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New : speed camera can detect five offences at once

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A speed camera designed to catch motorists committing up to five offences at the same time could be heading to Britain’s roads. As well as catching speeding motorists, the Asset camera should be able to pick out drivers who are not wearing seatbelts and accurately measure distances between moving cars to identify tailgating.

Asset (advanced safety and driver support for essential road transport) can also note number plates and recognise cars with out-of-date tax discs and no insurance.

Funded by the European commission, the camera system is being developed by a consortium that includes a number of European universities and research institutes and is being tested in Finland.

Motoring organisations and campaigners in the UK gave the system a cautious welcome. AA president Edmund King said he was pleased if it stopped motorists tailgating but hoped it would not be used as a money-making measure. “Tailgating is more dangerous in most cases than speeding so I think most motorists would welcome it,” he said. “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.”

The campaign group Speed Cameras Dot 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.

“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 development of Asset began in 2008 and is due to end next year. The developers hope that by 2013 its cameras will be set up across Europe, including the UK. Its selling point is that one camera can do a series of tasks: cameras now tend to be used for different jobs.

Matti Kutila, senior research scientist at VTT Technical Research Centre in Finland, where the system is being tested, 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.”

Source : Guardian