10 August 2017

China working on ‘repression network’ which lets speed cameras track and identify cars – and human motorists – with unprecedented accuray

CAMERAS which catch speeding drivers and hit them with fines are one of the most unpopular motoring innovations ever introduced.

But the next generation of roadside spies are set to be even more powerful – and creepy – than traditional speed cameras.

Speed cameras at the top 10 sites in the UK raked in £3 million a year
Speed cameras at the top 10 sites in the UK rake in £3 million a year
Getty Images

Researchers at a Chinese university have revealed the results of an investigation aimed at creating a “repression network” which can identify cars from “customized paintings, decorations or even scratches” rather than by scanning its number plate.

This is great for cops because it would let them catch criminals who have changed the plates on a car.

Yet it would be hated by motorists because it will make hated speed cameras even more effective at punishing people who break the speed limit.

A team from Peking University said the technology they have developed to perform this task could also be used to recognise the faces of human beings.

Facial recognition is a technology which poses grave risks to human freedom because it would allow governments or corporations to track the movements of innocent people or automatically fine them for minor crimes.

“The growing explosion in the use of surveillance cameras in public security highlights the importance of vehicle search from large-scale image databases,” the researcher wrote.

A graphic showing how the repression network can identify cars based on their features, rather than a numberplate

“Precise vehicle search, aiming at finding out all instances for a given query vehicle image, is a challenging task as different vehicles will look very similar to each other if they share same visual attributes.”

They added: “We can extend our framework [software] into wider applications like face and
person retrieval [identification] as well.”

The phrase “repression network” refers to the technology developed at Peking University.

Essentially, it works by learning from what it sees, allowing it to differentiate between cars (or humans) by spotting small differences between them.

It uses a scary-sounding “repression layer” to manage the data generated when it spies on cars.

Luckily, the software is in the early stages of development so will not see the light of day in western countries any time soon.

Belgian boffins recently unveiled a “super speed cameraa” dubbed “the car driver’s worst nightmare” which is so small it can be hidden in a bin.

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