A new speed camera under development by the European Commission can catch drivers committing five different motoring violations at once.
The Advanced Safety and Driver Support for Essential Road Transport (Asset) camera, which has a total project cost of over £7 million, doesn’t stop at detecting speed offences.
It’s accurate enough to spot when drivers aren’t wearing seatbelts – widely mandatory in Europe – and can also detect tailgating, by monitoring the distance between vehicles.
By capturing license plates and checking them against the relevant databases, it can also recognize cars which haven’t been taxed or insured – and it can do all this from 150 feet away. Details from the GPS-enabled device are transmitted back to a central database.
There’s a nod to privacy, in that images over a month old and those in which no traffic violation takes place are destroyed.
Units will cost about £50,000 each, say the developers of the system, a group of European universities and research institutions. While the prototype is currently mounted on a trailer, the aim is to shrink it enough to fit inside a police car.
The system is currently being tested by the VTT Technical Research Centre in in Finland, with the trial due to end next year. Its developers say they hope that within three years the system will be deployed across Europe.
Not everyone is enthusiastic.
“The quality of the technology aside, there is little evidence to suggest that speed cameras actually improve road safety – but rather that they serve as significant income-generators for local councils,” says Daniel Hamilton of Big Brother Watch.