UK Testing Speed Cameras From Space? Not Exactly, But Still Troubling

from the big-brother-phone-home dept

Reader btr1701 submitted this story about the UK testing speed cameras that “trap motorists from space.” Although the Telegraph article conjures up images of Big Brother spying on drivers from satellites, the facts are (somewhat) less sinister. The system essentially combines license plate recognition with GPS, taking advantage of the GPS to make the cameras more portable and easy to deploy.

As we’ve discussed before, plate capture technology has been shown to be abused in the UK, so any system that further proliferates the use of these cameras is cause for concern. After all, the main benefit of this new system is that it allows a camera to be quickly deployed virtually anywhere. As a result, those looking to avoid known camera installations will have a harder time, once these become more commonplace. So, while this is not a full blown “Big Brother in space” implementation, it does exacerbate an already troubling situation.

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Comments on “UK Testing Speed Cameras From Space? Not Exactly, But Still Troubling”

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Michael (profile) says:

Re: Reasonable limits

The problem is a reasonable limit depends on the combination of weather, traffic, driver, and vehicle conditions.

Someone in a more nimble car with great breaks and plenty of alternate route windows who knows the road well may be able to safely do 75-80 mph. At the same time even the most professional trucker with a loaded rig probably can’t do more than 70 mph safely, and they’d have to have even more free space or highly predictable traffic around them.

Then there are adverse conditions; dense traffic, high winds, dust storms, mirror-like water after a rainstorm with bright sun, even black ice.

As a driver I feel that there should only be ‘speed advisories’ which tell what the lowest-common consumer denominator car should be able to safely do; and maybe in cases where there is some inherent limit due to blind corners or other design failures a literal speed /limit/ above which the driver could not safely know about future conditions in time to react (say 3-4 seconds).

lfroen (profile) says:

Re: Re: Reasonable limits

“weather, traffic, driver, ” is all very interesting, but irrelevant to decision to put global 90kmph limit unless otherwise stated.
This is pure money-grab, plain and simple. On my street entrance there’s a sign of 30kmph (sic!). Some people are able to run faster.
“speed advisories” is good idea, and another word for it is “common sense”.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Speed cameras from space

If you are not speeding, then these devices have no fear for you; if you are concerned that they will get you in a moment of lapsed concentration, then perhaps you should concentrate more.

Lert me re-phrase that…

If you are so pompous, lacking in imagination and confident of your own ability to concentrate that you don’t believe you will ever fall foul of this system them it won’t worry you.

Until, that is, you get a ticket.

abc gum says:

Re: Re: Speed cameras from space

If they want to give you a ticket, then they bloody well will give you a ticket now wont they? They might even throw in a tazing at no additional charge.

If everyone obeyed every law starting today (btw it is debatable as to whether this is possible) then the government would face severe budget issues. This implies there is a conflict of interest. (duh) Speed limits are not there for your safety as claimed by many, they are inplace to generate revenue.

btw, “Speed Cameras from Space” would be a good title for a B movie.

Anonymous Coward says:

sort of a non-story here. the technology is new the idea is very old. the same effect is used every day in the us with planes or helicopters over a road with marked segments. time over the segment converts into average speed. italian autostradas operate on the same principal at their toll booths. totally a non-story.

Niall (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Not exactly. Italian and French motorways do this to help stop people speeding on high-speed, clearly defined roads. Even in the UK, we have ‘average speed cameras’ (‘vultures’) on some main routes and in many motorway roadwork zones. But these are again on major routes where people are going quiet fast, and have limited route choices, plus only cover at most 10-20 miles of travel.

In the UK, they are talking about covering an entire area, which brings in unprecedented offical ‘nosing’ into your whereabouts at any particular time, with all the potential (actuality?) for abuse we expect from our State. Another issue is how visible these cameras are, as the current ones are mandated to be visible and labelled as such, and if these are covering a large area, that may not be so easy to do. Plus, how long with they hold the number plates for? Shouldn’t be more than a couple of hours even for a large zone.

Still, IF they can be show to actually help, and not be abused (long-term storage of numberplates for instance) then they can help with safety. For instance, on the A77 north of Ayr, traffic accidents are way down because of a reduction of speed from 70 to 50 mph, as well as longer-term use of ‘vultures’.

Edward says:

This Article

The authorities might just as well own up, and wear their ‘SS’ uniforms in public from now on.
This sort of thing is just like being watched form a machine gun tower.
Road abusers should be caught and punished, but we are getting to an alarming stage—–all drivers make mistakes, but this sort of thing will not allow for that.
It seems one is a potential criminal for just being a motorist.
Seig Heil!

Quentin (profile) says:

Global Enslavement

This is again another example of the NWO’s campaign for gradual global enslavement. Their aim is to massively reduce the population, control all movement, and establish a neo-feudal system where the peasant population supports a rich, powerful super-elite who enjoy all the benefits of technological/scientific achievements and medical advancements. Think I’m a fruit-loop? Check out

BearGriz72 (profile) says:

First Amendment?

I think the real story is the possibility of civil rights and privacy violations, if you read the linked article these cameras can photograph and record the license plate info of every car passing it. From a civil rights standpoint the possibility of chilling effects here is astounding. The point is that the government can be abusing traffic cameras for purposes well beyond traffic monitoring, such as using traffic camera images of traffic around protests to note cars that appear at such events. This is a direct violation of the freedom of expression from government interference. Freedom of expression consists of the rights to freedom of speech, press, assembly and to petition the government for a redress of grievances, and the implied rights of association and belief. This is a very slippery slope that could get ‘Nineteen-Eighty-Four’ scary very quickly.

Del Boy says:

More money wasted

Number plate recognition, Well I have been stopped several times by the police who told me that my car shows as un-taxed. Funny that I taxed my car at the source (Glasgow branch of DVLA) & it has taken months for this to filter through the system. So I have to put up with the embarassment of being pulled over – time & time again.

Me-thinks if they cannot get that bit right then what hope of the new space tracking & speed testing working out.

Also it is law that enforcment services notify you of speed check & camera areas: So what they gonna do about space based tracking – paint a massive sign in the sky saying ‘Speed Camera Zone’.

Its time our (UK) government started spending our cash on things like fixing our dam economy & getting the price of fuel down.

Lets face it who can afford to speed with the current 121p per ltr prices?!?!?!?!.

Nick says:

Is amuses me that most people did not seemt o object to this but to the limits themselves that they are too low.

So while lfroen’s road may be 30… that is the standard speed for all residential area’s in the whole of the UK. It has been for years and it is likely to always be.

I got caught doing 40 in a 30 zone recently… by a mobile camera… Whatever the rights and wrongs of mobile camrea’s are detracts from the point. I was speeding in an area I knew the limit in.

There is also a myth that drivers make “mistakes” by speeding. Many drivers in the UK are caught close to home on routes they travel each and every day… If you ignore the limits you have no complaint.

Often the people complaining about limits and camera’s to enforce them are the same people who then complain that drivers drive too fast when a child gets hit… and call for more enforcement of limits. Its as if somehow limits should apply to everyone else but them

Here is a radical idea, if you are THAT convinced that they are just a revenue stream and nothing to do with safety and THAT committed to not being caught by them… stay to the limit rather than deliberately breaking it (there are usually regular signs even if you do not know the road) and then complaining that you got caught however it is you may have got caught.

P Drumm says:

speed cameras from space

It does not matter where any speed camera comes from. Should a speed sign say 30mph and you are driving in excess of 33mph (10% variation) then you are breaking the law you are SPEEDING.Drivers will always know when they are over the speed limit (no excuse). As to big brother tactics … that is another matter.

Jake (user link) says:

It sounds like this system is going to be testing your average speed over a certain distance, which is somewhat better than regular speed traps, and speed cameras and ANPR are a separate system; speed cameras just email your license plate and the image to the local police station so they can deal with processing the fine.

Still not a substitute for proper traffic officers with the training and (hopefully) the good sense to make a judgement call on a proportionate response, though.



Hi i dont mean to be offencive but dont you think we have enough cctv cameras and speed cameras in the world?

There must be a line that is being crossed because this is showing that the government is ignoring our privacy and right to live in peace.

it is enough to know that when you go out around town that you are being watche 24/7 by multiple cctv cameras and now we are being watched on the roads too.

why waste money on tracking everyones movements from space when the government could put the money they invested in this into a proper project like building more houses for the homeless an needy.

Nathan (profile) says:


Being american and having lived in London for the last 10 years this doesn’t surprise me. I’ve never witnessed a government that enjoys using technology to threaten it’s citizens more so than the UK. Road Tax ads that have giant computers lurking on overpasses watching cars go past saying, “we will find you”. You drive on the motorways here never seeing any actual patrol cars using their eyes and ears to monitor traffic and ensure safety, just cameras and vehicles with cameras everywhere. The idea being that you will not get away with it no matter what. Which goes against the idea of fair play that seems to exist in the states.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Threatening...

…and these cameras are over-emphasizing my vice of choice (speeding), and making such fine money doing so that police and gov’t now under-emphasize other dangerous driving habits:

– erratic driving
– close following
– illegal lane changes
– distracted drivers
– sleepy drivers
– too slow drivers
– slow mergers

But those are harder for cameras and radar tools to enforce, and don’t provide the revenue.

Del Boy says:

In Response to More Money Wasted,

by Anonymous Coward

“So what they gonna do about space based tracking – paint a massive sign in the sky saying ‘Speed Camera Zone’.”

You could at least read the article where it says “the facts are (somewhat) less sinister” and it’s just using GPS.


hmm…. listen to the comment troll

My point is that they can track your speed anywhere (Obvious) – So they must by law notify us. So I was being sarcastic. GPS uses space based sat nav you IDIOT!, or do you have a magical gps system which just knows where it is. Don’t add in cell tracking as the whole of the UK is not covered by this.

So stick to the subject & troll off somewhere else you where your views are relevant to the subject… dumba**!

aikiwolfie (profile) says:

Speed Limits Need To Be More Consistent.

I think there would be less trouble with speeding motorists if speed limits were more consistent and sensible. For example even organisations like the AA say it would be perfectly safe to drive faster than 70mph on a motor way. Something like 80mph to 90mph would be more realistic.

Speed limits in towns and cities need to be more consistent. The speed limit on all housing estates and near schools should be 20mph. Without exception. A two lane single carriage way main road should be 30mph. Two lane dual carriage ways should be 40mph. All motorway style dual carriage ways should be treated as motorways.

What we have now is a situation where a driver can drive a 40mph on a 2 lane dual carriage way at some parts and then 30mph on other parts. Which just happen to have a speed camera. The whole road network in the UK is a total mess.

Take yellow hatched boxes. You’re not supposed to enter them unless your exit is clear. Unless of course you’re turning right. Just what is the point of that?

Läsarn says:


Sweden has had this for years. But if I remember correctly, they only snap a picture if you are speeding. It is extremly effective on problematic roads.

Last year there was a proposal about calculating how fast a car was travelling between 2 cameras, but this they decided this was to much violation on your integrity.

Ps. someone talked about different limits depending on weather etc, they have been doing tests with just that. The problem was that the signs were very buggy at the time. Ds

P3T3R5ON (profile) says:


So will they ticket the car or the driver? People aren’t always driving the car they own. So who gets the ticket? Why not just go to court saying it wasn’t me in the car.

In the US they are starting to use tiny UAV aircraft to enforce time over distance speeding tickets, with a photo as proof. They can be easily beat in court with the argument, my car but not me. Same thing with red light cameras, my car yes, but not me. Unless of course your stupid enough to look at the camera because of the pre-flash and get a nice mug shot as you run the red light.

In overview of the whole issue, this is just another attempted fix to a system that doesn’t need more fixes, it needs solutions, real…effective…solutions.

When you have to make a bigger umbrella to stop from getting rained on, obviously there is a problem with the rain not the umbrella.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Proof

> They can be easily beat in court with the argument, my car but not me.

They get around this by changing the law and decriminalizing the offense and making it a mere administrative violation. In a criminal case, the state has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the individual committed the offense. With an administrative fine, they just hold the registered owner of the car responsible for the ticket no matter who was driving. Since there’s no criminal penalty, there’s no requirement to prove the offense against the individual.

The trade-off is that since it’s no longer a criminal offense, they can no longer put points on your license, issue arrest warrants for failure to appear in court, or turn the information over to your insurance company to raise your rates. The only thing they can do if you fail to pay is bar you from re-registering your car when it expires and/or turn it over to a collection agency as a bad debt (which could affect your credit rating).

jilocasin (profile) says:

Wouldn't it be cheaper to just tag the people?

At some point I would think that it would be cheaper to just GPS tag the entire population. After all it shouldn’t matter what car your driving if you’re speeding.

I know some of you are probably thinking, about the passengers. Well just like those bastions of self control (the Chinese gov., the RIAA, MPAA, BIAA, etc.) introducing secondary liability would be a ‘wonderful thing’. The passengers would be ‘encouraged’ to make sure the driver isn’t speeding so that they don’t get a ticket.

I mean isn’t this what all the cctv cameras and auto plate recognition systems, GPS etc. are leading to?

Just like the great British National ID Card, it will be ‘entirely optional’ initially. It will only be mandatory for those working with ‘vulnerable populations’ and those pesky foreigners of course….

It seems that government believes it’s purpose is to secure the persons, privileges, and wealth of the moneyed elite. What better to way to achieve that goal than to have the common man go about his day in fear of everywhere he goes, everything he does, and best of all anything he’s thinking about.

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