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Common Tread

Loud pipes could receive an automatic fine from the UK's "noise cameras"

Jun 11, 2019

The UK Department for Transport is testing some new tech for enforcing noise emission laws: microphone-equipped cameras that automatically identify and fine excessively loud vehicles.

The devices, called “acoustic cameras,” use microphones and plate scanners to identify the offending vehicles. They can also sense the class and speed of the vehicles in their monitored area. Supporters of the initiative believe the tech will remove any subjectivity when determining what’s “too loud.” In addition, unmanned systems like these can monitor noise levels without tying up an officer’s time, as shrinking resources for UK police mean they’re spread thinner every year.

UK noise camera system
An array of cameras and microphones can detect vehicles that break noise ordinances. photo.

Camera prototypes will be deployed in several locations for a seven-month trial. “If trials are successful, recommendations will be made to further develop the system,” according to the Department's site. 

“Noise pollution makes the lives of people in communities across Britain an absolute misery and has very serious health impacts,” said UK Transport Secretary Chris Grayling. “This is why I am determined to crack down on the nuisance drivers who blight our streets. New technology will help us lead the way in making our towns and cities quieter, and I look forward to seeing how these exciting new cameras could work.”

Combining cameras and decibel meters isn’t a new idea, and it’s a little surprising to me that the UK hasn’t already deployed something like this. Here's a video of an older system that accomplishes the same goal.

Manpower has always been a limiting factor, if not the limiting factor, in policing noise violations on the street. From illegal exhausts to loud stereos and horns, there simply aren't enough officers to catch every single offender. So if the noise cameras work as intended, they should allow officers to focus on more pressing issues. And generate a pile of money, if red light cameras are anything to go by. The Department for Transport has not yet addressed any concerns over false readings or misidentified vehicles, as the program is still in its pilot stages.

Just one request, lads: Can we please get to work on an automatic texting-while-driving detector now?