) | about 2 years ago | (#41146389)

The linked article suggests that there are ways of defeating ANPR technology. There are perhaps two. The first is to steal the license plates of a different car.

Didn't Watchdog do a bit last year about how easy it is to get a number plate printed? No need to steal one, just spot a car that's similar to yours, note the number, then find a number plate supplier who is suitably casual about paperwork. I thought that was the reason for fuzzing out the plates on television these days.

Why are number plates printed by private businesses anyhow? It seems like a weak point in the system.

Re:Burden of Proof? (2)

Xest (935314) | about 2 years ago | (#41146451)

The weak point exists for the reason that car dealerships claim they need to be able to print show plates for cars on show at their garages. Also, some people like custom plates, nationalists like having their countries flag on rather than the standard EU style plate for example.

It is extremely easy to get them printed, an old colleague's ex owned such a printing business and was done for working with an organised crime gang who stole luxury cars and used him to print the plates. He tried to use the excuse to the police that he thought he was just selling them show plates, but that excuse doesn't go down too well with them.

I do agree with you, the arguments for allowing any old joe to produce plates are frankly fucking stupid. You actually have to be registered to produce legit plates, and IIRC, can only take traceable payment for them (i.e. not cash) and have to ask for ID etc. and can be spot checked to be sure you do this, but what use is this when people claim they have the plate making kit for just making show plates and don't have to go through any of this and don't have to register, and hence have spot checks?

Re:Burden of Proof? (1)

DarwinSurvivor (1752106) | about 2 years ago | (#41146503)

The first is to steal the license plates of a different car. This trick has been around for years, and extensive effort has been put into supplying license plates that show clearly visible signs of this - they fracture and turn black.

Is this a European thing? Our Canadian plates are about the simplest stamped steel painted white you can possibly imagine. The only "security" on them is that the letters are embossed.

Re:Burden of Proof? (1)

Xest (935314) | about 2 years ago | (#41146517)

To be fair, and I don't know if it's changed, the ANPR cameras used to only log your details if your plate could be cross-referenced with another list such as a list of stolen cars, a list of uninsured/declared off the road vehicles etc. or vehicles on a specific watch-list which IIRC they do actually have to obtain a warrant to add a vehicle to. So the only time they'd log and flag is if you were actually breaking the law in the first place. Similarly many people believe speed cameras are always filming but this is completely false, they only take a snapshot of you if you actually break the law. I think it's worth keeping this distinction in mind with this sort of technology - that much of it doesn't actually just spy on every average joe, it inherently only catches people who genuinely are classed as criminals at the point the logged data is captured (e.g. speed camera only takes and stores your photo once you've been detected speeding). Whether you agree that a speeder going 4mph over the speed limit should be classed as a criminal is a different (but fair) argument of course.

It's still a slippery slope though, but as with many of the "bad" laws in the UK, they're at least not as bad as sensationalists make out. The RIPA password law for example clearly states that the police have to prove beyond reasonable doubt that you know the password if they're to throw the book at you for not disclosing the password, meaning all the FUD about how you could get banged up for not knowing the password simply isn't true.

This isn't to say we shouldn't be vigilant against scope creep, but honestly, many of the things people fret about do actually have an awful lot more safeguards in than people are led to believe by the popular press on the issue. Of course, where councils started using RIPA to spy on private citizens we have an example of the law genuinely being far too broad and being used far beyond the scope we were told it would so there is always a danger and that sort of thing should be heavily condemned to keep politicians in check.

The evasion involves tailgating (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41146123)

Clearly if your drive very close to the rear of the car in front of you then your number plate will not be visible to the cameras. Strange that the UK police feel that this must be turned into some sort of state secret. Dangerous driving is a good idea when in the UK.

Re:The evasion involves tailgating (1)

91degrees (207121) | about 2 years ago | (#41146191)

I thought UK cameras looked at the rear plate.

Re:The evasion involves tailgating (2)

fridaynightsmoke (1589903) | about 2 years ago | (#41146397)

I thought UK cameras looked at the rear plate.

(Most) speed cameras do, for some reason though ANPR cameras (including 'SPECS' ANPR speed cameras) usually look at the front, perhaps to catch a view of the driver if needed. It's common knowledge that you can 'lorry surf', meaning drive so that a high truck is between you and the cameras at the right moment; the cameras usually being mounted high above the kerb.

A particular driving style (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41146149)

"I will not go into the conduct of such tactics herein," he said, "but it is true to say that a properly trained driver can adopt a particular driving style that will greatly reduce the chance of the vehicle being detected by ANPR.

I assume that "particular style" would be tail gating very close to the car in front when passing the camera? Unless anyone knows any other method?

Ceausescu is smiling from his grave (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41146163)

His dream is finally realized, even though by a different country.

From my own experience (1)

bytesex (112972) | about 2 years ago | (#41146175)

Funny, that. And true. I was driving in England a few weeks ago, and even the simple, solar-panel fed digital speed-warning systems read your plates. Even my (foreign) plates!

Re:From my own experience (1)

Xest (935314) | about 2 years ago | (#41146423)

You mean the ones that flash up your speed if you go near the limit in the place you're driving? If so then no, no they don't read your plates.

Re:From my own experience (1)

SillyPerson (920121) | about 2 years ago | (#41146541)

Solar powered? In England?? That's a huge design flaw right there.

Re:From my own experience (2)

Robert Zenz (1680268) | about 2 years ago | (#41146599)

How do you know?

no sleep (3, Informative)

rapiddescent (572442) | about 2 years ago | (#41146187)

I used to live 1km from the ANPR that was situated on the "ring of steel" near Canary Wharf in London - or, more accurately - my bedroom window was right next to the point that the cop cars would catch up with the non-taxed, non-MOT'd cars after they had cruised through. At the beginning of the month it was about 2 a night that would be stopped as police cars operated a pincer movement around the Isle of Dogs []

the slightly scary thing is that you can buy your own ANPR System [] off the shelf. (I know that geeks can easy create it themselves using motion and some OCR tools - but, imagine selling this to normal people!!

Re:no sleep (2)

jabuzz (182671) | about 2 years ago | (#41146287)

Perhaps I am a garage and want to record the number plate used with each sale in case of card fraud?

Perhaps I run a private car park that offers free parking for say two hours (imagine I am a supermarket), and be able to issue fines to those that stay longer?

I can see a whole slew of perfectly legitimate reasons why private companies might want to track number plates, and reducing that cost to them reduces the cost of the products I buy from them.

Re:no sleep (1)

kanweg (771128) | about 2 years ago | (#41146467)

A parking lot of a hospital in the Netherlands has a system using ANPR. It is quite convenient when leaving the parking lot, as the barrier opens automatically. This worked about half the time, so the other half one still has to feed the ticket into a machine to prove you paid.


Re:no sleep (1)

nut (19435) | about 2 years ago | (#41146651)

the slightly scary thing is that you can buy your own ANPR System [] off the shelf. (I know that geeks can easy create it themselves using motion and some OCR tools - but, imagine selling this to normal people!!

That's not the scary thing. That's the only thing that is at all positive. You can't put the genie back in the bottle. And given that, the most empowering thing you can do for people is to make the same powers of observation available to everybody.

UK government is so clueless (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41146189)

So one government department issues licensed cars with a number plate and requires people to display them on the front and back of the vehicle. Meanwhile another government department uses cameras and recognition software to read the plates. For goodness sakes - why not put electronic beacons on the cars instead of number plates? Or would that be too simplistic for a government department to get their heads around?

Re:UK government is so clueless (1)

captainpanic (1173915) | about 2 years ago | (#41146223)

That would technically be a simple solution. Heck, you might as well implant a beacon on the people themselves. But from the point of view of marketing, that won't sell so well. And our dear politicians are afraid of only 1 thing: election time.

Re:UK government is so deceitful (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41146377)

So the UK government knows that people would oppose being micro-chipped and would also oppose their cars being similarly easily identified, so instead the government introduces draconian facial recognition and number plate recognition by stealth. Is this democracy any more? And what ever happened to the concept of privacy for innocent people?

How the system works (4, Interesting)

ModelX (182441) | about 2 years ago | (#41146251)

I used to work on license plate recognition about a decade ago. Typically there are problems with illumination, motion and noise. So what the systems try to do is boost illumination (often by hidden IR lights) and decrease motion related blur by taking multiple shots and integrating images and/or filtering the results. All this algorithms have some built in assumptions about the expected area of interest, scale and most likely motion. Suppose you detect license plate at some position and scale in frame N. To boost the probability of being correct, you want to check if you can find the same plate number in frame N+1 and possibly N+2. Detection is all about probability. There are some thresholds built in that on one side maximize the probability of license plate detection and on the other side minimize pollution of the database with bad results. So in short, if your license plate is dirty and your trajectory is not what the system expects (changing lanes and velocity) it's more likely the system will not store the result. If you know the specifics of the particular system, you may beat it easily, like if the system first looks for the plate frame, you can mask or offset the frame, or if you know about the exact illumination filtering procedure you may add some conflicting structured illumination.

Ring of ultra-bright IR LEDs around license plate? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41146595)

What if the license plate was surrounded by a ring of ultra-bright IR LEDs. Would that work in flooding the image? I suppose they would need to be just the right frequency.
Or, given the cameras work in IR, cool the plate with Peltier effect devices fixed to the back and have a grid of fine wires suspended in front that a current is passed through to warm them. Invisible to the naked eye, but not to a camera?

I left (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41146265)

I'm Britsh. I left the UK about five years ago. I have no wish to return.

Re:I left (1)

LizardKing (5245) | about 2 years ago | (#41146513)

Nah, you're not from the UK - no one here refers to themselves as British.

all in the name of safety - but of whom... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41146271)

it's all in the name of safety, but have you ever tried to gain access to such surveillance? I mean when you get mugged, or your car gets scartched? Impossible, police just don't care.
It's all about protecting the fat cats...
thanks Mr Cameron, but then again what did we expect...

Re:all in the name of safety - but of whom... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41146363)

thanks Mr Cameron

Yeah, those damn tories, infiltrating the labour party and installing all those cameras

Re:all in the name of safety - but of whom... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41146601)

thanks Mr Cameron

Yeah, those damn tories, infiltrating the labour party and installing all those cameras

Tony Blair is Labour? I though he was a neo-liberal Tory who got lost during his university days and wandered into the wrong political party after a particularly eventful keg party.

Unspecified driving style (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41146279)

Veering rapidly from lane to lane, I'd bet.

Ain't seen nothing yet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41146289)

It will get worse before it will get better

Re:Ain't seen nothing yet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41146411)

And by what mechanism can it ever get better?

Live down a muddy lane ... (1)

Alain Williams (2972) | about 2 years ago | (#41146319)

Sorry officer but there is a big muddy puddle just outside of my house.

Re:Live down a muddy lane ... (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | about 2 years ago | (#41146465)

Then they may pull you over and fine you for having an unreadable license plate.

Re:Live down a muddy lane ... (1)

Xest (935314) | about 2 years ago | (#41146473)

Except it's an offence in itself to have a non-legible number plate.

Re:Live down a muddy lane ... (2)

Robert Zenz (1680268) | about 2 years ago | (#41146613)

Then you will be pulled over and asked* to clean your license plate until it is readable...

*: You will be nicely asked to clean your license plate, they won't let you drive off until you've done that, though.

Bobby tables (1)

jimshatt (1002452) | about 2 years ago | (#41146339)

When I go to the UK, I always change my numberplate to: FU'); DROP Table NUMBERPLATES;--

Re:Bobby tables (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41146429)

They'll throw you in jail for a sql injection number plate attack.

Avoiding cameras is a sign of guilt? (1)

mathew42 (2475458) | about 2 years ago | (#41146431)

Currently we see court cases where the fact that a mobile phone was turned off during the period as a reason for suspicion.

How long before driving a route that doesn't involve cameras is also seen as a reason for suspicion?

Re:Avoiding cameras is a sign of guilt? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41146591)


Around here, it's illegal to use them while driving (unless you have a mounted hands-free system (mounted, as in not those blue-tooth earpieces)). So the safe option IS to turn off the phone.

No wonder the price of hard drives is so high. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41146447)

Which the amount of data our police state is collecting their data storage bill must be astronomical. No wonder there's such high demand for hard drives. I know what I'll be buying shares in...

It's not collecting - it's the use... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41146481)

Reading the above comments it seems that everyone is against it. And I too was against it, until I realised that if my daughter was kidnapped by car and someone had managed to get the licence plate number then I would want every single camera in the country tasked with finding that car.

However, collecting all data vs. 'these are licence plate numbers of interest' is a hugely different task and one has to wonder whether it was the technical difficulties of the latter that may them choose storing all number for 6 years (oh wait, no it doesn't).

(I'm assuming a single kidnapper - not a well organised conspiracy.)

what "particular driving style" really means (2)

ffflala (793437) | about 2 years ago | (#41146497)

It means that in order to avoid these cameras, from now on you will have to do skidding 360s through every single intersection, like this [] . It's really just a natural progression from the roundabout.

Took a long time to get to "ZOMFG terrorists" (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | about 2 years ago | (#41146537)

[modifying number plates] may be counter-productive from the terrorist standpoint

Whoa, where did that come from? They also claim they "contributed to more than 50,000 arrests". That's a lot of "terrorists" then: maybe we should live in permanent shivering supine unquestioning fear.

Or maybe we could just put Elbonian plates on and jabber "No speaking Englandish!" if stopped, like any halfwit career criminal could figure out.

One number (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41146555)


Murdoch Newspapers & TV (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41146573)

Murdoch's papers (News of the World) use to buy information from the police. They even admitted as much to Parliament inquiry as though they were above the law.

I bet they bought the logs of where famous stars and politicians went, when and how.

And if Murdoch can buy that info, how many times do you think other criminals have bought that info. Just as the vehicle registration office was selling license plate information to clamping outfits, debt collectors, pretty much anyone who wanted it, I bet the police have been selling this information too.

What is the betting that's is sold to insurance companies, debt companies, private investigators. Maybe not legally, but then Murdochs Notw buying wasn't legal either.

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