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back to article Labour moots using speed cameras to reward law-abiding drivers

The new shadow transport minister has suggested that the country's network of average speed cameras could be used to monitor and reward careful drivers with prizes, cheaper car tax, or by deducting penalty points from their licence. Conscious that her party was perceived as anti-motorist when in government, Angela Eagle …

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Careful drivers? Penalty points?

Why would careful drivers /have/ penalty points on their license in the first place??

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Negative points

I am a very careful driver. Does that mean I could build up negative points?

Could be useful for when you are really in a hurry.

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Big Brother

Easy

Driving down a clear road behind a driver who is obviously driving dangerously (swerving, randomly changing speed, possibly talking on his phone, though tending to remain under the limit - in fact remaining well below the limit, causing a hazard), they may have accelerated (after carefully checking their way was clear) to pass the driver, only to find a speed camera van lurking behind a bridge support. The safe driver making safe use of speed gets punished whilst the unsafe driver who may be under the speed limit but is obviously driving badly gets away with it because he was under the limit.

That's how careful, good drivers get points.

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Anonymous Coward

Even Driving instructors

Can have up to 4 points without any problems...

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WTF?

Points don't make prizes

So far I've yet to get a point.

As I've got over 30 years of an unstamped license I must be a really safe driver and can I have my free Zonda as I obviously don't speed or do anything else to attract Les Blues.

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Rehabilitation...

...is a fundamental part of any system of justice.

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Database fetish

The labour party really has a fetish for collecting large amounts of peoples habits, statistics, biometric information - and storing it in databases.

For this to work, average speed check cameras would have to be installed over the whole of the country - expensive. then they would all have to be networked up in a way that didn't fail - expensive.

What prizes is she suggesting? 50p off a gingsters pasty at a motorway service station (That might bring their price below a fiver!)

As for reduced points on the licence - i can see people hiring someone to drive their car round the M25 at 40Mph for a few weeks just to reduce their points.

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Happy

Careful now!

They don't need any more help coming up with dopey ideas!

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Anonymous Coward

Already done

The police have already installed a nationwide ANPR system, though nobody seems to have noticed. The data - number plates and timestamps - is already being captured and stored centrally. Calculating average speed from this would not be hard.

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@Database fetish

>>For this to work, average speed check cameras would have to be installed over the whole of the country - expensive. then they would all have to be networked up in a way that didn't fail - expensive.

GPS in all cars, dumping the locations and speed to collection points, automatic tickets when you're over 10% +2 and automatic removals if you're constantly under the speed limit, it would work in a 2000AD Judge Dredd world, but until then it won't.

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Remember to type a title here

"Angela Eagle suggested such uses for the cameras "might make people understand there is a point to [them]" she told The Daily Telegraph."

I thought you were supposed to have a point *before* spending millions on them. Not trying to invent a point for them sometime afterwards.

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misread

There is a point, people just don't understand it.

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or

There is a point, people just don't enjoy it.

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FAIL

so

Whats the point, although some main routes have average speed camera the majority of motorists will never go through them.

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Black Helicopters

The best thing about being in opposition is...

... you can spout rubbish like this and nobody has to take you seriously. :-)

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Is this is why they are no longer in Government?

A loony idea. How about random prizes for pedestrians who don't mug people? Or prizes for horny men that don't do rape?

A lot of the worst speeding offenders have incorrect or no data at all registered with the DVLA anyway. They are effectively immune to speeding tickets and I expect they don't care if they aren't eligible to win a prize for not speeding.

Prizes for Internet users who don't hack or download copyright material? Prizes for pedos who only download pictures of over 18s? ;-) The list of idiotic ideas goes on.

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@Gary F

"A lot of the worst speeding offenders have incorrect or no data at all registered with the DVLA anyway."

You missed disqualified drivers who don't give a s**t.

I'm sure there are a few more reasons as well.

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Just remembered why I left the UK

speed cameras, shoot coming back soon.

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Anonymous Coward

Good idea

Damn, typing that title hurt

Now the downside..

Such a shame the whole idea will track your movements, be linked to a huge database, ooh that could be used for ID cards perhaps...

I spot a business opportunity though, I'm available to drive your car correctly, courteously and in compliance with all the road traffic laws, rates on application though if you own anything less than two years old by Lamborghini, Ferrari, Bugatti or an Audi R8 I'll do it for free.

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um, no.

Just because we have data is no indication that we have the CPU power to MINE that data. A look up is one thing, but turning hundreds of millions of disparate data points collected each day into a map noting the pathing of each and every car in the EU, accounting for their travels when the take roads not accommodating speed cameras, track that back to a driver no less (more than one person commonly drives each car), and even then try to use THAT output in some meaningful way?

Look, here in the USA we researched building a national education database to track the performance of each student, teacher, building, and district across the country. nothing more than a repository of grades and what classes each kid took. A few dozen data points on each kid each year, plus some additional data on each schools curriculum and association of student to class to teacher. Something a bit more complex than a medical history database in terms of data volume, and with a lot more cross referencing and trend analysis.

The results? The size of the data-set would have exceeded the IRS database with just a couple of years of collected data on each kid, let alone trying to track a kid across multiple schools and 12+ years. Worse, IRS data is easily dividable to person, county, state, etc, but school data fell into odd divisions, making the architecture of the database itself massive, and meaning that any storage technology even on the horizon to use for that data was not big enough. Further, the CPU estimates for organizing, mining, correlating, and being able to generate person specific reporting from it were ridiculous. Many times what even the biggest mainframes on earth could push out. Only a massively distributed data system (each district storing and mining it;s own data) was feasible. Doing this for cars not only increases the data set by 2 orders of magnitude or more, but also adds significant computations complexity. We're 40 or 50 years from being able to have a system capable of live tracking every car.

What they proposed with this "lottery" system is easy. We get the data, randomly throw a few names in a hat, dump the rest of the data from the buffer, and periodically draw a name. Essentially, you pick a camera and a time, and give a reward to the first person passing it who's doing under the speed limit. no data mining required, no $100B computing system.

get a grip all you paranoid nuts, even if the government (aka, people like us that we elected) wanted to monitor us this way (which short of conspiracy theories no one has an answer, the data is valueless to everyday government operation), IT CAN NOT BE DONE using technology available even coming down the line 10 years from now, and certainly not with costs that can be hidden. Real time traffic management, yes, its possible. historical association of person, car and route looking for habits and cross association to other people? not possible. Not in 25 years.

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Badgers

Well...

Just because it isn't do-able yet, doesn't mean we should give them the data. Bear in mind, that we here in the UK have found ourselves to be living in a country with more surveillance than anywhere else on earth, so it's understandable that people are getting a little uneasy about that.

Anyway, to your discussion of databases and tech, which I found an interesting read, by the way. Can you not do that yet with a massively-parallel platform, such as the high-end Teradata stuff? Ok, so maybe you couldn't do the sheer volume all on one system, but surely you could have a data repository for each region of the country, then model aggregated cubes from the data that would then be made available to a centralised point for trending etc. You wouldn't have realtime info available for every car, but you could bypass the cubes to interrogate the fact data in each region to retrieve the travel history of a particular vehicle, perhaps? Or, given Police interest in a particular individual, the journeys of a given number plate could be retrieved from the regional operational DBs and pre-summarised via a scheduled job and reported every 24 hours?

(Caveat: I'm an infrastructure bod currently up to my neck in business intelligence stuff, so I'm no DB specialist, but genuinely interested in your thoughts)

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Grenade

@MichaelC

"The size of the data-set would have exceeded the IRS database"

Are you nuts? Can you say that again with a straight face?

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Re: um, no.

"Just because we have data is no indication that we have the CPU power to MINE that data. A look up is one thing, but turning hundreds of millions of disparate data points collected each day into a map noting the pathing of each and every car in the EU, accounting for their travels when the take roads not accommodating speed cameras, track that back to a driver no less (more than one person commonly drives each car), and even then try to use THAT output in some meaningful way?"

I don't think that you have understood the nature of the Labour beast at all; for more than 40 years the Conservatives and Liberals have attacked them for their vainglorious, ill thought out and expensive projects (especially IT), projects that consume vast amounts of money - even in Labour terms - and eventually have to be scrapped, simply because these utter dimwits didn't have sufficient pre-frontal grey to anticipate the consequences of their silliness; wasted money and failure.

Politics needs a VM or a sandbox, somewhere in which the alterations to the registry and other bits of the system are not permitted and any temporary changes are junked when the machine is switched off, along with would-be-Neo-Assange and other twerps.

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@ Michael C

Are you a spindoctor for the Black Helicopter brigade?

"IT CAN NOT BE DONE using technology available even coming down the line 10 years from now, and certainly not with costs that can be hidden"

Firstly it can, and is, being done. Not 10 years away, but now. The technology is both here and (relatively) affordable to capture massive amounts of data - divide and conquer - clouds.

As for hiding the cost of a secret sytem - easy - make it public. "We're building a database to reward good drivers. We'll log peoples movements and give prizes to good drivers". All of a sudden you have a funded database that tracks movements. Or just call it "National Security"

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Anonymous Coward

Its not that they can

But that they want to that is the worrying thing.

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FAIL

uh hu

and 640KB of memory is enough for everyone.

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Better idea.

Rip the things out.

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Not such a good idea...

They're commercial, not government. They are used to produce information on how jammed up various routes have become. That ultimately turns in to traffic reports on the radio, live traffic data for your sat nav, etc. etc. That is USEFUL.

I know an engineer who actually worked on the traffic monitoring camera system (i.e. the blue cameras you see by the side of roads, on bridges, etc). It seems that the company had to jump through many many legal hoops to show that their network really did collect just a few digits from each number plate (not the whole thing), and disposed of it properly rather than storing it when the average speed had been calculated, and at no point had enough data to identify individual cars.

Labour's idea would require a significant change in the data protection laws to permit the cameras to 'see' the whole number plate, and significant technical modifications to the system to allow it to actually generate the vast data set needed for processing in order to deliver the information. And the prizes are probably shite anyway.

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Ahh, the VRN recognition system :-)

@bazza I was the IT manager for the company that developed the original character recognition software, for the AA. Most of the developers were under-grads/post-grads, and when it became known that the software was being given to the Police.... the reaction was 'interesting' to say the least. What was funny at the time was being flashed by the trail system, on the M40 - the large black sign at the "south" end flashing "J* *** and the vehicle speed"... :-)

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WTF?

Car registration?

Hi,

I'm I wrong when I remember that average speed cameras not used for speed enforcement (as road work speed restriction area) but for traffic monitoring were not supposed to record full number plates but only the last 4 or 5 digits to be able to average speed but not identify cars? So they are also another source of ANPR?

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FAIL

Yes...

...you are wrong. TrafficMaster sensors (the blue cameras) monitor speed by dropping some of the registration-number, but the SPECS cameras (the yellow ones) record the whole registration number for speed-limit enforcement purposes.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: average speed cameras not used for speed enforcement

I think you are thinking of trafficmaster cameras - http://www.ukspeedcameras.co.uk/guide.htm#Traffic Master

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FAIL

A triumph of muddle-headedness

It is often said that, when in opposition, you are free to think the unthinkable.

But in cases such as this, the unthinkable should remain unthunk...

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Anonymous Coward

Flakey tech

Not sure that these average speed cameras are as accurate as they "man" would have us believe. I suspect they work reasonably ok at lower speeds (probably around a 25% failure rate) but I have been experimenting with them and in a 50 they aren't triggered by driving around 60-65. It appears that a lot of people are becoming wise to how bad the mark 1s are. Maybe the new ones they just released will be better.

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Anonymous Coward

You could be right.....

But are you sure it's not your Speedo?

More to the point, just because the limit is 50, doesn't mean the threshold the camera is working on is 55.

That said, lets do the maths

- Camera's 1 mile apart

- 60 Limit

If you take >= 1 minute then you're OK.

If you take 51 seconds (approx) then you're doing 70.

If you take 45 Seconds you're doing 80

Maths could be wrong, but seems like fairly simple kit to get right. Assuming of course that the cameras are reliable at picking up and reading number plates!

Keep in mind that some camera's are fake and/or empty boxes (especially when you get into fixed speed cameras).

Always wondered if you could force a buffer overflow by forcing the camera to read a stupidly high speed! Could you, for example, drive one car past camera 1 with the reg ABCD 123 and 1 second later have another drive past Camera 2 with the same reg? At what point is the calculated speed too large (the example above would only be 3600 MPH so prob not)

Horrible yellow things, the only thing worse is the Speed Vans

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Anonymous Coward

The tech itself is decidedly un-flaky

It is simple maths, if you measure the time it takes something to travel a known distance then you can easily calculate the average speed.

However, there are a good many things that are "flaky", such as your numberplate (could be obscured in some manner), the trigger point for raising a speeding ticket set by the relevant authority (too low and you risk costly court action and a serious loss of public support), your speedometer (check it against your GPS - chances are when it reads 60 you are more likely only actually doing 55-57), the applicable laws (innocent until proven guilty and all that) and finally your driving (just as it is easy to accidentally drift over the speed limit it is easy to drift under).

[Now, if you travel faster than the limit you are asking for points, and regardless of the reasoning below you could be legally slapped if your speedo shows 1mph over the limit - just to make sure no-one is stupid enough to try out just how fast you can travel through average speed cameras]

All of these together means that you could probably have a damn good go at travelling at 65 in a 50 without triggering the "man's" cameras - you would probably only be averaging 62-63 on your clock which in reality would probably be more like 57. So given a nice 10% leeway on the cameras with an additional 2-3 mph margin needed to avoid any legal "discussions" it is pretty certain that many of the average cameras are set to trigger at around the 60mph mark anyway.

Now, you could be correct that the cameras are not reliable, it is certainly possible but on the balance of probabilities it seems unlikely. Or you could be super special and the "man" is letting you off in a kind of weird double bluff to catch everyone else and so narrow the deficit through speeding fines. Or you might be on a motorbike and so immune to average speed cameras through the cunning act of having no forward facing numberplate.

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Anonymous Coward

re: average cameras

I don't believe they are triggered the same way as normal speed cameras - you won't see a flash and the first time you'll see an issue is the notification of prosecution in the post.

I suspect you have been lucky and the average they have indicated is below the threshold set (which is likely to be something greater than 10%+2mph ) some of which will come down to the speedometer in your car being upto 10% fast - so speedo reading of 65 could be real speed of 59 to 65

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Also

Crossing lanes repeatedly would influence your speed, because you aren't travelling from point A to B in the shortest possible manner.

Do the sensors also have a laser rangefinder to calculate the distance between the camera and the target vehicle, pass that data to the central computer, and does the central computer take those distances (difference distances to target recorded by each camera) into account in order to calculate speed? If not, that distance would be a large variable in itself.

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Re: Flakey tech

You may not actually be driving fast enough to trigger the camera.

The absolute minimum trigger speed for a camera is 10% + 2mph above the speed limit, so on a motorway with a 70mph speed limit, you are safe to drive at 79mph. This avoids any arguments about how accurate the camera's speed measurement is, and bad press about over-zealous enforcement.

Also the tollerance level for your speedo's accuracy is that it must not show you driving any slower than you actually are, but it can show you as driving up to 10% faster. Typically car manufacturers go for the mid-point and show you driving 5% faster than you actually are. That means that if your speedo is showing 83mph, or possibly up to just under 87mph, you could still be safe.

Another thing is that speed cameras can be, and often are, set to a higher speed than the minimum permitted. So if your cameras in the 50 mph zone were set to 60 rather than the legal minimum of 57, you might find that you actually aren't driving fast enough to trigger them.

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@jonathanb

There's no defined minimum trigger speed; some police forces have practiced zero tolerance (1mph over) for a while now (am thinking lincolnshire). I personally got tugged by the SPECS system on the A616 some years go for doing 67mph in a 60. I wasn't particularly amused, but hey ho...

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g e
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Or maybe

just decommission them.

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Megaphone

sounds creepy

The reward for good behaviour is that the government should leave you the fuck alone.

I'm sick of the government "rewarding" people with money. Where do you think they got the money from in the first place? They tax you, take a significant cut of it, then give you back maybe 1% of that as a "reward". Does anyone else smell bullshit?

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Anonymous Coward

Creepier than you think.

The government is already gathering far more data than sane or reasonable to make sure you're on your bestest behaviour, all the time. It's far too easy for some enterprising bureaucrat looking for a nicely browned nose to figure out some wrong or other and then fish up plenty of "wrongdoers" from the seas of data, dish out a lot of fines, and present a celebratory report full of glowing words and numbers about this "success" in "combatting crime".

That is why gathering data without a direct, defendible, and clear reason to use it is a very clear and present no-no. Privacy laws are just about the only defence we have left against this sort of abuse, but since they rely on willing compliance by faceless faraway clerks, very strong defenses they are not.

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Big Brother

Presumption of Guilt

If you reward people for abiding by the law, aren't you showing that you believe we're all law-breakers by default? Don't schemes like this amount to presumption of guilt? Aren't the rewards effectively refunded, automatic fines that you supposedly never realised you'd paid (but you did, through taxes, etc)?

That, to me, seems to be the inescapable implication of this disgusting idea. And that's before getting onto the inevitable Big Brother database that would be needed to make this work.

It also sounds like an attempt to copy the Tories' Nudge-Nudge, Wink-Wink stuff about manipulating us in positive, helpful, friendly ways, rather than in more honest, authoritarian ways where they simply threaten us with punishments and penalties.

And in case anyone's interested, Angela Eagle's identical twin sister is Maria Eagle, who was involved with the extreme and cartoon porn laws.

Politicians: what a load of nudging winkers!

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Re: sounds creepy

I like your choice of phraseology and your language. Labour as a party embraced the neologism 'incentivise'; they took on board a mixture of behavioural psychology and modern commercial practise, except for good fiscal practise. The problem with the Labour party is also that they specialise in silly, expensive and unrealisable projects, whilst revelling in the art of passing silly, inconsequential, interfering legislation.

These idiots should be kept away from office. Forever. Since the war each time they have left office they have left a gaping hole in our budget and a set of unrealisable projects, or white elephants.

It's a pity they didn't invest the money in something that mattered, like poverty, paying for the wars they forced the MoD to pay for instead of the normal practise of using the contingency fund... ...no, wait, Iraq should never have happened. Off to the Hague with them, Blair, Brown and Straw. Pity it cannot be Nuremburg with the attendant ultimate penalty. Creeps? Oh yes.

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Megaphone

true

And the database state is heavily biased towards spotting the kind of crimes nobody cares about.

It's very easy, it seems, to have a CCTV system automatically issue fines for minor traffic violations; kind of difficult, on the other hand, to build a CCTV system that's actually worth a shit when someone gets raped or killed.

But wait! I hear you ask; if people are forced to wear a number plate just like cars, then everything will be fine, right? Your government issued IPv6 address can be printed onto your car and onto your forehead so that we always know where you are and what you are doing, no more crime, right? It must follow that total safety is the logical conclusion of total surveillance.

You could fence off every building and every public space so that the government can run a checkpoint at the entrance and screen people for drugs and weapons. This would have the plus side that you would need a damn good excuse to go anywhere. In general people would only be allowed to work, to the hospital, or back to their own home.

Homes are the most dangerous places though, as we all know, household accidents are up 500% because terrorists have been importing dangerous products. You burnt yourself on the stove because of terrorists, not because you are an oaf. So for safety reasons you can't have a stove anymore. The government will issue you a daily allowance of soup and bread from a dedicated feeding centre.

Total control of food means total elimination of obesity. Remember obesity? It used to be the worst thing in the whole wide world. It was just so tragic that some people were fat. But now they're not, and it's all because the state had the courage to do the right thing.

Now that you are totally safe and no one can hurt you, don’t you feel great?

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Megaphone

Full agreement

I recasll, not long after the war, the top income tax rate was put at 39 40ths, nineteen shillings and sixpence in the pound. That was Labour for you, taxation was all important then and remains so today. Perhasps some of those in power at that time, and some are still alive, could please explain why a Top Tax rate of 50% is now so unacceotable to them. If the politicians were made subject to the same laws as the general population and with the same sanctions falling on those who step outside the law we would, perhaps, see some respect for the political classes instead of the general loathing og politicos. I can think of a phrase to describe therm but I would not use it on this page but a single word, despicable, springs to mind when looking at the general behaviour of politicos, or perhaps, disgusting. They would disgrace fully paid up members of the greedy classes whjom they effect to despise. The trouble with Labour is that it doesn't .

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Brain Dead

Good old Labour, always ready, willing and able to find a way of spending other people's hard earned cash!

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Black Helicopters

Road safety is all about numbers

Don't you people understand? Driving 49 in a 50 limit is perfectly safe, and must be rewarded. Driving at 51 in a 50 limit is dangerous, unacceptable and results in the DEATHS of millions of children every second. People who do such a thing must be punished. The road conditions, your driving style and attentiveness, your car etc etc DON'T MATTER. It doesn't matter that often the only difference between a camera-enforced '50' and an unenforced '70' is the presence of cones on the hard shoulder. The only way to drive safely is to travel at or below a round-number speed decided upon by a transport minister in the 1960s. Nothing else matters.

Move along, citizen.

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FAIL

Pull the other one, it's got bells on.

They aren't touting this in order to incentivise good driving.

This is a very shallow excuse to track everyone's movements and if you didn't see that immediately then you need to look at their track record regarding our civil liberties a little closer.

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