By on June 11, 2019

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]

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55 Comments on “United Kingdom Tests ‘Acoustic Cameras’ to Identify Loud Cars...”


  • avatar
    ToddAtlasF1

    I had an ’88 BMW with an exhaust that rusted through when it was a year old. At that point, the dealer put a new exhaust on the car under warranty for me that was painted black, while the previous one had been something resembling bare metal. When I sold the car eighteen years later, it still had the black exhaust. The car was always registered in Virginia and always passed Virginia state inspection, except for 2002 and 2003 when it was registered and SMOGGED in Californistan. The exhaust was paper-thin by then, and the baffles had disintegrated and blown out a few years earlier. The car sounded like an in-line 6 proposal for NASCAR. I never modified the exhaust though. Would I have received a ticket?

    • 0 avatar
      Garak

      “Exhaust noise from the vehicle must not be unreasonably above the noise level normally expected from a similar vehicle with a standard silencer in average condition” say the UK MOT rules, so you would probably get a fine for having a car not in road-legal condition.

      Typical UK anyway, they really seem to love mass surveillance.

      • 0 avatar

        Wasn’t “1984” about UK? It was a bold prediction at the time. Add to that free healthcare (so called NHS) and free college and you get totalitarian regime not that different from Soviet Union (which also had free affordable housing).

        • 0 avatar
          OneAlpha

          This is why the government banned guns over there – so they could pull stuff like mass surveillance.

          • 0 avatar
            Charliej

            You know nothing. Pistols were banned after a mass shooti9ng at an elementary school. A number of children were killed and the people demanded that the government do something to prevent such atrocities in the future. The government acted and there have been no more mass shootings in Britain. You know mass shooting like the US has once or twice a week as the US politicians are to cowardly to take a stand to eliminate mass murder by the gun freaks.

          • 0 avatar
            MBella

            Is that why gun violence is steadily increasing in the UK?

          • 0 avatar
            dukeisduke

            So now they have mass stabbings, resulting in the government confiscating knives, screwdrivers, etc.

          • 0 avatar
            dukeisduke

            It isn’t mass murder by gun freaks. It’s mass murder by the mentally ill or angry (also mentally ill) people. There are millions of gun owners who would never do something like that. There’s been a breakdown in society, with an increasing disregard for the value of human life – a person willingly picks up that gun and commits murder – the gun doesn’t do that by itself. Guns were more available 50 or 75 years ago, but mass shootings were exceedingly rare.

            It’s the people that have changed, not the guns.

          • 0 avatar

            @Charliej: Ever heard about Chicago?

      • 0 avatar
        bunkie

        I noticed something interesting on my recent trip to the UK. I was riding in a bus on the M4 where they have average speed detection. The level of driver civility (lack of tailgating, weaving and other obnoxious behavior) was striking considering I had just spent two weeks in the Baltimore area which has, in my opinion, the most under-qualified, obnoxious, dangerous drivers I have ever seen.

        The sad fact is that in the pursuit of “freedom”, we have an environment where really selfish people create dangerous conditions for everyone else. If your definition of freedom is, largely, defined by how much of a danger you can be to others, then you are a child, not an adult.

        The flip side of the the freedom coin is personal responsibility. Lament the “loss of freedom” in the UK all you want. But as someone who would rather not be killed by some “freedom-loving” idiot, I have to say that what you see as draconian measures are the result of your own bad behavior.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      If your car sounded like it belong with NASCAR, I wold hope you’d receive a ticket.

  • avatar
    whynotaztec

    Can we do this in the US with obnoxious motorcycles?

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      No, we can’t. The loudest motorcycles are Harley-Davidsons with shorty exhausts, and they’re very popular with members of the police unions.

      • 0 avatar
        Fordson

        ToddAtlasF1, I almost never agree with you…but this is a very welcome exception! 100% correct on all counts!

        I would add that they are very popular with firefighters, both municipally-funded and volunteer, also.

        Professional courtesy…

    • 0 avatar
      SunnyvaleCA

      Yes please. Bring over the noise-finding technology especially for the motorcycles.

      Or pass a law that makes it illegal for motorcyclists to use sound dampening helmets, so at least they can suffer their own noise full blast. (Maybe that means outlaw helmets, which might also make them either more careful or fewer in number!)

    • 0 avatar
      bunkie

      As a life-long motorcyclist, I am completely in favor of this. I love the sound of an engine in full song as much as any gearhead, but there are limits. I have no desire to replace the perfectly fine exhaust on my bike with something that makes more noise.

      • 0 avatar
        Fordson

        In addition to replacing the stock exhausts on Harleys, the other imperative with that owner base is to rejet/re-cam the bike so that it will not idle, continually loads up, fouls plugs, makes less power/torque than dead stock.

        Now that they’re all fuel injected and the mixture can’t be deliberately screwed up, the remaining two mandatory mods – the wild cam and straight pipes – become just that much more important.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        The problem seems to be that the straight-pipe crowd is driving legislation that hits the OEMs… stock motorcycles are WAY too quiet, driving most owners to want to open things up so to speak. I love the sound of stock exhaust on older 1960s-1970s bikes, I don’t think people considered them obnoxious by any means. But I hear my neighbor’s newer Ducati Monster and it is absolutely neutered, same with my ’01 Triumph Bonneville, which was also plagued with insanely lean carburetor tuning from the factory (poor low end response, blued the heck out of the headers, insane head temperatures that necessitated an oil cooler from the factory).

  • avatar
    ravenuer

    I wonder how some late model Mustangs get away with their exhaust systems. Man they’re loud!

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      Where I live, the only Mustang V8 drivers are Boomers who let their automatics select 4th gear before they hit 20 mph, so I know not of what you speak.

  • avatar
    redgolf

    Hey, nothing like a nice “Throaty Exhaust System” so long as It’s not abused! It’s all of these obnoxious Deep BASS MO FO Rapper Thumpers that think everyone wants to hear their CRAP! Especially at a red light! GRRRRRRRR!

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      ^ This!

      This “music” nowadays seems to be just a bunch of “boom-boom” drum hits, optimized for subwoofers which take up 2/3rds of the cargo space, and can shake the paint off of walls a quarter-mile away!

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    …Can we do this in the US with obnoxious motorcycles?…

    I wish we could. Funny thing is Harleys don’t get manufactured with those noise trumpets. My wife was eyeing one and the dealer included in the numbers a swap of the factory exhaust for a “loud pipe”. ($20K – no thanks). I asked about sticking with the factory setup. The look I got was akin to the look you would get from ToddAtlas if you asked him to vote for Bernie Sanders. So I guess they go out of their way to make sure you get the noisy stuff. Funny thing is the noise level is not commensurate with the power output. All noise, little power. Kind of like the Iron Duke of motorcycle engines.

    On a serious note, the last thing we need is more Orwellian surveillance in this country.

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      Loud pipes save lives, says everyone who should be sitting in a rear-facing kiddie seat in the back of a Volvo 245.

      • 0 avatar
        raph

        “Loud pipes save lives, says everyone who should be sitting in a rear-facing kiddie seat in the back of a Volvo 245”

        the best use of “loud pipes save lives” was when a cop pulled my brother over for having a stinger on his bug and when the dude on the Harley ripped by buzzing my brother and the cop my brother asked “What about him?”. the cop didn’t skip a beat while writing the ticket and said “loud pipes save lives”.

        It was dirty but in my AO Harleys and whatever is considered muscle gets a pass. Buddy of mine had an ’04 Cobra and lit the tires up at a stop light and got a thumbs up from a sheriff that pulled along side. Had it been an import it would have been an instant reckless and as many equipment violations as they could possibly find along with whatever else they could stick them with.

        Back then I had my ’09 GT500 with FREEDOM exhaust (translation – 1.875 x 3.00 long tube headers, off road X-pipe and 3.00 exhaust ending in a set of race bullets with 4 inch tips). Literally an exhaust that could make old women and children cry. It was so loud and in a tunnel ripping it right to the redline would leave your ears ringing. The worst I ever got was the stink eye from an older officer and never once got a noise violation.

        Some poor kid with a stock Honda and a fart pipe and it was ticket city!

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          If the loud pipes bikers that didn’t get hugged enough were really concerned about not becoming a grease stain on the pavement, they’d wear a full-face helmet instead of the minimum nazi helmet (where required) with a chrome but plug on top, flip-flops, wife beater, etc.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      it could be done with a police radar style vehicle mount or maybe even a handheld.

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        “it could be done with a police radar style vehicle mount or maybe even a handheld.”

        Some day your unworthiness of a free society may be recognized. I’d love to see that moment.

        • 0 avatar
          mcs

          So, in your world burglar alarm and cameras in convenience stores and banks as restrictions on a free society. You know, I’ve got a nice small microphone array kicking around the lab. I could build a prototype. Make it nice and cheap so police departments could buy several.

        • 0 avatar
          mcs

          So, in your world burglar alarm and cameras in convenience stores and banks as restrictions on a free society. You know, I’ve got a nice small microphone array kicking around the lab. I could build a prototype. Make it nice and cheap so police departments could buy several. Call it the TA-1

    • 0 avatar
      redgolf

      “a swap of the factory exhaust” for a “loud pipe” sounds like a no brainer decission to me, either ya want LOUD or ya DON”T! Give me stock, please! Quite, but humble!

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      “Kind of like the Iron Duke of motorcycle engines.”
      It’s not that bad. If you were looking at a 2019 $20K Harley, it should have had a Milwaukee-Eight and those seem to be alright with output. They are more like the Triton V10 of motorcycle engines.

    • 0 avatar
      bunkie

      It should be re-written:

      Loud pipes save the bottom line

      Harley buyers are suckers for expensive stuff to “customize” their bikes.

  • avatar
    OneAlpha

    I don’t care about the exhaust, but when are they gonna aim laws like this at boom cars?

  • avatar
    The_Guru

    UK moving quickly to remove more freedoms as their people stand by and watch their country being invaded.

    • 0 avatar
      Blackcloud_9

      Being invaded by whom?

      • 0 avatar
        Lockstops

        By people from outside their country.

        • 0 avatar
          Blackcloud_9

          And which people would those be? I would really like to see it typed out, not hidden in code words. Is it the Arabs you don’t like? Or is it religious? Muslims? Are they all bad? Or is it their generally darker skin that you and @The_Guru don’t like?
          I’m Caucasian, if I move to England, am I invading?

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            It looks like we have our own Peter Bright. You’d like someone to write something you can use to destroy the free exchange of ideas here? Prepare to be disappointed.

          • 0 avatar
            Lockstops

            You seem to be fishing for something in a belligerent manner. Why do you focus on race and religion so vehemently, you have some issues?

            No code words needed, the definition and meaning is pretty simple: invasion means (in a quickly self-developed definition) to take over a people’s habitat, in a self-serving manner with disregard or disrespect to the original inhabitants and their culture, rights, customs etc. I’m sure someone else can give a better definition, and in this case there is more to be added I’m sure.

            You don’t have to be of a certain ethnic group, follow a certain religion or skin colour to invade someone’s homeland. Anyone who has studied a bit of history will know countless very different types of examples of invasions: South American invasion by the Spanish et al., invasion of Native Americans’ lands, there have been many invasions within the African continent, the invasion WW2 and other wars have been the setting for numerous invasions, then there are the invasions carried out by Russians seen to this day in their neighbouring countries which were the result of invasion (or the attempt to cement the effects of the invasion) through forced population transfers.

            One way of looking at it would be that once a long-standing ‘original population’ ends up, in a short time period, being pushed into being a minority and the culture has clearly changed, it being ruled by those not of the original culture. When the native people are vilified and attacked for speaking out for their own culture in (what was formerly) their own homeland…why not accept that many consider it an invasion? You can disagree about it but I’d say that in such a case you can’t demonise those who make that argument no matter how much you want to…for some reason.

  • avatar
    Tele Vision

    The cops tried that here, sans plate recognition. It failed. I used to live in the neighbourhood that had the Harley dealership in it. Every new ‘biker’ came up our road to try out his new POS, complete with new straight pipes. The cops got none – not one – of them. The other bike shop in the ‘hood was an HA place. They, thankfully, flew beneath the radar in both SPLs and sales.

  • avatar
    Zipster

    Having a loud Harley is actually a Viagra substitute. Cops have the same problems and that is why they indulge them. However, don’t count on such treatment if you are black.

  • avatar
    80Cadillac

    What possible “freedoms” are a couple of the commenters referring to?

    Is there some supposed freedom to drive around in something louder than a jet aircraft? To disturb my tranquility, on my own property, from a quarter-mile away or more? In my newly-revived small western NC town, a freedom to disturb the patrons of all the new pubs and restaurants with outdoor seating? Freedom to ruin everyone else’s enjoyment of the nearby Blue Ridge Parkway?

    It’s not exactly “surveillance”, if you’re broadcasting your anti-social behavior for all to hear.

    Screw the dickless poseurs and their Brodozers, Harleys, and Mustangs that impinge upon everyone else’s quality of life. I would wholeheartedly vote in favor of local regulations to ban vehicles from producing noise over a set and measurable standard. (Aside: Same for idiot “coal-rolling”.)

    Bring on the electrics. The best-sounding motor is one that you cannot hear at all.

    • 0 avatar
      CaddyDaddy

      +1. The behavior of a dunderhead to blast thru a neighborhood at sleeping hours, or any time, with loud pipes is just proof of a 12 year old in a 60 year old body. I know Harley Owners with stock exhaust, IMO they sound good. Psychology would say such behavior is nothing more than the “hey look at me” Etc…. it’s gross and disrespectful. Go to any third wold country, yup it’s loud. A civilized society is armed, quite, and clean.

      Loud Pipes don’t save lives, ask a cop about the theory of outrunning one’s sirens.

  • avatar
    Lockstops

    Oh, I would’ve thought that occasionally having noisy cars around is also ‘part and parcel of living in a big city’…

    But I guess loud cars are more important than other things…

  • avatar
    tylanner

    Purposefully loud cars are a sign of grave insecurity….I’m not talking V12 Lambos…I’m talking a V8 Mustang that sounds like a barrel of marbles in a paint shaker.

    • 0 avatar
      Lockstops

      That might be true. So are things some people do like advocate for super-low speed limits and speed bumps. And much of the crazy environmentalist outpouring (not the sensible, measured, balanced, down-to-earth actual problem solving) is even worse than just grave insecurity: it’s really often hateful, malicious lashing out and pure will to hurt and dominate others.

      Actually I disagree that loud exhausts would that often be a sign of insecurity, but instead a way to ‘get back’ at the general public or those who they feel try to oppress them. (Like at bureaucrats & politicians and those who vote for those kinds of bureaucratic schemes / legislation that affects them negatively. Fact is lots of bureaucrats affect people in pretty similar ‘antisocial’ ways ‘and there’s nothing you can do about it’. Loud exhausts and other such things might be a counterpunch to such stuff, ‘and there’s nothing they can do about it’!)

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      “Purposefully loud cars are a sign of grave insecurity….I’m not talking V12 Lambos…I’m talking a V8 Mustang that sounds like a barrel of marbles in a paint shaker.”

      I love the little bow to your superiors. You don’t mean their loud cars, just those of the pesky middle class! Good slave.

  • avatar
    Uncle Mellow

    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”.

  • avatar
    Featherston

    “[I]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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