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back to article London's King of Clamps shuts down numberplate camera site

The inventor of the much-hated London wheel clamp has shut down a website which advertised a automatic numberplate recognition system which he'd claimed was capable of spotting tax dodgers, disabled people and terrorists. Trevor Whitehouse voluntarily closed the site ANPRinabox.com after parking activists filed a complaint with …

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Anonymous Coward

The small ironies of life.

A bloodsucker getting Lyme disease....

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Thumb Up

Re: The small ironies of life.

Did you know syphilis is spirochaete like Lyme disease? Pity he didn't get that too.

Great headline: Parasite gets infected by parasite carrying parasite.

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JC_

Re: The small ironies of life.

A bloodsucker getting Lyme disease....

I've never understood the hatred toward parking-rule enforcement. Without enforcement, drivers take the piss and we end up with chaos and selfishness like in Rome or Bombay.

If it's wheel-clamping in particular that's hated, keep in mind that fines don't always work. A sheik double-parked outside Harrods won't give a damn about a fine, but he won't want to come back to an immobilised or towed Bentley.

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Re: The small ironies of life.

The small irony is that one of the most widely used weapons against people parking in the wrong place, is to immobilise their vehicle so it stays in said place.

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Bronze badge

Re: The small ironies of life.

"Without enforcement, drivers take the piss and we end up with chaos and selfishness like in Rome or Bombay."

Or maybe not, as proponents of "shared space" argue - and implement with reasonable success in Europe (notably in the Netherlands, but even in some places in Blighty) and beyond:

http://www.spiegel.de/international/spiegel/controlled-chaos-european-cities-do-away-with-traffic-signs-a-448747.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shared_space

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Re: The small ironies of life.

Nothing wrong with parking rule enforcement. That's not what this is about. It's about someone taking rather more pleasure and/or profit from it than is normal or healthy.

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JC_

@ T. F. M. Reader

Right at the bottom of the Spiegel article you linked to it states this:

Now traffic is regulated by only two rules in Drachten: "Yield to the right" and "Get in someone's way and you'll be towed."

Which is exactly my point! There has to be enforcement or it's chaos; not friendly chaos, but the bedlam of cars & trucks blocking the road simply because they get away with it.

On Exhibition Road, the council says this: "Exhibition Road is a Restricted Zone with two way traffic along the whole length of the road. Parking is prohibited anywhere in the road except in marked parking bays. We do not need extra signs or ugly yellow lines to enforce a Restricted Zone."

The yellow lines don't do the enforcement, the threat of fines/towing/clamping do!

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Anonymous Coward

Parking Enforcement

Parking Enforcement is one thing.

but the un-regulated private industry quickly turning into plain old extortion.

That is the reason wheel clamping and vehicle towing on private property is now illegal, because the people doing the clamping couldn't control their greed and became a problem so they had their clamps taken off them.

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Re: The small ironies of life.

""Without enforcement, drivers take the piss and we end up with chaos and selfishness like in Rome or Bombay."

Or maybe not, as proponents of "shared space" argue"

We have chaos and selfishness in the UK with parking. Just go near a school at kicking out time. Your link won't fix that: The parents already think they've got a right to park as close to the school as they can get, just so they don't have to walk so far to fetch their kids. Oh, and they also don't care if they block the road by standing in the way with their car doors open, getting their kids settled into the back of the car.

It's one example, but there are a lot of schools and a hell of a lot of feckless parents.

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JC_

Re: The small ironies of life.

We have chaos and selfishness in the UK with parking. Just go near a school at kicking out time. Your link won't fix that: The parents already think they've got a right to park as close to the school as they can get, just so they don't have to walk so far to fetch their kids

I couldn't agree with you more about the schools. I cycle past Pembridge Hall ("Preparatory School for Girls") in Notting Hill everyday and it's a nightmare; over-privileged parents thinking that £10,500 / year also gives them the right to park the 4x4 wherever they want, even if it causes accidents.

All it needs is enforcement - there is none. I guarantee that if every illegally parked car was being ticketed/towed/clamped then the bad behaviour would stop overnight and we'd all be better off for it.

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@ T.F.M. Reader - Shared Space

I am all for it - Exhibition Road at 30mph feels like The French Connection. Only sticky wicket I can see is the assumption that drivers (and pedestrians) are right minded people who will be more careful when faced with uncertainty. In the same way that our continental cousins tend to become gregarious when drunk rather than unruly like us Brits, our reactions to different stimuli can vary depending on cultural norms. What works for the Dutch might not work over here!

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Re: The small ironies of life.

I couldn't agree with you more about the schools. I cycle past Pembridge Hall ("Preparatory School for Girls") in Notting Hill everyday and it's a nightmare; over-privileged parents thinking that £10,500 / year also gives them the right to park the 4x4 wherever they want, even if it causes accidents.

All it needs is enforcement - there is none. I guarantee that if every illegally parked car was being ticketed/towed/clamped then the bad behaviour would stop overnight and we'd all be better off for it.

There was a complete uproar at a school nearby that happened to be on a vital through road. The parents (following the usual rule of "requiring" the largest possible vehicles for the smallest, palest kids) couldn't possibly have their kids walk more than 30 seconds to their waiting personal-bus. It was often the case that they parked up a full hour before the school closed and waited, as close to the school as possible. Given that this waiting was on a bus stop, pedestrian crossing, single and double yellow lines, blocking private drives, too close to road junctions and so on, let alone the obligatory double parking and parking on both sides of the road, the parents were given notice that traffic wardens would visit the following week. Which they did then given the uproar of the lazy parents, the police had to be called to sort it out and the following week the police just started off escorting the traffic wardens. Then the parental health-and-safety brigade got involved and any child that walked (using their own legs for what they are designed for) more than 10 metres because they were no longer allowed to illegally and obstructively park where they damn pleased and had to walk along a, safe and wide, public footpath to where their car was parked.

In the end the obnoxious parents made it so expensive for it to be policed / patrolled that the local authorities gave up trying to enforce the laws of the road.

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Re: @ T.F.M. Reader - Shared Space

Exhibition Road at 30mph feels like The French Connection

Well the whole saga of Exhibition Road was pretty comical in a lot of ways, including the desire to hide everything so blind or visually impaired people, or more nobody all, knew where the pavement stopped and the road started.

It was almost pleasant at one point when the speed limit was set to 15/20 mph and it was designated to be a pedestrian priority zone. Well, it was pleasant as a pedestrian when there were drivers who could read or just cared.

Since it's back to "normal" now, it's the usual impending death trap of diplomatic cars driving along the pavements, taxis doing whatever they felt like doing (such as u-turns in the middle of busy traffic and driving within no lights) and the bedlam of the odd speeding lunatic or just gaggles of tourists finding repetitive ways to stand in the way of cycylists. My personal favourite was the inane restiction of the delivery access to the V&A museum which made it even harder for the poor buggers to reverse a semi-artic through narrow gates while trying to get out of the main road before they were accosted by taxi drivers.

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Re: @ T.F.M. Reader - Shared Space

Setting a speed limit at 15 or 20 mph is a waste of time anywhere in the world because people simply will not obey it (even the police and pushbikers from what I've observed).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The small ironies of life.

> Or maybe not, as proponents of "shared space" argue

The bastards!!! Where's the fun in breaking the rules if there are no rules??? :'(

Seriously though, I have noticed that the countries with the most courteous drivers are also those with less signage, very few roundabouts, and free of so-called "pacifiers", speed bumps and other stuff.

I know correlation does not equal causation and all that, but it did get me thinking. I for one like living somewhere where when you give way to someone, not just him but also the drivers behind thank you, and where parking space fights are over yielding the place to the other driver.

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Re: The small ironies of life.

"... gives them the right to park the 4x4 wherever they want..."

May I propose a solution? Make it illegal to enable power-steering on any vehicle UNLESS it is in the posession of a bona fide farmer. That might just dissuade the mummies from deploying their tanks for the school run.

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WTF?

Re: The small ironies of life.

Ed,

Unless of course you happen to live in the middle of Devon, and actually have used the beasty concerned (ours is a Jeep) to actually go exploring.

Ironically when we bought it, the dealer was astonished that it won't just be used on the road.

In our 150 yard long st there are 15 4x4s. Btw when it gets snowed in, the farmers and 4x4 owners sort out a roster to look after folk that need to visit doctors etc

Isn't village life lovely?

J.

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Re: Parking Enforcement

Pity that the local councils that equally cannot control their greed don't get their clamps taken off them too. Parking regulation long ago stopped being about enforcing sensible parking and is now just a revenue raising scheme. Manchester being a classic example where the council has covered the city centre with double yellow lines and unused loading bays while increasing metered parking times to 8pm seven days a week damaging the city centre economy. Of course the council themselves have a private car park, some animals are more equal than others

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Re: The small ironies of life.

"I've never understood the hatred toward parking-rule enforcement. Without enforcement, drivers take the piss and we end up with chaos and selfishness like in Rome or Bombay."

Instead we're charged over a pound to rent thirty square feet of space with zero attached maintenance fees for an hour while traffic wardens circle like fat buzzards, waiting eagerly to charge us another 70 notes for going 5 minutes over.

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Maybe the site was cross referencing http://www.askmid.com/ and making the assumption that any uninsured vehicle was up to mischief?

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Well look at the claims in turn

He claims his device can read number plates. I don't know if that is true, but OCR does exist, and it is possible with current technology to do that. It could be true.

Lets look at the other claims:

It can detect speeding. Average speed cameras do exist that record number plates and the time taken to get from one camera to another. This claim could be true.

It can spot tax dodgers. If it was linked to DVLA's car tax database, then it could check that. Devices that do that are used. This claim could be true, but only in respect of car tax dodgers.

It can spot disabled people. Blue badges are issued to people, not cars. You can use it if the badge holder is in the car, or if you are going to pick up the badge holder. It is not possible for this claim to be true.

It can spot terrorists. There is no database of terrorists linked to registration numbers. MI5 and MI6 may have some terrorist-linked registration numbers on file, but there is no way you can make the claim that this devices will spot terrorists.

It can spot car theives and shop lifters. If a car is reported stolen, the registration number is forwarded to police and traffic wardens, and they will look out for it. In this respect, it might find stolen cars some of the time. There is no way it could find shop lifters.

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Bronze badge

Cars registered to disabled persons are zero-tax, so that would show in a dvla query.

As for terrorit detection...maybe the car is registered to a Mr BinLaden?

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Anonymous Coward

There's plenty of person related info logged against vehicle registration numbers on the Police National Computer, so throwing a VRN at the PNC and DVLA feeds would provide pretty much everything he claimed, except the current weight of the HGV.

Although all he's doing is reading a registration number.

Anon, because I didn't tell you that.

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"It can spot disabled people."

Some vehicles are registered as disability vehicles: Specially modified for wheelchair users. Those his camera would be able to detect - it they linked to the DVLA.

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Anonymous Coward

BUT....

remember most of the time crooks will change the number plate. So unless it can also match the plate with the type and colour of car.....?

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Holmes

"Cars registered to disabled persons are zero-tax"

JohnMurray, do you have a source for this claim? I'm not being awkward, it really would be useful to know.

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Headmaster

@PatientOne

Vehicles supplied to recipients of the mobility component of the higher rate of DLA* are eligible for a 100% discount on VED for their primary vehicle. So the DVLA database works there.

However, not all cars with 100% VED exemption are driven by the person claiming the benefit. Like my wife, for example. Her eyesight is too poor to drive, so I am the driver.

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Bronze badge

"It can detect speeding. Average speed cameras do exist that record number plates and the time taken to get from one camera to another. This claim could be true."

Knowing the time it takes to get from A to B wouldn't make it a clear breach of the law without some other levels of proof added.

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...except the current weight of the HGV.

It is possible to calculate the weight assuming the following is known:

  • Model of the HGV
  • Characteristics of the HGV suspension springs, such as spring stiffness, original length with no cargo
  • Calculating the length of the suspension spring is precise and accurate

By calculating the force:

Change in Force = Spring Stiffness x Change in Spring Length.

You can find the mass of the cargo:

Change in Force = Change in Mass x g

Divide Force by g (~10m/s2) you could calculate the mass of what's inside.

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Silver badge

Sorry, no. A lot of lorries use air-pressure for suspension, or a combination.

Also, springs get baggier as they are used. Two equal springs on the same model used for the same length of time would be different if -for example- one lorry routinely carries heavier loads than the other. There's too many variables and you'd need to know so much about the individual lorry and it's history that it'd be easier to simply drive it to a weighbridge.

You might be able to use the ANPR box in conjunction with a pressure strip embedded in the road but my gut feeling is that there would be accuracy problems. Estimating the weight of a laden lorry from a self-contained box would seem to me to be a nugget of purest bollocks.

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There's plenty of person related info logged against vehicle registration numbers

[MODE = "SINGSONG"]

Rental ...

[/MODE]

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Anonymous Coward

A few tons, give or take a couple dozen.

> Estimating the weight of a laden lorry from a self-contained box would seem to me to be a nugget of purest bollocks.

Well, he didn't make any claims as to the *precision* of his estimate, did he?

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"Knowing the time it takes to get from A to B wouldn't make it a clear breach of the law without some other levels of proof added."

But this is just how average speed cameras work. The photos and calculated average speed between cameras is a legally accepted piece of evidence.

What they can't do is tell if you drove at 100mph after passing the first camera and then pulled over and stopped for a while before reaching the next camera.

As per other posts further down, whether they actually work or not is a another matter.

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Vic
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> You might be able to use the ANPR box in conjunction with a pressure strip embedded in the road

Such pressure hoses are used for measuring vehicle weight - but IME, this is purely for census gathering, not enforcement of any kind...

Vic.

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I wonder if the frequency of oscillation could be added as an additional factor. That way, you have oscillation frequency in addition to height of the load (average height of the load given it's moving). Would that not be enough? I know it's complicated by the damping of the system (maybe assume critical damping? Then measure the time for the oscillation to settle and infer the spring constant and mass...)

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Re: @PatientOne

@JimmyPage

Sorry, posted a bit quickly and wasn't clear on my point: His claim to detecting disabled drivers could be based on the detection of disability cars. Nothing to say the driver is disabled, just that the number plate appears on a 'disabled' list. However, as you notes, a lot of disability cars are driven by parnters or parents for the same reason why you drive for your wife, so the claim is misleading at best and fraudulant at worst.

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Re: @PatientOne

Been thinking more about this. Firstly, there's springs and springs. Spring A is made of lab-quality spring steel, manufactured to intolerant tolerances and individually licked to a mirror finish by master craftsmen. Spring B is cheaply imported from $country and is made out of whatever was in the yard that would fit in the smelter. They're going to perform differently.

Another thing not considered is load distribution...if a lorry is loaded down one side with heavy stuff (does happen - it can get very boring in a warehouse) then any form of measurement using the appearance of the lorry is going to show it as massively overloaded on one side and slightly lighter than air on the other side. So even at best you'd need 2 boxes to look at each side of the lorry.

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Silver badge

By recognizing plates that have appeared in two places too quickly he would be able to prove the vehicle must have sped between those points.

By archiving plates he would be able to track the prior location of terrorists and criminals once their plate #s are known after the attack.

By spotting spelling mistakes on personalized # plates he would be able to identify dislexics, which is a recognized form of disability.

Any car with a Northern registration # is likely to contain one or more tax dodgers.

So yeah it makes a lot of sense to me, it's a shame he got shut down. Another sad example of the crackdown on civil liberties.

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Anonymous Coward

@nom

Nice

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I think you are getting confused. Us in the north are benefit scroungers. We don't have enough money to be genuine tax dodgers. Those are all in the south.

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ANPR

As London Congestion Charging found out, number plate recognition on its own is no good, there are cars around, and more than you would think, that have false plates, so vehicle images are captured for evidence. This is so that little old ladies living in Scotland don't get charged for Bob the Builder skipping the congestion charge. There is a difference between a disabled driver and a blue badge holder, the two are not the same. The disability exemption is linked to disability allowance entitlements, blue badges cover a wide range of disabilities.

ANPR systems will flag vehicles of interest, for example, no tax or insurance, and depending on the installation will either have a local list, or will report all vehicles back to a server. One suspects that the Police have more than just that. There is one ANPR system that measures traffic speed between two points, but uses a one way hash of the plate to record the data.

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Coffee/keyboard

"Us in the north are benefit scroungers. We don't have enough money to be genuine tax dodgers. Those are all in the south."

Well played sir!

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Silver badge

"By recognizing plates that have appeared in two places too quickly he would be able to prove the vehicle must have sped between those points."

Unless the plates have been cloned.

Around 10% of cars in greater london are now running with no insurance and a lot of those are on fake plates. There's a known scam involving use of the same plate on multiple vehicles to avoid congestion charges, etc.

As another poster noted, you'd need to match the model and colour too - and even that's not enough because putting the plates from an insurance writeoff onto a stolen car of the same description has been a scam operating for more than 30 years.

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No, I'm in Copeland, so I'm now an Obese Benefit Scrounger. Official, innit?

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Phone Phreaking?

So he's started a crusade against phone freaking? Welcome to the last century or perhaps he has been reading this

http://www.historyofphonephreaking.org/faq.php

either way, this evil is hardly at the top of people thoughts these days. Let him spend his time solving something that really isn't important today.

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Black Helicopters

Whitehouse has recently recovered from Lyme Disease and has launched a "crusade" against phone phreaking.

Phone phreaking is a problem that needs a "crusade"??

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There's been a resurgence

It's on the rise again since the discovery that you can use Mongolian throat singing to generate DMTF tones without hardware

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Thumb Up

Re: There's been a resurgence

Cool, all I need to do now is find a payphone.

How hard could that be?

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Re: There's been a resurgence

Just look out for the familiar red Mongolian Telecom yurt

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Scary Stuff

It actually scares me that so many people could be gullible enough to believe the claims of this clown - particularly at under £1000 per unit.

I've worked on ANPR and £100k single point systems (like used in garages in an effort to stop "drive-aways") are never better than 45% accurate. The Police systems (typically £2m and upward) achieve close to 80% accuracy, but no better.

There are NO systems with anything approaching 100% accuracy.

Errors are very frequent, so if you're logged on the way into an "average speed" zone, you'll probably be missed on the way out (or vice versa) - they're no real deterrent at all. If you're "convicted" by one of these systems, ALWAYS contest it in court - the Police will invariably back down because they cannot be absolutely certain (to the degree required as "legal proof") that it was your car that they logged.

The London "Congestion Zone" ANPR cameras actually are not automatic - they're bogus. There's a large room full of CCTV operators in Lambeth who watch video from the cameras, and type the numberplates in by hand. This is almost as flawed as the automated systems (so can usually be successfully contested)!

ANPR? Don't make me laugh! Under £1000? Ha!

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