Number Plate Recognition is an expanding and growing technology in the United Kingdom. The government and police objective is to develop a national network of ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) cameras on motorways, major roads and city center locations. The UK ANPR system is intended to automatically alert police if a car is stolen, if road tax hasn’t been paid, if their MOT is out of date, or if the driver is uninsured. This technology is a big step forward in fighting car crime, and figures from last year show it has helped police officers arrest more than 900 burglars, robbers, drug dealers and other criminals, but has it gone too far in impacting on our civil liabilities?
The ANPR System:
The ANPR technology is claimed to be able to run computer database checks on up to 3,600 plates per hour, on vehicles travelling at speeds of up to 100 mph. A new computer database is also being built to expand the volume of searches and integrate all police forces together. The future is even scarier for recognition software with the Government looking at human faces recognition technology to identify drivers as well as the number plate of the vehicle they are driving.
The main limitations of this technology are some criminals can overcome ANPR by either making a copy of an identical vehicle number plate or changing the plate with a vehicle that is not reported stolen. Therefore, instantly making an unexpected member of the general public wanted by the ANPR software and not the car criminals they are designed to catch.
ANPR software is making a big difference though to our daily lives by keeping criminals off the road and helping with the fight on uninsured drivers. The average cost of uninsured drivers is £20 – £30 per year. The total cost approximately £200 million, which us insured drivers pay for with increased premiums. It is reported for the police to be the more successful in catching criminals they need to adopt an integrated approach and not keep ANPR as a fringe service. This in part is why you see police cars on roundabouts and think to yourself, you cannot catch anybody speeding there? Actually, the police are reading your number plate and looking for that out of date MOT, TAX or uninsured driver.
Number Plate Technology
Behind successful ANPR technology we need to look at the fundamentals rules of light. A basic law of light is that the angle of incidence equals the angle of reflection. However, number plates in the UK and most other countries have a special characteristic; they are known as RETRO-REFLECTIVE. The surface is covered in hundreds of tiny hemispheres which cause light to be reflected back to the source. This is the same technology used in safety clothing and signs. No matter from which direction the light is directed, it always reflects back and makes them very visible and for ANPR Technology to read the car registration.
The main problem with ANPR is in its inability to identify the changing of number plates and this is why face recognition software is being considered. I do feel there can be other alternatives including number plate chipping, where the number plate admits a single or an additional identification mark. These technologies would both help prevent the copying process and allay people’s fears of facial recognition software.