New Speedcam App Lets Anyone, Anywhere Submit Evidence Of Drivers Speeding | TOTUM
Ben HaywardApril 10th
2022

A new app will allow any member of the public to submit evidence of other drivers speeding to the police.

Using AI to estimate the speed of a passing car, Speedcam Anywhere, has been created by a team of AI scientists with backgrounds in Silicon Valley companies and top UK universities, reports the Guardian

The hope is it will encourage police to take speeding more seriously while enabling residents, pedestrians and cyclists to document traffic crimes in their area.

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However, the app’s creators say they have been subjected to a vicious response, with many now scared to reveal their real identities due to the level of vitriol aimed at them by drivers. 

“We’re getting quite abusive emails,” Sam, the app’s founder, told the Guardian on condition of anonymity. “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.”

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One online review for the app said: “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.”

The app has also faced other difficulties in getting off the ground. Google initially refused to allow it on the Play Store, claiming it wasn’t  possible to estimate the speed of a passing vehicle using AI alone, however this claim was later proved wrong.

An iOS version has also been developed, but it has not yet been approved for distribution by Apple, who have not given a reason for the delay. “We’re not sure why they would block a useful piece of technology, something that could save people’s lives,” Sam said.

Although police already accept user-uploaded footage of traffic crimes, which has enabled regular citizens to submit evidence leading to hundreds of prosecutions for unsafe driving, Speedcam Anywhere has essentially automated the process. 

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“[We have] 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,” Sam said. 

Currently, the app cannot lead to drivers receiving speeding tickets, as the algorithm is yet to be vetted by the Home Office, meaning it is not legally a speed camera, although drivers could still be charged with  ‘dangerous driving’ offences if their behaviour is deemed to be sufficiently negligent.

Sam says he hopes use of the app will alert police to speeding hotspots, encouraging them to take more action against dangerous driving. 

“I think this is a step in the bigger journey of how we make our roads safer and more accessible for everybody,” he said. “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.”

The Guardian has contacted Apple for comment.

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