/ Motoring

New intelligent speed camera just an invasion of privacy?

Eye spying on you

Located in the appropriate areas, I’m all for speed cameras. But is a new camera that can catch us committing up to five different offences a step too far into monitoring our motoring activities?

Speed cameras may be the biggest gripe for UK road users (and we’ve certainly seen that in our speed cameras Convo) but the fact is they can make a high-casualty location safer.

But I find it strange that following speculation around whether speed cameras are being switched off due to budget cut backs, that we’re now talking about a new ludicrously expensive ‘super camera’.

Does it devalue the role of a traffic officer?

The new camera system (Project Asset) not only checks your speed, it can also determine your distance from the vehicle in front, read your number plate to see if you’re insured, check if your tax has expired and even tell if you’re wearing a seatbelt or not.

In theory, I agree that new measures need to be taken to reduce the number of uninsured and untaxed drivers on the road. But what about the majority of us who do pay our forever-rising insurance, tax our cars and drive within the boundaries of the law? Why should we be judged?

The biggest issue for me is that this machine could takeover the role of the traffic officer. If these £50k cameras (money which could be better spent fixing our roads) do get rolled out across the country, will we see a decline in road cops?

What will happen to the human element of policing our roads? If a traffic officer spots someone tailgating, they can pull them over before they cause an accident. If a camera sees the same, it’ll issue them with a ticket weeks later. That’s not making our roads safer.

What else is the Asset camera capable of?

I’m also conscious of what else this so-called ‘super camera’ is capable of. If it can check to see if I’m wearing my seatbelt or not, what else will it know about me? I hope it doesn’t pass judgement on my dress sense or catch me singing along to Lionel Richie!

But in all seriousness, if it can determine whether I’ve belted up or not, it will no doubt be able to see who else and what else is in my car.

I’m not a massive fan of the overused phrase “Big Brother is watching you”, but I can’t think of any other way to describe this technology. Am I being over-paranoid, or should this speed camera take the high road?


Aren’t we now the most-watched nation on the planet? Things that were less intrusive went on in the old Eastern bloc and modern-day China. Even North Korea is probably a more private place to live!

I think this isn’t a bad idea so long as the data captured isn’t misused. For example, if a crime had been committed nearby would everyone who drove by in the area automatically become a suspect? Would this allow the police to have greater powers to investigate ordinary, law abiding citizens’ lives even more? Some might say that if you haven’t done anything wrong you shouldn’t worry. Would those same people like it if someone on foot followed their every move and looked over their shoulder and recorded every minute of their daily activity?

But if technology can be used in an effective way to catch those who haven’t got insurance, paid their car tax or is too stupid not to wear their own seat belt and so long as the way the service is used is completely open to independent scrutiny then I’m all for it. It seems far more cost-effective and would allow officers time to focus their efforts on more serious offences.

Fantastic news ! We hope new intelligent speed camera spot bad drivers who drives without insurance,mot, tax, tailgating,smoking cigarettes, drinking can, talking on mobile, eating food, speeding and who has adopted habit not to give indicator
Those who are negative minded will not like this new technology because they do not like to respect highway code.
Govt. will get good funding from this bad drivers !

Hamish Clark says:
12 November 2010

It is standard behaviour for most drivers to apply thier brakes when passing a speed camera, and then look down to check their speedometer. Unfortunately, many experienced drivers will know that a) all speedometers are optimistic, to varying amounts, and b) the cameras have a certain amount of discretuion, ie are set at a few miles per hour in excess of the speed limit. Hence many drivers will not slow down by the same amount as others – which will give rise to bunching and a possible infringement for tailgating for a few shorty seconds. Is this a good idea?

In any event, we will not get away from the fact that speed cameras are a form of tourist tax. The locals know their location and will normally slow down, whilst the out-of-towners may not, and get caught. Is this fair? What is more, some local radio stations announce the sites of mobile radar trasp on a daily basis. Again, a good service for the locals, but unfair to the “tourists” who are not tuned to the local station.

the only downside is the possibility of it being used as a replacement for officers on duty, as for invasion of privacy..!?.. if you are in a public place WHAT privacy,- when you walk down the street everyone can watch you,so what is the problem if anyone watches when you are driving? personally I don`t breach the traffic regulations so I have nothing to fear, I also refuse to subscribe to paranoia when it comes to cameras in public places.

I do agree with the speed camera tackling the untaxed & uninsured drivers, but how effective will they be? I hear regularly of persons being apprehended for supposed no tax or insurance but the delay before the data reaches the computer makes criminals of innocent persons. Blanket type regulation application catches the usually law abiding citizens and allows the percipient offender escape as they soon know the wrinkles. Ie stolen number plates, false addresses, etc.
During my driving test I was instructed to ‘read the road’, this advice is becoming out of date as ‘Mr Big’ is doing it all for us and driving to the road conditions is becoming a thing of the past. We are all being treated the same, whether the vehicle being driven is a motor bike, car, truck or max size lorry all have different abilities in cornering, braking, driver skill, acceleration etc.

Another little thing, if the camera really can spot whether or not you are wearing your seatbelt it must be taking a picture from the front, so I hope that everybody is only driving with who they are supposed to be.

Inspector Clinton Hale, manager of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Road Safety Camera Unit says that fixed cameras CAUSE accidents, whereas average cameras are much safer. So why are more fixed cameras being considered?

Tom Rendell says:
5 December 2010

errm, I agree with you, average speed cameras are very effective.
From what I have seen recently, their numbers are generally increasing..

Bill T says:
12 November 2010

If the Tax and Insurance dodgers become aware of this, what is to stop them putting false number plates on their cars so that the cameras will not catch them. If they manage this then the poor innocent motorist could end up arguing against a camera.

Number plate makers are now licensed and you have to produce your V5 when getting one. Getting a false plate is not as easy as you might think.

Theft of number plates is becoming a problem. The authorities are investigating tamper-proof number plates, i.e. you cannot remove the number plate without causing it serious damage.

And we already have cameras to check for untaxed/uninsured cars – I can see one from my window as I type this!

WallToAll says:
10 December 2010

While the ‘authorities are looking into the problem’ of plate theft etc. I can walk into a number of places in Essex eg car-breakers, supermarket car parks, abandoned cars with plates on etc. and help myself. Better still I can put different ones on back and front. Sorry lads, come out into the REAL world. It’s best to have a non UK licence and/or stick within the law.

Jeff says:
21 January 2011

In a reply to John W, have a look on Ebay. you can get proper legal number plates made without a V5. Some are blatantly making them without a V5, and some are jokingly called “show plates” which are mostly (but not always) stated by the vendor as being “not for road use”, but as they are indistinguishable from those bought from a licensed vendor, fake plates are easy to obtain.

It is very tempting to rush to support any proposal that purports to solve our most infuriating and worrying problems at a stroke. In this age of quite astonishing technological advance, its application to policing is invariably put forward as a solution without disadvantage. This is untrue. Technology is
without soul, heart, empathy or sympathy. And it is far from infallible.

It calso arries with it the added ‘advantage’of putting any human operators at a safe emotional distance, both in location and time, from those apparently breaking the law. They don’t have to concern themselves with the minutiae of human weakness, folly or plain bad luck; every infringment is reduced to black and white – mostly black.

And there is a real difference between being out in public and therefore ‘seen’, compared with being monitored and logged. When I visit my local shop and cafe I have no concern that I am being checked on. The people I meet are also, of course, seen by me. We are all equal in this situation. If I am approached by anyone in authority I can demand his or her identification and right to take me to task. Most importantly, I will be immediately aware that I am to face a charge of some kind and be able to prepare a defense.

The age of remote surveillance policing is bringing with it a complete reversal of the principles of justice that we have rightly taken for granted for so long. A perverse version of Original Sin is being attributed to us all where we are born guilty until we can prove our innocence. And all because of the availability of a metal box with a glass eye and an untiring microchip. This, along with an over-optimistic belief that we can get more of the ‘baddies’, is seducing us down a dark tunnel leading to
a mad democratic tyranny.

Congratulations Alan, you’re our comment of the week. You’ll see your comment featured on our homepage.

June H says:
13 November 2010

My experience of motorway driving has become more of a worry over the years due to the really terrible driving of many. The normal practice nowadays seems to be to see how close you can drive to the car in front at speed. Very, very few keep their distance and this has to be one of the biggest cause of accidents there is. As to talking on a phone or similar well it beggars belief – I just cannot understand how anyone could do something so dangerous. I am absolutely in agreement with a camera that can spot any hazard that is potentially life threatening and also intelligent enough to catch anyone without the proper insurance. The public have recently been encouraged to inform the authorities of any bad driving practices but this is impossible when you yourself are also driving and having nobody with you to note registration numbers etc. So, yes please, the sooner this is put into practice the better and I would hope that everyone can see the huge benefits of this. I cannot see any negatives as it is an impersonal operation and I assume would only ‘flag’ any driver not complying with certain rules/regulations of driving and so would not ‘infringe the rights’ of the majority (this being a common complaint).


This piece is so badly written and so full of contradictions that it’s hardly worth the effort of commenting. However, I will make just one…

You argue in favour of human policing rather than technology, which most of us would agree with, but if a police officer pulls you over he/she will be able to see who else and what else is in your car. He will be able to judge how close you were to the vehicle in front. He will be able to pass judgement on your dress sense and catch you listening to Lionel Richie. He will be able to judge whether you are taxed and insured – in a far more intrusive way than a camera.

So every one of your objections applies equally to a human. And bear in mind that a human can do this for three or four drivers per hour when he is on duty. A camera works on ALL drivers 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Viewed in this way we’re talking about a ludicrously CHEAP ‘super camera’.

Steve says:
15 November 2010

Rightly or wrongly many will feel these cameras go too far which will just increase the resentment felt by many motorists towards the police, “justice” system et al. But who could object to a camera, perhaps on the busiest roads, the only purpose of which is to check that drivers have tax and insurance. The UK does not have to use all the cameras’ potential for them to be useful. Dealing with these issues must benefit us all as well as potentially paying for the cameras and their operation. Having said that, a few years ago parking attendants here reported details of all untaxed cars in the city’s car parks to the police for many months. Nothing was ever done, the same untaxed (and probably uninsured) cars continued to appear daily in the same car parks – so the scheme was abandoned. With such a disinterested police force will detecting tax/insurance offenders by a different method have any better results?

Peter G says:
15 November 2010

The more we can use cameras to stop bad driving the better. Using this type of camera and the data it produces will find those who persistently speed, tailgate etc and they can be prosecuted . Someone who breaks the law once should be cautioned. We already have cameras that identify numbers and hence discover whether you are driving without being MoT’d, taxed and insured, and I am in favour of them too. As for costs, one serious accident costs the community many times the cost of a camera, and fatalities cost the community millions, so anything that cuts speeding and other dangerous practice must be good economics, never mind the grief for those affected by deaths from dangerous driving.

I’ve mixed feelings about APNR cameras, on the one hand they’ve been very useful in tracking down a variety of criminals, from road tax evaders to sex offenders, but there’s disturbing evidence of misuse. The police using them to track and harass people who have done nothing more than attend a peaceful anti-war demonstration for example. It seems to me we need tighter regulation on what the information can be used for and who has access to it – not to mention the repeal of the anti-terror act.

The nostalgic preference for the friendly traffic cop who somehow senses you’re a good driver who just made a one-off error and will let you off with a warning frequently crops up in these debates but I’m afraid that in this target driven age he (or she) has become extinct. From what I’ve read on other forums you’re more likely to have one or more fixed penalty notices slapped on you for unconnected or even non-existent offences. One driver was given a fixed penalty for not carrying his V5 and MoT with him in the car and another for using his car for business purposes after he admitted he was delivering a parcel for a friend. Putting more traffic police on the roads is fine but the police, or at least certain forces, have to stop treating the general public as their enemy. The monthly targets officers are given should be abolished too.

David M says:
16 November 2010

The French experimented with a camera that would record who was sitting in the front seats a few years ago. Such were the protests against a device that could reveal who was sitting next to the driver that it was quickly abandoned! (A bit like when Giscard D’Estaing’s government tried to introduce licensing laws preventing the sale of alcohol before 9am – abandoned because of anger from the ‘cognac on the way to work’ French public.)

Artie Kenilworth says:
17 November 2010

Unfortunately those who drive like boy racers, have no insurance, use their mobiles whilst driving, are basically not only dangerous, but costing responsible drivers/riders lots of money should in my opinion be taken off the public highway. If this equipment does this, then I am all for it, as it will free up police highway patrols and reduce the carnage irresposible drivers cause.

E Carmichael says:
20 November 2010

I feel it is certainly not all about safety as I know of numerous speed camera’s that are positioned just before an increase in speed sign. Is this for safety reasons or just hoping to catch out the motorist and filling the councils pockets?
Secondly I feel that I have to watch my speedometer all the time as I will be fined if I drive just over the allowed limit, which cannot be as safe as me watching only the road.
Having speed camera’s that invade even more cannot be a good thing. It certainly seems to be more about taking money of motorists. However those that are the biggest offenders usually have no means of paying and will probably just carry on driving (allowed or not) in a bad way.
Other than this I agree fully with Alan.

I’m totally in favour of everybody breaking the law or by-laws being caught and punished – Until that happens people totally ignore the law – Witness the 1.25 million uninsured drivers

From what I notice on my daily drives far too many drivers do not drive properly.

Quite frankly if you cannot drive ,b>and keep an eye out to the sides and the back and the speedometer as well as the front effectively at the same time – I really don’t think you should be driving at all!!!

PR says:
20 May 2011

Many years ago, I was snapped at a TS (traffic light) junction on A40/M leaving London. The weather condition was wet and dull lighting. I had a tailgater and the lights were on amber so I made an instant “human” decision to go through the junction box as to stop on amber would have caused the car behind to run into the back of me…remember wet conditions mean longer breaker…SO…I got snapped as I exited the junction as the light had turned red by then. I was not speeding. I got a TS10 fine and 3 points – I wrote in to challenge the facts but the police refused to back down – THEY had photo-evidence and I was going to have to pay – end of story – not bothered about the tailgater. I have been against road cameras ever since – and I *HATE* tailgating b******s – I slow donw and allow them to overtake; I have also seen drivers on mobiles driving past police stations!! These locations must be the safest places for them to NOT GET CAUGHT!!