By on October 18, 2010

Police in Victoria, Australia announced today that the point-to-point average speed camera system on the Hume Highway has been turned off until officials are convinced that a fatal accuracy flaw had been fixed. Officials admitted that at least nine drivers have been falsely convicted of speeding on that road since 2007. Officials only began to double-check the accuracy of the Redflex automated ticketing machine after police went to seize the car of a young woman accused of driving a low-powered economy car at high speed.

“It’s been a failure of the system in terms of 100 percent accuracy,” Redflex CEO Graham Davie said on 3AW radio. “It happened because of a technical glitch in the clock system…. I’m sorry this event has occurred.”

Last week, a police officer served an automobile seizure notice on a 20-year-old woman, Melissa, whom the camera had accused of doing 154 km/h (96 MPH) on the Hume Highway on September 24 where the speed limit was 110 km/h (68 MPH). The offense was accompanied by a twelve-month license suspension.

“I was pretty upset, it was impossible for me to go that fast,” she told 3AW radio. “I couldn’t believe it. I was just shocked. I kept saying I didn’t do it.”

The officer on the scene understood that Melissa’s 84-horsepower economy car, a three-year-old Mazda 2, was not making a high-speed run. Because of his doubt, an investigation was launched that uncovered even more errors in the camera system. On March 31, 2009, a driver was accused of going 122 km/h (76 MPH), and a court convicted him, imposing the $227 fine and demerit points against his license. Another driver on the same day was falsely accused of driving 118 km/h (73 MPH). Two more drivers were falsely accused in June 2008 and three more in 2007. All were actually moving at the speed limit of 110 km/h or less.

“We found there was a problem with those two tickets,” Victoria Police Deputy Traffic Commissioner Ken Lay told 3AW radio. “There’s been a particular problem with the data… We’re confident that the other 68,000 are rock solid.”

Those tickets are worth $15 million, and the state government is desperate to avoid a repeat of the 2003 incident where a 1975 Datsun 120Y was falsely accused of driving a speed the vehicle was incapable of reaching. The resulting firestorm of criticism forced $26 million in refunds. Lay vowed to restart the Hume Highway cameras after a software upgrade is installed.

Average speed cameras operate by having one or more cameras photograph vehicles at different points along the highway a set distance apart. By calculating the amount of time it takes for the car to pass from one camera to the other, a speed reading is generated. For this to work, the clock on each camera involved must be set with absolute precision. The cameras re-synchronize once every minute, but one of the cameras for an undisclosed reason set a time that occasionally jumped between a microsecond and a minute too fast, producing an artificially high speed reading.

“I’m told that no other jurisdiction has had this problem,” Lay said. “Now, the trick is whether they’ve had the problem and not known it. I suspect that might be the case.”

Victoria Police noted that the cameras undergo routine maintenance on a strict schedule to ensure accuracy. This includes testing prior to installation, daily monitoring of the system and alarms by Redflex, monthly sensor testing, quarterly speed, accuracy and reliability testing and annual testing all by an independent testing company. None of these procedures uncovered any of the bogus tickets issued in the course of three years.


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8 Comments on “Australia: Inaccurate Speed Camera Shut Down...”

  • avatar

    Does people burn them down there like they do in the UK?

  • avatar

    As anyone who has seen My Cousin Vinny will tell you, you would have to calibrate the cameras a microsecond prior to the first shot and measure the calibration error to 10 times the precision a microsecond after the second shot to know with any degree of assurance you measured what you think you measured.
    If you don’t calibrate first and measure the error after, your Sears Craftsman torque wrench, er, camera time sync is totally, completely, absolutely unknown. It is not worth the paper it is printed on.
    Have an engineer educate the judge and your ticket will be tossed.

  • avatar

    Victoria Police Deputy Traffic Commissioner Ken Lay told 3AW radio… “We’re confident that the other 68,000 are rock solid.”
    He’s either ignorant or lying. If the clocks were out of sync, as the article says, that would affect all tickets issued during that period. If they don’t know for certain when they were out of sync, and by how much, then all the tickets are bogus.
    In an ideal world, a class-action would bury Redflex so deep no investor would touch speed cameras until the sun grows cold.

  • avatar

    isn’t it so simple have one clock generate the time then transmit to the 2nd camera. The time it takes from 1st to 2nd should be minimal. Speed of electrons. Rather than having 2 independent clocks.
    Should one be off why not all of them be off? So all these ticket could have issues.

    • 0 avatar

      @ blowfish
      You are correct: the design is flawed from the get-go.  The calibration technique can be improved or the whole design tossed and an intrinsically better design used.
      The time sync between the two cameras is the franchise. Without it rock-solid reliable, you got nothing.

  • avatar

    Red light cameras also have fatal flaws that will cause honest judges to toss the tickets if educated.

    The “Kell and Fullerton” equation used to set the yellow time is a lie. It promotes dangerous and inefficient intersections, just the opposite of what it is supposed to do. The State of Georgia legislators smelled a rat and the governor signed a bill adding one full second to the calculation. Fifteen states and 24 cities ban the cameras outright. It came as no surprise the cameras disappeared when they were prevented from cheating drivers out of proper green and yellow light times.

    The nine problems with the formula have been listed on TTAC.

    From 66% On to 33% Off, true, actual yellow light illumination time should NEVER, NEVER, NEVER be less than 4.5 seconds anywhere in the United States. Shoot a video and read the time stamp.

    Have an engineer explain it to the judge, win your case, and fight like hell to keep the decision published.

  • avatar

    Some enterprising citizens ought to voluntarily calibrate the camera using a fine precision instrument such as a cricket bat.  Then it would not give out any more false tickets.

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