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back to article Software engineer demands source of his speeding collar

A US software engineer hopes to beat a speeding ticket by challenging the accuracy of the computerized radar gun used to snare him. Michael Felch has been granted a request by a Florida court hearing his case for the source code on the LTI 20/20 radar gun that was used in his collar to be turned over for his examination. Felch …

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FAIL

How The Law Works....

"History is not on his side. In November 2005, another Florida court, in Sarasota County, hearing a drunk-driving case, ordered that the code for the breathalyzer used in that collar to be handed over for examination by the defendant.

Despite the court order, all research suggests that the code was not handed over by the breathalyzer's manufacturer. The defendant, meanwhile, was convicted anyway and the case closed a year later in November 2006"

So corporations can simply flout a court order, and citizens get convicted anyway.

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Flame

Corporate shills

"So corporations can simply flout a court order, and citizens get convicted anyway."

Yes. This is the way world lies nowadays. Even here in EU.

Laws are written for the corporations, against the individuals.

Very simple reason, too: Corporations pays the bribes, officially called "finances election campaigns" but that doesn't fool anyone: Corporation pays you to the office, you are their muppet.

F**k the citizens who voted you, they are not relevant.

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Stop

Doctired code

What about it they provide a patched source code but the software installed in the radar is faulty?

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binary hash

requesting a hash of the radar guns binary and comparing it to a compiled version of the source provided would reveal a difference thus contempt of court on behalf of the state or manufacturer. not to mention simple forensics on the guns eprom should reveal accurate timestamps of altering. case dismissed.

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WTF?

Discovery? In Traffic Court??

I think it more likely that the court will simply dismiss the case than that Felch will get the source code he's requested. Despite the fact that "moving violations" (speeding, etc.) affect your insurance rates and (given enough of them) the status of your driver's licence, most jurisdictions in the States still treat speeding tickets primarily as a revenue stream, and writing citations for imagined or exaggerated speeds is common. In my experience, often just showing up in traffic court to fight the ticket is enough to have it dismissed.

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"Tough on crime"

That's what I thought when it happened to me years back in the US and what my attorney told me, too.

Until we found out that the district attorney was up for re-election. In the US West that generally means some pr*ck grandstanding on how "tough on crime" he is.

Did manage to get it reduced to a handful of hours of community service, because I had no prior offenses. Which I then worked off in an aviation museum... as aviation buff and pilot I actually had a great time!

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Felching

Perhaps if this trend of self-defensive demands for source code continues it might be useful to employ the term 'felching' in this, er... cleaner context?

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FAIL

Law enforcement products - really bad code

I've seen much evidence that the folks that write software used in various products sold to the law enforcement community do not follow even the simplest process controls. Ask them if they're CMMI qualified. Try to find a company in this field that is ISO9000 (there are a few, but not many). Have a look at the products in the field and see if there's any evidence of software version control. Follow the news in this field and you'll see the most egregious bugs and mind-blowing stupidity.

This applies to everything from radar guns to breathalyzers, to electronic control weapons. To be frank, they're all idiots.

Of course the devices work properly most of the time. That's not the point. The point is that some of them time they do not work. And that brings the administration of justice into disrepute.

The only reason (pure and simple) that the source code is kept hidden is because the entire legal system would collapse if it got out and was reviewed. Any other excuse are lies.

And the reason that these companies are not CMMI certified is that they're simply not capable of being so certified.

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ISO9000? eek!

My memories of this thing aren't especially positive: it seemed to generate a heap of unnecessary and irrelevant paperwork that did nothing to improve coding quality, which actually suffered due to having substantially less time to spend on it and its associated procedures.

Maybe I've just suffered especially bad implementations of ISO9000, but my experiences of working through it being introduced are two-nil to it being entirely counterproductive.

Though I'm certainly not arguing against quality control in general, and competent project managers with the relevant planning and cat-herding skills are worth their weight in gold. Speaking as an end-user as well as a programmer, I'm as aggrieved as anyone at companies that take the "can't be arsed, it'll sell anyway" approach to quality assurance.

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Anonymous Coward

Another worthless accreditation

ISO9000 compliance means having a set of procedures in place, and having an audit trail to show they are being followed. It says nothing about whether the procedures are fit for purpose, or about the attitude to quality assurance in the company.

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Unhappy

wait

Michael "Felch"?

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Silver badge
FAIL

Wrong approach?

Looks like the request for the source code is a delaying action - getting his hands on the source code should be no big deal under a suitable NDA - but depending on the quality of the source (if it looks anything like most commercial source code I deal with) it probably will not help much - short of finding "{ ignore result here and go with higher number }" in the comments.

He'd be better off (I would have thought) requesting the test and verification datasets together with the specific models production run test results.

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Badgers

Open Saucers

While I'm not a big open source advocate, I do believe that certain technologies should be available for public scrutiny. Software which drives devices that have legal implications should fall into this category.

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Flame

it's just another tax

Speed tickets are just a tax on the driver. like red-light cameras, their only intent is to earn money and not improve safety.

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Not a tax on drivers. Tax on stupidity.

Every now and then I see editorials or LTEs complaining about receiving 10-20 speeding tickets in the mail at the end of the month as a result of speeding past a fixed, sign posted camera. Cameras that trigger their flash unit night AND day.

What this tells me is that these people are complete and utter obliviots. They've driven the same route to work day in day out for so long that they are on autopilot and almost completely unaware of their surroundings on a conscious level.

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Grenade

that's right

these cameras have been put there to personally persecute you, and you deserve it, because you're clearly paranoid

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Go

"like red light cameras"

I don't have a problem with red light cameras - now if only there was a way they could be used to catch cyclists too...

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FAIL

Huh?

Yet if you dont speed, you dont get any fines.

Funny that. They seem to be working perfectly to me.

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Don't they?

The red light cameras down here in Australia catch cyclists just as well as they catch cars. Don't yours?

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Anonymous Coward

Just use some common sense

I'm usually a fairly rapid driver, but have never been caught speeding. Why? Because I use my brain. You don't speed in town in 30/40 limits as this is where (as a rule) the cameras are placed. Add to that the fact that most car speedometers OVER-READ by a good 10% (on standard sized wheels) you have plenty of "wiggle room" before you break the limit.

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Black Helicopters

Bollocks!

Speed cameras/speed traps are placed where they will generate the most revenue, like good roads with ridiculous low speed limits, or in my case, the mobile camera van parked on the hard shoulder of a 4 lane motorway at 6am on a Sunday morning the day after the seed limit was reduced from 120KPH to 100KPH. Never saw the camera van at that location any time after that.

Ever seen a speed trap at an accident black spot? No, neither have I.

Dublin has introduced a new 30KPH speed limits in the “centre” of Dublin (that’s 18MPH to you non-metric peeps), some of these city “centre” areas include the main cross city roads. Needs to say the pi… eh police were out on the morning the limits change to fill their quota of speed tickets for the month. Some reports stated that cyclists were not stopped for breaking the speed limit.

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Anonymous Coward

Actually he's got a decent case

The other case was just a "hail mary" - knowing that the company wouldn't hand over the source, they were hoping they could derail things that way.

However this guy is 1) a s/w engineer and thus somewhat of an expert in the relevant area, 2) has examples to suggest a possible issue, showing it's not just a "fishing expedition" and 3) the plausible contention that his car would have had difficulty doing the reported speed.

So, I've got my fingers crossed. However, I've got fighter-plane radar engineers in the office, and they say the chances are not good that J. Random Dev could make heads or tails of the code.

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Gold badge

Gadget based law enforcement.

Personally where the law is concerned any device which can cause a conviction should be tested thoroughly. Or they should at least use two devices from different makers and average the results.

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WTF?

Never mind the story...

What an unfortunate last name!

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Could have been worse

At least it's not "Santorum."

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Anonymous Coward

64mph round a corner?

We know full well that American cars are incapable of cornering at more than 5mph, so there's no case to answer.

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Black Helicopters

Hmm

No doubt the reason the company has yet to deliver the source code is that they've got programmers urgently fixing it in order to destroy his case.

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Black Helicopters

It is Florida, after all.....

Since a) he was stopped, and b) an officer wrote him a ticket, this should be a pretty straightforward case in court, not even requiring examination of the source code. Did the officer really think he was going that fast, or was he relying purely on the read-out on the known-faulty gun? I understand that that much over the speed limit is probably reckless driving, but, at some point reason does enter in, even if it is a Florida court.

Can't help but wonder if this guy is just excessively angry due to his unfortunate last name.

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A new government org needed?

These devices are the same as voting machines. Local/State/Federal governments need to review the code and hardware before purchasing or using it. Like a federal validation org or something. Then they can say that the breathalyzer/speed gun/voting machine meets/exceeds the requirements/reliability/etc.

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Pint

Why not suing the car's manufacturer

as well, for wrongfully shaping to the side of his car.

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Paris Hilton

title

Felch?!?!?

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What?

Surely you're allowed to ask the officer to show you the alleged reading on their radar gun? Surely...

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Correction.. Compel was against the State

Just a quick note, I filed the motion to compel against the State of Florida not Laser Technology. Follow what happens at www.iGlobalOnline.com

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Coat

OMG: "Felch"?

I expect the tabloids to follow this case closely.

If he wins, that means that the cops were "felched"!

Mine's the one with all kinds of stuff in the back...

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Bronze badge

Logic should previail, "Dukes of Hazard" notwithstanding

If the fellow was making a "right-hand corner from a standing stop on a red light" then logic should show that 64MPH is infeasible. The officer should not have issued a speeding ticket, and should have issued a ticket for reckless driving and endangerment, and made photographs of the skid marks on the pavement.

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Gold badge

34mph from a stop?

so, clocked at 64 and he claimed he couldn't do it because he right turned from a standing start. But he could have been going 34? That still seems quite quick if he really was just starting up.

They don't mention what kind of car he had or how far from the corner he was though -- a healthy V8 these days can get to 64 in 5 or 6 seconds, and in short distance, less than a city block. A few modern sixes can too. Did he do it? I don't know. But it's not impossible.

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Linux

Another point

Yes a V8 could get the car to 64mph in 5 or 6 seconds.

But consider that he was making a turn and accelerating from a complete stop.

Last time I tried doing something like that I made a lot of noise, smoke and almost a 180.

I'm not saying it couldn't happen, just that it depends on several bits of information we do not have. Road condition, car type, engine power, tire type, how far he had traveled out of the turn before the laser hit the car, etc., every one of those affects how fast he could really have been going at the time he was nabbed.

Personally I'm skeptical of the claimed speed, but I concede that its not impossible. Just reasonably doubtful.

Tux, just for Hell of it.

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Paris Hilton

Who needs a V8 or V6?

Last I heard, the old 4 Cylinder 2.2litre Lotus Esprit SE (Series 3) got you 0-60 in 4.7 seconds.....I'm sure someone can find more modern examples.

Paris, because she really goes (allegedly)

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Go

I can believe it...

I once passed one of the UK's temporary speed camera/display jobbies and clocked up a speed of 26mph in a 30mph zone...

Which was quite impressive for a knackered old Ford Escort 1300 turning left from a standing start... 0-26 in about 6ft... 8-0

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Unhappy

So can I ...

I was once in a courtroom in New Jersey where a demonstration of the "radar gun" (I don't remember if it was a laser or actual radar) showed the courtroom wall going 15 mph. The poor sucker still had to pay the fine.

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Pint

~35MPH around a corner?

His argument was that he was going around a corner, so he couldn't have been going 64mph.

Instead, by his argument, he was taking a corner--from a standing stop--at no less than 35mph? Really? I'm picturing pureed groceries in the back seat.

Of course, that's probably the consistency he likes, given the surname (you'll need a very unabridged dictionary of slang).

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Stop

Civil vs. Criminal law

Not the first to think of this idea I'm sure, the problem with it is that it usually won't stick unless you are defending a criminal case.

Civil cases are a little odd in that they do not carry the 'burden of proof'.

So your congestion charge ticket still stands.

Get a bicycle.

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Anonymous Coward

@it's just another tax

So running red lights is safe is it? For me every set of lights should have cameras. It's pretty simple the amber is on for three seconds, three whole seconds. It's the same for every set of lights, so they can't catch you out. There's no way you can fail to stop in three seconds, so in other words if you run a red you're doing it deliberately. And if you're doing it deliberately you're a fucking idiot.

It's hardly a tax is it? If you get caught by the cameras four times then you lose your licence, if they wanted to tax you they would let you keep your licence. After all if you're stupid enough to keep gettin caught by a big bright yellow camera then you're a guaranteed source of income. You want to avoid this "tax" all you have to do is break.

Speed cameras are not a solution to the problem of speeding, but not for the reasons you think. Speed cameras are not a solution to speeding because they are painted bright yellow an come with attentend road markings so only complete fucking idiots get caught by them. The people who are stupid enough to break the limit, but not stupid enough to get caught by the cameras just speed between the cameras. There's a road near us which has just got about ten shiny new cameras on a stretch of road about five miles long. For some reason speeding is a major problem on that road and the casualty rate is very high. Nobody's really surprised when the road is closed due to another fatality. Unfortunately speeding is still a major problem because you can still see the morons accelerating after each camera and breaking for the next. If the cameras could be hidden but everybody knew there were ten of them then only a complete fucktard would break the limit on that stretch of road. I will never understand the point of a speed trap you can see. Nor will I ever understand how anybody can get caught by one.

The thing that most idiots don't get is that each camera costs the safety partnership a fortune to run and they don't make a penny from it. So they must think they work.

If you don't like a particular camera or set of cameras you can complain that they're not working. All the stats, pre and post camera, are available there. If they haven't reduced casualties you can complain. The best thing about those sites for idiots like you is that they tell you which cameras are active at the moment and where the mobile cameras are operating.

So until you can get a coherent argument together fuck off back to the Daily Fail website where you belong.

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Stop

Friend of a frie... well, my friend actually!

DID run a red (it changed before he got to the white line but he was going to damn fast to stop in time) and heard nothing.

Got caught doing 41mph through one of the infamous UK "(no) men at work" 40 mph sections of motorway "maintenance" and got a fixed penalty for 'endangering the workers'...

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Yellow light timing

The plan to install a bunch of red light cameras in Toronto was scrapped because the province would not allow the city to shorten the yellow light enough for them to make money and the contractor quit (they were to get a cut of each ticket).

A. C. , Google "red light camera short yellow" if you think it's not a problem.

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@AC 21:21

Speed does not kill. It never has, and never will.

What causes collisions is a failure to stop or manoeuvre in time to avoid another object - be that moving or stationary, another car, pedestrian or a tree. This is true of 100% of impacts.

Excessive speed is a risk factor for this, but actually a relatively small one - some studies publish statistics for speed being a 'significant factor' in a collision, but oddly there are no statistics for accidents where the speed in question was actually above the limit. (As opposed to 'it's foggy, should have slowed down)

As to your premise:

"If the cameras could be hidden but everybody knew there were ten of them then only a complete fucktard would break the limit on that stretch of road."

How would 'everybody know there were ten of them'? Visitors wouldn't know about *any* of them, but only see the (one or two) white/black traffic enforcement camera signs. (Maybe - there's no 'end of zone' marker, so...)

The 'bright yellow' colour of the cameras is quite amazing - now you only need a bright yellow box on a stick to get all the sudden braking and speedometer-watching that a genuine camera would have created.

As for a coherent argument:

54% of scenes of collision gave inattention/distraction as a significant cause

28% of collisions gave speed, tailgating, being in a hurry and aggressive driving as significant.

- Note the deliberate clustering of Speed with Aggression, tailgating etc.

Only 13% of collisions considered 'Excessive Speed' significant, and as mentioned above this includes driving below the posted speed limit in bad conditions - which no camera could ever note.

I could not find any notation of which collisions involved actual illegal speeds, and the study even states that there is almost no data given on the estimated speed so it's impossible to find out how many collisions partially caused by excessive speed involved illegal speeds.

The only speed data given was the posted speed limit.

Source: Pages 30-36: http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/roadsafety/research/rsrr/theme5/roadaccidentdatabase.pdf (February 2008)

A quick analysis of the above study implies that the maximum for collisions partially caused by traffic enforcement cameras is more than those caused by Alcohol, so it should be worthy of study.

However, I couldn't find any research at all into the numbers of collisions likely to have been caused by the distraction of speed cameras. I found lots of claims of this, and quite a bit of circumstantial and anecdotal evidence, but no real studies.

So, why have there been no studies? I'll leave that one for you guys...

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Badgers

Check facts ;-)

"So running red lights is safe is it?"

In the US making a right turn on a red is legal, you just have to check there's no traffic coming.

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It's not rocket science

"I will never understand the point of a speed trap you can see."

It's called a deterrent. If you put a camera up on a dangerous bend, it's to make people slow down. A hidden camera gets lots of pictures of cars going off into a hedge at 60mph, a bright yellow camera makes people slow down and not crash on the corner.

It also means that small villages on A-roads don't have people hooning through them because they can't be bothered slowing to 30/40. The purpose of a speed camera should be to stop people speeding, not to catch them after they've done it.

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