ATS Red Light Camera Claims Driver Pulled 4g Turn

Ronnie Schreiber
by Ronnie Schreiber

The city of St Petersburg, Florida uses camera systems sold by American Traffic Solutions (ATS, formerly American Traffic Systems) to issue tickets to drivers allegedly running red lights. According to The Newspaper, when the activists at St Petersburg Red Light Cameras reviewed logs of the 21,602 photo tickets issued in the city from October 29, 2011 to April 30, 2012 they discovered that the ATS cameras were reporting that they “measured” Bugatti Veyron level speeds from cars not realistically capable of that kind of velocity.

Florida law prohibits automated speeding tickets, but the ATS cameras used to enforce red-lights still record motorists’ alleged speed. Red light cameras all measure vehicle speed in order to turn on the camera at the correct time. While nobody was cited for speeding due to the aforementioned Florida statute, the fact that ATS’ technology cited literally unbelievable speeds might call into question just how reliable their systems in general are. If they get speed wrong, what else don’t they get accurately? ATS claims that their cameras don’t lie, but the speeds cited are not just incredible but also not credible. At one intersection, a woman was measured as going 157 MPH as she went past the camera. At another, a lady was said to have been gong 170 MPH. While those speeds are unusual, there are indeed a small number of road cars that can see the other side of 150. However, to my knowledge there is only a tiny number cars capable of 210+ MPH, and the car that ATS recorded as going 215 MPH at 66th St and 38th Ave was not made by Bugatti, Lamborghini or a similar exotic car manufacturer.

Those were straight line speeds and, as I mentioned, there are cars on the road capable of those speeds, when going straight. The ATS cameras, though, also recorded cornering speeds that are simply not possible, at least outside of a race track and even then they’re so extreme as to not be believable.

On April 12, 2012, a man was accused of making a right-hand turn at 96 MPH at the corner of 34th Street and 22nd Avenue. Now I don’t race competitively but TTAC has our resources so I asked Jack Baruth if that was physically possible. JB kindly sent me a chart that indicated G forces at particular speeds based on the radius of the turn. I printed out Google’s satellite view of that intersection and measured the turn radii at the two corners under surveillance. Based on the location of the two cameras, the driver had to be traveling on 34th, turning onto 22nd, though the cited speed was not likely achieved on any of that intersections 4 corners.

From a print out of the satellite shot I determined that one corner has about an 80′ radius for the right turn lane. The other corner is a tighter turn, actually a sharp turn in, then a constant radius. I figure the effective radius is closer to 50′ in that turning lane. In either case, 96 mph would be off the chart, literally. Jack’s cornering speed charts don’t go below a 100′ radius. Even bumping up the radius to 150′ maxes out at 94.5 MPH and 4.0 Gs! To give you some perspective, for a road car, anything over 0.9 G is considered to be very good cornering. A small number of the very best handling production cars might slightly exceed 1 G on a skid pad, under steady state conditions. At 4 Gs in a road car, I’d be worried about parts breaking off. Can a road tire withstand 4 Gs without separating from the rim or some other failure?

Now on a race course drivers don’t have to abide by things like right turn lanes. They use as much of the road surface as they can, usually going wide on approach and turn in, hitting the apex tight, and then going wide on exit. What that does is create the widest possible radius on the turn, maximizing cornering speed. Even if the cited driver was genuinely “driving in a racelike manner”, using the entire road, driving in the wrong direction on entry and exit, the radius works out to only be about 200 feet. At 96 MPH, on a 200 feet radius turn, the driver would still have been pulling over 3.0 G.

Maximum loading under cornering in a Formula 1 car on a race track is generally quoted in the 3.0-4.5 G range. ATS cameras say that drivers in St Petersburg are seeing cornering speeds with that level of lateral acceleration. Either people are getting ticketed by a system with proven unreliability (at least in terms of measuring speed), or American Traffic Solutions thinks that there are a lot of budding F1 drivers in the St Petersburg area.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

Ronnie Schreiber
Ronnie Schreiber

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, the original 3D car site.

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  • Daveainchina Daveainchina on Jul 27, 2012

    Yay so now I'm going to have to install a GPS tracking system and dash cams just to protect myself from stuff that doesn't work. Gotta love it.

  • Henrythegearhead Henrythegearhead on Jul 28, 2012

    Every motorist who drives in California (including visitors) needs to know about Snitch Tickets, the fake/phishing red light camera tickets sent out by California police to bluff the registered owner into identifying the actual driver of the car. Snitch Tickets have not been filed with the court, so they don't say "Notice to Appear," don't have the court's addr. and phone #, and usually say (on the back, in small letters), "Do not contact the court about this notice." Since they have NOT been filed with the court, they have no legal weight whatsoever. You can ignore a Snitch Ticket. If in doubt, Google the term. And once you understand how tricky a Snitch Ticket is, tell your friends who live in or visit California about them, so that they won't get tricked. (This is one of those only-in-California things.)

  • Dartdude Having the queen of nothing as the head of Dodge is a recipe for disaster. She hasn't done anything with Chrysler for 4 years, May as well fold up Chrysler and Dodge.
  • Pau65792686 I think there is a need for more sedans. Some people would rather drive a car over SUV’s or CUV’s. If Honda and Toyota can do it why not American brands. We need more affordable sedans.
  • Tassos Obsolete relic is NOT a used car.It might have attracted some buyers in ITS DAY, 1985, 40 years ago, but NOT today, unless you are a damned fool.
  • Stan Reither Jr. Part throttle efficiency was mentioned earlier in a postThis type of reciprocating engine opens the door to achieve(slightly) variable stroke which would provide variable mechanical compression ratio adjustments for high vacuum (light load) or boost(power) conditions IMO
  • Joe65688619 Keep in mind some of these suppliers are not just supplying parts, but assembled components (easy example is transmissions). But there are far more, and the more they are electronically connected and integrated with rest of the platform the more complex to design, engineer, and manufacture. Most contract manufacturers don't make a lot of money in the design and engineering space because their customers to that. Commodity components can be sourced anywhere, but there are only a handful of contract manufacturers (usually diversified companies that build all kinds of stuff for other brands) can engineer and build the more complex components, especially with electronics. Every single new car I've purchased in the last few years has had some sort of electronic component issue: Infinti (battery drain caused by software bug and poorly grounded wires), Acura (radio hiss, pops, burps, dash and infotainment screens occasionally throw errors and the ignition must be killed to reboot them, voice nav, whether using the car's system or CarPlay can't seem to make up its mind as to which speakers to use and how loud, even using the same app on the same trip - I almost jumped in my seat once), GMC drivetrain EMF causing a whine in the speakers that even when "off" that phased with engine RPM), Nissan (didn't have issues until 120K miles, but occassionally blew fuses for interior components - likely not a manufacturing defect other than a short developed somewhere, but on a high-mileage car that was mechanically sound was too expensive to fix (a lot of trial and error and tracing connections = labor costs). What I suspect will happen is that only the largest commodity suppliers that can really leverage their supply chain will remain, and for the more complex components (think bumper assemblies or the electronics for them supporting all kinds of sensors) will likley consolidate to a handful of manufacturers who may eventually specialize in what they produce. This is part of the reason why seemingly minor crashes cost so much - an auto brand does nst have the parts on hand to replace an integrated sensor , nor the expertice as they never built them, but bought them). And their suppliers, in attempt to cut costs, build them in way that is cheap to manufacture (not necessarily poorly bulit) but difficult to replace without swapping entire assemblies or units).I've love to see an article on repair costs and how those are impacting insurance rates. You almost need gap insurance now because of how quickly cars depreciate yet remain expensive to fix (orders more to originally build, in some cases). No way I would buy a CyberTruck - don't want one, but if I did, this would stop me. And it's not just EVs.
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