Developers of speed reporting app forced into anonymity following abuse

Developers of speed reporting app forced into anonymity following abuse
A new app that uses artificial intelligence to estimate the speed of a passing car is causing an ethical debate around surveillance of citizens.

The developers of Speedcam Anywhere have been forced into anonymity since the launch of the app, due to angry and abusive messages from drivers.

Speedcam Anywhere was created through the combination of some of the UK’s top universities and experts from Silicon Valley – and it was originally created to encourage local authorities and the police to tackle speeding drivers – as well as protect other road users.

The app was also hoped to help local residents document traffic crimes and keep the local community safe.

In an article on The Guardian, the app’s founder stated: “We’re getting quite abusive emails. It’s a Marmite product – some people think it is 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.”

However, the founder does believe that the app will provide a useful tool to prevent dangerous driving and serious incidents occurring.

He continued: “I think this is a step in the bigger journey of how we make our roads safer and more accessible for everybody.

“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.”

How does the Speedcam Anywhere app work?

When a speeding car is approaching, a user of the Speedcam Anywhere app can record the vehicle as it drives past.

The app’s AI uses the vehicle’s number plate to search the DVLA’s public registration database to find the make and model – and it then determines the distance between the axles of the car with the footage to calculate the approximate speed.

After this, the user can save the video and create a report to share to the relevant authorities.

What does the future hold for the app?

Following its difficult launch last month, which involved having to prove to Google that its technology worked before going live on the Play Store – it has since had poor ratings from users and arguments over its ethical place in society.

Currently, it is not approved by Apple to appear on their App Store – and going by the reviews it currently has for Android users – it looks unlikely.

Following the recent changes to Highway Code, and increasing amount of conflict between road users – the future doesn’t look bright for the AI-powered app.

What’s your take on the app? Will this help stop dangerous driving or is this a move towards a 'surveillance state'? Leave a comment below.

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