This is the chilling new super speed camera heading for Britain’s roads – which can catch motorists committing five different offences at the same time.
The ASSET camera can film inside a vehicle and see if the driver is wearing a seatbelt and can also measure distances between cars to identify tailgating. As well as speeding, the device reads number plates and can instantly recognise cars with out-of-date tax discs and no insurance.
The trailer-mounted device – the first to detect multiple offences at the same time – is connected to police computers via GPS and can instantly process prosecutions.
ASSET (Advance Safety and Driver Support for Essential Road Transport) is being funded with £7.1m of European Commission money.
It is currently undergoing testing in Finland and is expected to be rolled out across Europe from 2013, with each unit costing £50,000.
Today motoring organisations gave a mixed reception to the device.
AA president Edmund King said: ‘Tailgating is more dangerous in most cases than speeding so I think most motorists would welcome it.
‘We will need sophisticated technology to police the roads and there would have to be safeguards.
‘But it needs to be done as a safety measure, not as a money-making machine.’
But the campaign group SpeedCameras.org said the devices should not become a replacement for traditional traffic police officers. A spokesman said: ‘We cautiously welcome a device that can detect several potential motoring offences, but it remains to be seen how accurate it is and how fairly it will be used. ‘It’s a pity that the main actions that cause the most accidents, namely not paying attention to the road, misjudging distances and other drivers’ intentions, cannot be detected by a device of any sort. ‘More police patrols and better driver education are the only ways to reduce accidents.’
The ASSET project runs from July 2008 to December 2011 and aims to improve traffic safety and reduce accidents caused by traffic violations. Fancy coated car plates will not save you from being detected by this camera. With a set of complex cameras, the ‘Big Brother’ style setup takes various pictures before filing details back to a central database via a GPS system. The equipment automatically destroys images over one-month old and those in which no traffic violation is evident. Its testing comes at a time when the government has cut central funding for speed cameras and reduced the road safety budget by £38 million – prompting fears roadside deaths and injuries could rise.
The number of people killed on Britain’s roads was reduced by 12 per cent from 2,538 in 2008 to 2,222 in 2009 with 222,000 casualties, a reduction of four per cent. The ASSET camera is currently being tested by the VTT Technical Research Centre in Finland. It is currently mounted on a trailer but it is eventually expected to be converted to fit inside police vehicles. Matti Kutila, senior research scientist at VTT Technical Research Centre, said: ‘The main intention is to support traffic police to supervise that the drivers follow traffic rules such as wearing seat belts, preventing over-speeding and maintaining sufficient distance to the front vehicle. ‘This of course is beneficial for road safety.’
Britain currently has cameras which can detect speeding and tax and insurance violations separately, but this is the first for multitude of offences. Haven’t things moved on from the day when all we would encounter were speed bumps.