By on September 30, 2009

From small things mama, red lights one day come. (courtesy

Xerox Corporation announced yesterday that it would acquire Affiliated Computer Services (ACS) for $6.4 billion. ACS is a major, long-time player in the speed camera, red light camera, tolling and parking ticket business. Xerox, famous for its domination of the photocopying market from the 1960s to the 1980s, sees the purchase as a way to reinvent itself and dominate the business outsourcing market. “By combining Xerox’s strengths in document technology with ACS’s expertise in managing and automating work processes, we’re creating a new class of solution provider,” Xerox CEO Ursula M. Burns said in a statement. “A game-changer for Xerox, acquiring ACS helps us expand our business and benefit from stronger revenue and earnings growth.”

The outsourcing of government and law enforcement functions to private companies is a growing market. US Public Technologies pioneered the business model in which a private company pays a city for the right to issue automated traffic citations. The company, in turn, is paid based on a percentage of the revenue collected, meaning the city faces a no-risk, all-profit proposition. USPT quickly convinced twenty-seven cities like Baltimore, Denver, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Washington, DC to share the profit from automated ticketing machines. In December 1998, defense contractor Lockheed Martin saw the long-term potential in USPT’s contracts and bought the company outright.

Lockheed continued expanding the traffic camera and parking ticket outsourcing business until it was purchased by ACS in August 2001 for $825 million. Since then, the company has been plagued with scandal. In December, a Dallas judge ruled that ACS had been illegally operating its automated ticketing machines without a proper license. In March 2007, ACS was accused of vandalizing speed cameras in Washington, DC after losing the contract to a competitor (view PDF of complaint).

In 2006, ACS faced bribery charges in Edmonton, Canada after police officers accepted lavish gifts from the company—including travel, sports tickets and female escort services—in return for a recommendation that ACS be given a no-bid, $90 million photo ticketing contract. In October 2008, a judge let the police officers and ACS off the hook without bringing the case to a jury.

Under the terms of the proposed Xerox-ACS merger, ACS will continue to operate as an independent division under the leadership of current ACS CEO Lynn Blodgett who will answer to Burns. The deal requires regulatory and shareholder approval with closing expected in the first quarter of 2010.


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20 Comments on “Xerox Becomes a Red Light Camera Company...”

  • avatar

    When I need a photocopy I’ll just tape the document to my windshield, drive past a photo radar camera and wait for the copy to show up in the mail.


  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    Appears to be the GM/Chrysler/Microsoft syndrome. “We no longer can compete technically, so let’s try buying other companies.”

    Earth to Xerox: Get a grip and hire some engineers. Fire your MBAs. Try and create things people want.

  • avatar

    ““By combining Xerox’s strengths in document technology with ACS’s expertise in managing and automating work processes, we’re creating a new class of automated public ripoff provider,” Xerox CEO Ursula M. Burns said in a statement.”

    Fixed content for accuracy.

  • avatar

    Earth to Xerox: Get a grip and hire some engineers. Fire your MBAs. Try and create things people want.

    They just did, a color copier that uses solid ink inserts (no cartridges, toner, etc.) that will allow copying and printing in color for less than what a black and white copier can do. The ACS acquisition is really just a continuation of a direction that xerox was already heading in and something they have to do now compete with HP (especially after acq. of EDS (Xerox’s largest re-seller).

    Xerox will never come close to being what they were in the 70’s/80’s, and it is doubtful that PARC will ever invent the technologies that xerox threw away again (The tech that led to apple, MS, SunMicro and Cisco was all invented at PARC and all of the above companies were founded in part by engineers from PARC*, called short sighted management)

    *And no apple didn’t steal the technology for Mac, they traded 10 million pre-IPO shares for 3 days of free access to PARC and the GUI and document creation software/printing are what they took away

  • avatar

    rnc —

    I believe Xerox got

    “a color copier that uses solid ink inserts (no cartridges, toner, etc.) that will allow copying and printing in color for less than what a black and white copier can do. ”

    by buying the Tektronix printer business.

  • avatar

    by buying the Tektronix printer business.

    In January of 2000, they just released the process this year, let me guess, it was too good and the market couldn’t handle it, so they kept it under wraps for 9 years?

  • avatar

    ACS isn’t just a traffic camera company, it’s also an outsourcing company. Time to sell my Xerox stock.

  • avatar

    In January of 2000, they just released the process this year, let me guess, it was too good and the market couldn’t handle it, so they kept it under wraps for 9 years?
    No, they have been selling solid ink printers under the Phaser name ever since they bought Tektronix’ printer business. The ColorQube might be reaching a new low for color page cost but it’s the same basic technology they bought from Tek.
    “…ColorQube… combines our legacy of advanced multifunction product leadership with our proven solid ink technology, which has an 18-year track record of reliability.”

  • avatar
    Kyle Schellenberg

    What a scandalous company.

    It’s a bit of an oxymoron that a company that is supposed to assist in upholding the law is so steeped in corrupt behavior.

  • avatar

    This is rich!!! If ACS provides the same level of service quality to the cameras that Xerox provides the digital print industry we have nothing to worry about.

    I have two highspeed digital black and white printers and one high speed digital colour printer in my shop. None of the three have ever completed their Xerox defined duty cycles. I’ve had one of the black and white printers for almost 5 years, or almost 60 duty cycles. Not once. Ever. The last time it needed service it was down for nearly 4 days. Waiting for parts, then waiting for the right parts, then waiting for a new power supply because the right parts had caused the power supply to fry.

    This is the company that sold a new server for my document-management system that has friggin’ serial ports. It’s 2010, not 1999, yet my $50,000 document-management system has serial ports.

    It’s now almost 1:30 central time, and the service call that was placed yesterday at 3 pm is still friggin’ open. I have enough colour work to run steady for two days straight, yet I’m still waiting for service.

    And just wait until the various municipalities try to make sense of the billing. Hohoho, that’s gonna be an exercise in frustration just to talk to somebody that knows what’s going on with the account.

    I pity the fool that gets caught on camera while Xerox is in charge; the national suicide rate will climb astronomically as people try to correct wrong citations.

    Xerox can’t manage business any better than GM, and these clowns are going to be in charge of a redlight ticket company?

    Sorry for the vent, but this is asinine.

  • avatar

    Thanks rpm1200 — I remember loading the solid wax ‘crayons’ into the Phaser printers way back in the ’90s (when I was at Tek).

  • avatar

    Yet another example of why Rochester, NY is the failure capital of the world.

    See also:
    -Genessee beer
    -Garbage plates
    -Kodak’s failure to embrace digital things
    -The fact that it’s the only metro area ever where I have regularly seen people make a left on red because they didn’t feel like waiting for the light.

  • avatar

    @ paul_y:

    Garbage plates an utterly vile abomination against decent cuisine.

    However, you forgot the people, who cop attitudes the size of Long Island on a daily basis. This is western NY people, get over yourselves. No wonder this place is nicknamed “Smugtown”.

    Kodak’s business strategy has been absolutely moronic. Their leadership actually believed that everyone in developing markets was an idiot who would ignore the benefits of digital cameras and buy 35mm film instead. Now Kodak has a huge film plant in China that uses less efficient prior generation technology, they pay taxes to the PRC, and they have to ship the film back to the US because no one over there wants it.

    To top it all off, Fujifilm figured out a way to make better quality 35mm at a profit in North Carolina.

  • avatar

    Okay – what are garbage plates?

  • avatar

    It’s deliciously ironic that someone would call George B. Selden’s hometown, “the failure capital of the world”, on a car blog.

    A “garbage plate” is normally, two hamburger patties, served on a plate of macaroni salad and cooked potatoes, with a sauce that is similar to chili without beans optionally added. It was originally created during the depression as a way of providing a cheap and hearty meal. Of course, there is no smugness in belittling a regional cuisine born out of the needs of real people during a hardship with a statement like, “Garbage plates an utterly vile abomination against decent cuisine.”, right?

  • avatar

    @ J_S:

    I’d say paul_y’s comment is more accurate than ironic because Ford destroyed Selden in court.

    Oh no, I missed an “are” due to fatigue. Go ahead and sue me like Selden sued Ford.

    I’d say it’s awfully hard to belittle something that looks about the same coming out as it does going in:

  • avatar

    @ J_S:

    Also, unless you’ve got a better source I’d say your association of the garbage plate with the Depression is oversold:

  • avatar

    To be fair, I never criticized you for leaving out the “are”, now did I?

    Just because Henry Ford won an appeal in court, does not mean that Mr. Selden was a failure. He still managed to collect an estimated several hundred thousand dollars in royalties, and ran a car company that was in business until after he passed away. All from Rochester, “the failure capital of the world”. Of course, given the current situation, how Rochester managed to beat places like Detroit, Chernobyl, or maybe even Washington, D.C. is quite a mystery.

    Kudos to you for making a bathroom joke to illustrate your disdain for the garbage plate, and then following it up with two, clearly well-researched links. Did it take long to find those? I did a google search for “Garbage Plate” and “Depression” and lo and behold, there are lots of articles that say it was created during the depression. So, clearly, I win.

    Or maybe, nobody asked you to like garbage plates. I’m not really a fan myself, but at least I have the decency to respect that there are people who do like them, for whatever reasons, and recognize that it’s not my place to criticize them for it.

    In case you don’t believe that there are lots of web pages and articles to support the creation of the garbage plate during the great depression…

  • avatar

    ahh earth to xerox keep making bank. don’t fire your MBA’s the person who posted the “earth to xerox fire your MBA’s” probably doesn’t have one so nice try buddy maybe you should enroll in Phoenix online then come back in two or three years with your MBA something tells me your post will change.

  • avatar

    What a corrupt, terrible company. “Protecting” our streets meanwhile paying off and bribing governments to get the contracts.

    Sad to think of the wasted resources and robbery of our ciizens in the name of safety, when multiple studies have shown the cameras don’t actually improve safety at all. Makes me disrepect Xerox for getting into such a dirty business.

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