By on April 20, 2010

How cruelly ironic is it that the UK, home of the world’s most vibrant sportscar cottage industry and some of the most notorious “petrolheads” in Europe, is also the world’s leader in automated ticketing and surveillance? Oh, and before you try to answer, understand that Old Blighty’s Orwellian tendencies have just hit a new high/low. The Telegraph [via Jalopnik] reports that Britain’s Home Office is testing new average speed cameras which combine license number-reading technology with a GPS receiver. In contrast to previous generations of speed cameras, the new system, named SpeedSpike, can calculate average speed between any two points in a network, rather than just in a straight line.

SpeedSpike was developed by PIPS Technology, an American firm with operations in Britain. According to company evidence obtained by the House of Commons and paraphrased by The Telegraph:

the cameras enabled “number plate capture in all weather conditions, 24 hours a day”. It also referred to the system’s “low cost” and ease of installation.

The system could be used for “main road enforcement for congestion reduction and speed enforcement”, and could help to “eliminate rat-runs” and cut speeds outside schools, it added. It could also reduce the need for speed humps.

Britain’s Automobile Association calls the system “a natural evolution of the technology that is out there.” We call it creepy. Oh yeah, and cruelly ironic.

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26 Comments on “UK Blazes New Trails In Orwellian Speed Enforcement...”

  • avatar

    Average speed cameras have been used in the UK for some time now. There’s a upcoming technology which does not use radar/lidar but road-mounted microphones. The mics pick up the approaching and departing car noise, calculate the Doppler shift and the resulting speed. Impossible to detect. Interesting to see what a bit of epoxy glue over the mics would do.


  • avatar

    What is the UK’s obsession with speed enforcement? Are children being run over every day or something over there?

  • avatar

    Britain’s Automobile Association calls the system “a natural evolution of the technology that is out there.”

    Natural evolution indeed.

  • avatar

    It certainly is a weird obsession. I think we did a good job in separating ourselves from the Mother Country. I don’t think we’ll go nearly as far down the same sorry route.

    • 0 avatar
      Amendment X

      Yeah, I don’t get it. There seems to be a strong outcry in the UK against these money cams (with people blowing them up and spray painting them) yet the UK gov’t continues its charade.

  • avatar


    There is a lot of “social contract” discussion relevant here. They impose photo$cameras from the top down. Here we go bottom up.

    This explains why $cameras have been voted out in many areas here in the US, and the only places they survive are places where democracy is pretty much dead, like New York City.

  • avatar

    Just think, they could easily put wireless transmitters on the road to set speed limiters on a car. Seriously, for less than the cost of an airbag, everybody would be speed limited.

    Of course, that would absolutely destroy ticket revenues so probably no chance in hell that will happen.

  • avatar

    Just like Max Headroom predicted, the hackers will fight back, fire with fire so to speak.

  • avatar

    When a friend and I ferried his mother’s old 1949 Plymouth sedan to Connecticut from Des Moines, Iowa, in 1959, we got a warning ticket for speeding on the Pennsylvania Turnpike – didn’t slow down enough at a tunnel entrance – and the cop told us that if your entry time and exit time were too close together you could get a speeding ticket based on the times. I don’t know if he was bullshitting us or not.

  • avatar

    As Twotone said.

    Nothing new.

    The UK has had its ANPR system in place for years: . It already spawned a new kind of crime – Car Cloning.

    Something like this has been in effect at our oh so liberal Dutch friends for ages.

    At least, the Dutch blank out the picture of the passenger when they send you the evidence. Just in case you’d been trafficking someone your wife shouldn’t know.

    • 0 avatar

      The anti-car repressive policies of successive UK governments have done absolutely nothing to curb speed, accidents, congestion or people driving around in unregistered cars. All they have done is milk billions out of the ‘legal’ car owner – ie, the one who registers the purchase of the car, MOT’s it, taxes it and insures it.
      It is now much, much cheaper to clone an old beater. It costs nothing but a set of new number plates, and all the tickets you receive get sent to somebody else. If you do get caught and your car taken away, the most you can expect from the magistrates court is a very small fine and a ban. And to quote one scumbag talking to his friend I overheard outside a courtroom after he’d been banned for driving a cloned car…
      “F**k it, I’ll just go down the auctions and buy another banger… f**kers won’t catch me for another year at least – it’s way f**king cheaper.”

  • avatar

    I use my GPS to help me find known locations of revenue generation stations and update the database frequently. This would be one of those cases where the citizens should shoot/burn/paint these things every chance they get. If you can’t reach ’em, sever the power. Pole mounted units almost always have a feed from the bottom. It is easy to pop the access cover at the base, especially since they are usually made of plastic because the scavengers have been taking the metal ones. Once inside, simply cut each wire one at a time.

    Don’t get the hostility toward these evil things as being a product of “liberal” thinkers. Red states are loaded with them too. Conservative politicians have something in common with their more liberal minded colleagues…they ALL like taking your money…they just prefer different ways of doing so…

  • avatar

    What’s next, limits on total miles driven during one’s lifetime?

  • avatar

    I HAD always wanted to visit the UK. but a country that trains cameras on it’s citizens all of the time and extorts money from already strapped motorists will not be getting any of my money.

  • avatar
    martin schwoerer

    So, the British are neurotics, for some strange reason overly concerned with traffic safety. Right? Wrong!

    It’s fxcked up, dear TTAC, when you in reporting about UK traffic policy carelessly (or callously) omit the fact that the UK has been remarkably effective in reducing traffic deaths.

    Here’s a quote from a book that was reviewed not once but twice, on this very blog (Traffic, by Tom Vanderbilt):

    “In the 1990s, the United Kingdom dropped its road fatalaties by 34 percent. The U.S. managed a 6.5 percent reduction. (…) Had the U.S. pulled off what the U.K. did, it is suggested, 10,000 fewer people would have been killed.”

    If you want to paraphrase Nixon and say you don’t give a shxt about dead people (or rather, formerly alive people), then that’s your right — but please be open about it, and don’t try to have it both ways.

    • 0 avatar

      Stats can be used to argue anything.

      I would think you need to know what the starting rates were, not the percentage of reductions. My guess is the US had a lower rate to begin with – but it’s just a guess.

    • 0 avatar

      I may have guessed wrong. In 2000, UK had about half the death rate of the US.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s just natural selection at work, I say let em die there’s too many people in the world anyway. You can’t sacrifice civil rights/liberties for the sake of safety, better one should die than decrease the standard of living for thousands. “what about the people they hit? What about the innocents? Think of the children!” what about em? People die everyday, the worlds not fair, bad things happen to good people, you don’t always get what you deserve, shit happens, etc.

  • avatar

    How does anyone drive fast, or even just above the speed limit, in UK at all? Between this and what I learn from watching Top Gear/5th gear, it seems like every inch of road there (except some backwater A/B roads) is monitored. And yet people there buy more sports cars and BMW’s than anyone else in Europe. Are the tickets they receive relatively harmless compared to here?

  • avatar
    Uncle Mellow

    Speed cameras in the UK do not reduce accidents , but they raise a lot of money for the government.Thankfully there is an election due in a few weeks , and the current government will get fired.Things can only get better.

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