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The smartphone app that allows public to submit evidence of speeding drivers: will it actually work?

Rod King, the director of road safety campaign 20’s Plenty For Us, says the Speedcam Anywhere app will be “transformational” and “will make a huge difference”

Our story earlier this week about a new smartphone app that uses AI to analyse video and enables users to report drivers suspected of speeding to the police for potential enforcement attracted a lot of comments, including from Rod King of the road safety campaign 20’s Plenty For Us, whose volunteers are trialling the app.

> New smartphone app to allow public to submit evidence of speeding drivers

Among the concerns raised about the Speedcam Anywhere app were whether police would have the desire, let alone the resources, to deal with such submissions, as well as whether there are evidential issues related to the footage captured. 

However, replying to readers in the comments to the original article, King said he believes the technology “will be transformational” and that he has “every confidence that it will make a huge difference” to road safety.

He said: “I think that it’s fair to say that the forces aren't expecting this. So don't expect systems to automatically accommodate the new technology.

“I am confident that it will be accepted, but we do have a very patchy set of constabularies on enforcement, especially ‘where people are’. There will be pioneer forces who will see the benefits and others who are still only migrating from Gatso [speed cameras].

“The point about uploading video and report is that the report saves analysing the video. But if challenged the video can be manually analysed also. It’s all a lot more straightforward than analysing most dashcam or headcam submissions.

“It will be transformational. But some forces may take longer to transform than others. I have every confidence that it will make a huge difference.”

We’ll be contacting the app’s developers for a response to a number of concerns raised by readers, as well as getting some thoughts on it from road safety professionals.

In the meantime, 20’s Plenty For Us director King gives more detail about the app and how it functions, which will hopefully answer a number of the questions raised in the comments. He has also highlighted that more information is available on the organisation’s website.

King said:

Most speed detection ‘devices’ use a function within the device to measure the speed of a vehicle. If it’s rad or laser, it involves measuring the speed by bouncing a wave off the oncoming vehicle and measuring the doppler effect produced because the vehicle is moving.

One issue with this is that you can rarely use the device in the path of the vehicle and therefore you do not measure the vehicle speed as it is reduced by the cosine from the sight line to the direction of travel. Because the device independently assesses the speed it needs calibration.

Speedcam Anywhere is different. It is not the smartphone that measures the speed. The app buffers a video image and when you press the shutter as a car is passing and centred on the screen it selects a video snip of the previous one second and next one second. This is then uploaded to the cloud together with GPS location. The server then:

  • Uses ANPR to look up the vehicle make, model and year;
  • Looks up the wheelbase (WB) of the vehicle;
  • Uses AI to analyse the video and locate the wheel centres;
  • Finds the still in the video clip where the front wheel passes a point on the road. Takes its time stamp (T1);
  • Finds the still in the video clip where the rear wheel passes the same point on the road. Takes its time stamp (T2);
  • Uses the simple physics calculation that v=s/t ie v= WB/(T2-T1);
  • Looks up the mapping to find the speed limit at that point;
  • Creates a two second video clip overlaid with the time stamps;
  • Creates an A4 report showing location, picture of vehicle, its details, location, speed and speed limit as well as time stamped stills used;
  • Sends a summary back to the app.

The app user is then able to download the report and video clip for upload to the police dashcam. Here police can (if they wish) examine the video to verify the speed of the vehicle.

Because the wheels always follow the direction of the vehicle the angle of approach does not matter. You can use the app with oncoming or departing cars as long as you can see the number plate. A line of sight with one edge of the image perpendicular to the road has been found to work best.

The requirement for a Home Office Type Approved device only exists for speeding convictions. It is an anomaly that presumes that the speed is measured on the device. Where it is a video, precedents have already been set whereby drivers have been prosecuted for careless or dangerous driving based on video evidence. This includes verifying speeding.

However, this does require expert analysis and often a measurement of road markings or scenery to provide a fixed distance to measure the travel time over. Speedcam Anywhere negates the need for this expert analysis by using AI and the wheelbase of the car as a fixed distance.

Section 59 Anti-Social Driving offence only requires reasonable grounds for believing that a motor vehicle is being used on any occasion in a manner which contravenes section 3 or section 34 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (careless and inconsiderate driving and prohibition of off-road driving) and is causing, or is likely to cause alarm, distress or annoyance to members of the public. Hence under "reasonable grounds" a Section 59 offence can be registered.

Speedcam Anywhere could gain Type Approval for the ‘process’ rather than the ‘device’. In which case police and members of the public may use it for enforcement of speeding offence directly.

This really does use a great combination of modern databases, smart analysis and AI to provide an accurate measurement of speed using a smartphone. It’s not only a great invention but also a huge step forward for enforcement. When driving in the future then, any pedestrian you see could be a Speedcam Anywhere pedestrian. Especially in urban and village settings drivers should be wary of blasting through those public places between buildings that we call streets. After all, 20 is Plenty where people are.

Ryan joined as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.

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