United Kingdom Tests 'Acoustic Cameras' to Identify Loud Cars

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

The United Kingdom’s Department for Transport will test noise-detecting cameras across the country over the next 7 months to see if it can adequately detect and identify vehicles modified to emit obnoxious levels of noise when the driver pins the accelerator. The systems are relatively new, though the government says it will recommend further development of the system for deployment across the UK.

As things currently stand, it’s illegal for any new vehicle to exceed 74 decibels in Europe. While your personal car can exceed those sound limits within UK borders, as there’s no formal limit to vehicle noise, it is illegal to modify your car’s exhaust system to make it louder. Sort of a Catch-22, because if your car exceeds 74 dbA, it probably means you’ve modified it.

If you need a reference point for loudness, California Vehicle Code 27151 stipulates that all vehicles under 6,000 pounds (other than motorcycles) must not exceed 95 dbA — roughly the same level as a belt sander or noisy blender. However, 74 dbA isn’t all that far away from your normal speaking voice, and would be akin to the ambient noise of most urban environments. With that in mind, we’re betting those acoustic cameras will be pretty active over the next few months.

The system uses directional microphones to measure the sound levels of passing vehicles and could use automated number plate recognition software to help identify offenders. According to Sky News and The Telegraph, it’s a program Transport Secretary Chris Grayling feels is long overdue. He cited automotive noise pollution and claimed the system could also assist local authorities in catching “boy racers in souped-up vehicles.”

“This technology could provide an alternative to make sure those communities are protected against excessive noise, that the people who are acting illegally are prosecuted … it’s a simpler, easier way of doing it,” Grayling said. “Noise pollution makes the lives of people in communities across Britain an absolute misery and has very serious health impacts.”

He added, “This is why I am determined to crack down on the nuisance drivers who blight our streets. New technology will help us lead the way in making our towns and cities quieter, and I look forward to seeing how these exciting new cameras could work.”

[Image: pathdoc/Shutterstock]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • Uncle Mellow Uncle Mellow on Jun 12, 2019

    Be aware that in the UK, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling is regarded as King Midas in reverse. Everything he touches turns to dust. Popularly known as "Chris Failing".

  • Featherston Featherston on Jun 14, 2019

    "t’s illegal for any new vehicle to exceed 74 decibels in Europe. While your personal car can exceed those sound limits within UK borders, as there’s no formal limit to vehicle noise, it is illegal to modify your car’s exhaust system to make it louder. Sort of a Catch-22, because if your car exceeds 74 dbA, it probably means you’ve modified it. " That's not a Catch-22, and it's not "sort of a Catch-22." A Catch-22 would be if one law set the noise threshold below that of an OEM exhaust and another law prohibited modifying that OEM exhaust.

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