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Developers of smartphone speed camera app sent abuse by motorists

"We’re getting quite abusive emails – some people think it's a good idea, some people think that it turns us into a surveillance state"...

The developers of smartphone speed camera app Speedcam Anywhere have reported abuse from drivers, forcing them into anonymity.

The app founder told the Guardian newspaper the team has received "quite abusive emails" and said it had become "a Marmite product" which some people see as a step towards a "surveillance state".

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

Available on the Google Play Store, with an iOS version said to be coming soon, Speedcam Anywhere uses AI to analyse video and report offences to the police.

Speedcam Anywhere graphic

Despite being currently unable to prompt speeding drivers to receive a ticket, due to the algorithm having not been vetted by the Home Office meaning it is not legally a speed camera, the director of road safety campaign 20's Plenty For Us, Rod King, said the app will be "transformational".

But, now faced with abuse from disgruntled road users, the app's founder said they have been forced into anonymity.

"We're getting quite abusive emails," they said. "It's a Marmite product – some people think it's a good idea, some people think that it turns us into a surveillance state.

"I can see both sides of that, but I think that if you're going to have speed limits, then it's the law that you obey them, and you should enforce the law. It's not a personal vendetta against anyone, it's just – how do we make our roads safe? There are 20,000 serious injuries on the roads every year – how can we reduce them? And the way we reduce them is we make a deterrent to speeding."

The app has received low reviews on the Google Play Store due to issues with logging in (apparently now fixed post-update) and concerns about the in-app purchase price to buy credits to take pictures.

However, other reviews criticise the very idea of a smartphone speed camera: "In East Germany, citizens were encouraged to report their neighbours to the Stasi for even the smallest societal infraction. 'Congratulations' on creating a modern day version of that. If you couldn't tell, I'm being sarcastic. This app disgusts me."

Speedcam Anywhere's creator says the app is simply automating the process of reviewing submissions.

"What we did is extended the sort of capabilities that dashcam systems have, so that you can automate the forensic video analysis that dashcams already do. So instead of a human looking at a video working out the offence, we've created software that automates the process," they continued.

"I think this is a step in the bigger journey of how we make our roads safer and more accessible for everybody.

"Having roads that are just too dangerous for kids to cycle to school on, having roads that are too dangerous for parents let their kids cross – I think that's wrong, and society needs to get over it. Make the roads safer, make them less unpleasant, and then we can start to look at how else we can move around."

Addressing the fact the app cannot currently be used for evidencing speeding tickets, the founder said they hope widespread use of the app will at least alert officers to speeding hotspots and encourage action to prevent dangerous driving.

An iOS version of the app is yet to be approved by Apple, something the app's developers find confusing: "We're not sure why they would block a useful piece of technology, something that could save people's lives."

20's Plenty For Us director King praised the app's premise, saying it "will be a game-changer in speed limit enforcement".

"It allows police forces to align with community needs for compliance without imposing an increased load on the police. We expect it to be welcomed by all those interested in making our communities safer," he said.

Dan joined road.cc in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining road.cc, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.

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