Is employing satellites to track motorists' speed a step too far? (NASA Goddard Photo and Video, Flickr)

    by: Craig Howie | AOL Autos

    In many cities it's almost impossible to walk around without your movements being recorded by surveillance cameras. In fact, driving anywhere in Britain means having a picture of your car and license plate being snapped multiple times per journey. But what if you were being tracked from space, by satellite? It sounds spooky, but it’s now a reality in some parts of the world. A trial program of a new speed camera system in Britain dubbed “SpeedSpike” has led some media to proclaim it an even deeper descent into a "Big Brother" society while decrying the technology as an invasion of privacy.

    The Slippery Slope

    The technology, explains Andy Howard, head of road safety at U.K. motoring group AA, is not quite as sinister as it might sound. "It's just a normal speed camera," he says, but one that is hooked up to a network of speed cameras that use GPS satellites to track their locations, rather than directly tracking a driver's route. Every time a car is photographed by one of the speed cameras, the time is recorded, and then the system calculates the average speed between two cameras to determine whether the driver was speeding.

    "Theoretically, you could guard every entrance to a town and see if anyone averaged 30 mph inside," Howard said. "But we don't think this is likely."

    It would be "mathematically difficult" to calculate if a motorist has broken speeding laws if they'd traveled through multiple speed zones, according to Howard, like driving from a 45 mph limit to a 70 mph zone on a highway. The technology would be most applicable on a long-distance run along a single highway, say, from London to Edinburgh.

    "We already have 'average-speed' cameras through roadworks (construction zones). Cameras snap your license plate as you go in and as you go out," he said. These cameras have been in service recording driver information since 2000. The only difference is that while these cameras are connected by wire, the new cameras would use GPS.

    “A Bit Iffy”

    Though the prospect of cameras that track speeds by calculating distance over time has long been discussed in British motoring circles, the new GPS satellite angle has caused quite a stir.

    The responses we garnered from U.K. motorists when they were informed of the new satellite tracking experiment were uniformly negative. This instinctive recoil strengthened when I mentioned that a unit of an American company, Tennessee-based PIPS Technology, is the one implementing SpeedSpike. PIPS did not respond to requests for comment. Similarly, the British government said it does not comment on trials that are still underway.

    Using satellites to track motorists' speed: Is it an invasion of privacy?

    Dylan Sharpe, the campaign director of U.K.-based Big Brother Watch, told AOL: "We're very much opposed to more surveillance. The government now knows exactly where we've been and how much we drive.


"We've had GPS systems, sat-nav systems, it was only a matter of time before an agency worked out how to [use] GPS [to] track cars and their speed.”

But Howard says any data collected by the system and the transmission of driver information is regulated by the government, so "if you have the right guidelines and rules then the system wouldn't be inappropriate.


Support for regular speed cameras across the U.K. runs between 69 and 74 percent, according to AA's figures. So while there are undoubtedly concerns over the spread of this sort of speed camera tracking, it seems as if the general public -- and the media -- are perhaps being just a little myopic on the issue.

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    1 - 20 of 222 Comments
    jianmei32 May 29, 2010 9:36 AM
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    nscontent May 26, 2010 11:40 PM
    Have you been caught? Visit http://rosenblumlawfirm.com/practice/understanding-speeding-tickets
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    elderjimgee May 26, 2010 9:33 PM
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    drdave800 May 24, 2010 11:34 PM
    I'm surprised I don't see a comment about the biggest reason issuing a driving citation based upon GPS is a bad idea - just because you know a car is speeding doesn't mean you know who is driving.
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    knightmare77777 May 24, 2010 9:31 PM
    Maybe the cops will let us pay for these tickets in doughnuts .
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    jpboeding May 24, 2010 7:37 PM
    They will spend millions for satellite time to charge you with a small fine. That is how ridiculous people in government are getting.
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    dreeves318 May 24, 2010 9:33 AM
    I'd rather that they spend money on developing alternative energy sources than tracking whether I'm doing 27 in a 25. But that's just me.
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    kell8b May 24, 2010 7:31 AM
    Ah well, can't live with gov't, and can't live ****************** in the middle again"
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    emmonsea May 24, 2010 7:23 AM
    Now lets look back and can anyone tell me anything the government has done where thier own intrests weren't first. When 12/21/12 comes thier asses will all be hiding in the fallout shelters (with taxpayer money) they built to save themself. The main problem will be all levels of government (hereon refered to as those idiots) will all want a piece of this action. So those idiots federal, state, county, township,and towns. are all drooling while they think of ways to legistate more of your cash from your pocket. Now don't think i'm against driving safely I haven't received a moving violation ticket in 35 years so i'm not worried about tickets but when does it end? Those idiots looked away when they let this current depression occur bail out thier cronies for vacations and bonuses and make us pay for all of it. now they have automated a system that creates crimes so they don't even have to come to work. it The system has a lot of latitude for abuse and those idiots will abuse it as soon as possible. Holy Tony Saprono batman! the mob is running the country. I have an intersection by my house were 1.5 cars can make a left turn before it changes to red now does the.5 car that goes thru when the light is red get a ticket or what ????
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    daytonac2 May 24, 2010 6:27 AM
    Should wearing a seatbelt be left up to the person? That only hurts you, not the other person! Now, if you want to keep an eye out for some ditz texting while trying to drive, then that is putting the other person at risk! People driving reckless is also putting other people at risk, but looking for people going 5 or 10 mph over the speed limit is just plain harassment! Really, this is just all about money! Heck, when they started the DUI thing it was just about money! The government says they do all these things because it is morally right, ******** just ALL ABOUT THE MONEY!
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    elwoodlr May 24, 2010 6:19 AM
    Anyone breaking the laws behind the wheel should be ticketed and fined for the violation. Those people that speed are a self centered ******** with no reguards for human life theirs or anyone elses. Most of these hammerheads that are speeding think they are some sort of excellent driver truth being known they are an accident waiting to happen. I see no problem with making the public roads as safe as possible using any means to do so. Ask someone that has lost a loved one from being killed by a speeder or drunk operator, what they think.
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    nightdame May 24, 2010 6:12 AM
    This just prooves the cops are getting lazier on their jobs! They need to be on the streets to react with speeders and they just find a drunken Idiot-that will get a ticket in the mail that he/she doesnt remember a thing or the car with a family in it he ran into! What about the rapist,drub sellers out on the street?? Can Satellite pick that up?? I doubt it. All they are interested in is their coffe and donuts nowadats,Pretty pathtic isnt it?
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    dryricha May 24, 2010 6:05 AM
    Hey if this technology exists and they can catch speeders from satellites in outer space, how come after 9 years we still haven't gotten Bin Laden. If we can use it to catch speeders why can't we use it to locate criminals like him?Isn't it more important to capture someone like him than bagging someone who's going 5mph over the speed limit?
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    seditionist1949 May 24, 2010 5:54 AM
    I am going the take my space ship and intend to shoot down the eyes in space. : )
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    nosko1 May 24, 2010 5:53 AM
    When we were driving in England, we came to an intersection with a speed camera on it. We were trying to make a turn across traffic, so we were sitting out of the intersection waiting for a break in traffic. The traffic lights finally changed from green to red, so now that we were in the middle of the intersection, we had to move. The camera only reads that you are moving in a red light now, and flashed. Ticket in the mail.
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    simzillyjp May 24, 2010 5:43 AM
    If YOU were following laws & NOT speeding, you would'nt have a problrm.
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    fskydak May 24, 2010 5:19 AM
    the bigest scam in the world is extortion of as much money as possible from motorists, the government goons are hired , given a gun and turned loose on t6he public ,so much crime is unpoliced because cops have become collection agencys
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    alfredschrader May 24, 2010 5:17 AM
    I do more than just obey the speed limit. I work with the other drivers & pedestrians to make sure everyone is safe. I wear my seatbelt. Lately the authorities have been making mistakes. In 2007 they tried to shoot me for parking at JC Penney, recently they shot innocents in Michigan. They don't make mistakes on me anymore. I obtained training from experts & I'm now the top marksman. God bless America.. Al-
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    jackmclinn May 24, 2010 5:13 AM
    It is needed in New Mexico
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    haras1375 May 24, 2010 4:57 AM
    haras1375 May 24, 2010 4:47 AM I'm all up for this method. Hooray for the Law Enforcers! If you're a law abiding citizen, you have nothing to worry about. All that say's this method is invasive of one's privacy, are al full of crap! Obviously, they are guilty & worried. They have to strict the law of using the cell phone too. I have seen a lot of people in front of me using them. Either texting, checking incoming calls & dialing. It's not only hazardous, but these users are creating traffic buy slowing down while doing these things with their phone.. Idiots!
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    1 - 20 of 222 Comments
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    What if you were being tracked from space, by satellite? It sounds spooky, but it’s now a reality in some parts of the world.


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