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New intelligent speed camera gets the go ahead

Since the introduction of the first fixed speed camera 20 years ago, these ‘road safety’ systems have developed from glorified Kodak cameras on a pole, to sophisticated multi-camera systems that monitor average speeds over many miles, using infrared night-time vision. And just when we thought we had seen it all, along comes the SafeZone™ system from Siemens.

SafeZone Speed Camera

SafeZone Speed Camera

Also known as the SICORE average speed camera, these next generation road monitoring systems have sparked controversy amongst UK motorists wondering if they are aiding road safety, or simply a more sophisticated way to make money. What is certain is that they have been approved for use by the UK government, and are currently on trial in several places around the country.

For those that are less familiar with the SafeZone™ system, they operate in much the same way as existing average SPECS cameras – they monitor average speeds over a wide area, using multiple cameras all linked together. Fines are automatically issued and sent to motorists who creep over the limit.

This however is perhaps where the similarities end. SafeZone™ uses automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) technology, meaning that they could catch un-insured and un-roadworthy vehicles. They can also monitor foreign drivers, due to improved data access. What’s more, the system is not restricted to linear monitoring – it can monitor drivers within a wide area ‘zone’, such as a city centre or district.

Unlike its predecessors, SafeZone™ can operate over multiple lanes of traffic, in multiple directions, and also monitor speeds of up to 200 miles an hour. The minimum distance between each ‘camera’ has also been approved to just 75 meters – meaning that they can be used as an alternative to fixed analogue speed camera sites. And as they are smaller, easier to install, operate and integrate, they make a more convincing business case for local authorities.

On top of this, SafeZone™ utilises the SIEMENS Comet UTMC traffic management system, which monitors multiple aspects of traffic and road conditions from congestion, to incident management, traffic flow and even vehicle counting. SafeZone™ effectively surveys traffic data and provides real-time reporting, greatly aiding in motorway and road management.

Funding for these systems will partly come from revenue made through driver awareness courses, and finance provided by Siemens Financial Services (SFS)[1].

The SafeZone™ system seems to tick all the boxes for local authorities wanting to better manage their roads and road users. With its arsenal of monitoring capabilities, unobtrusive nature, sophisticated data integration, and flexible funding options, surely it’s only a matter of time before we see these popping up all over the country…?

What do you think? Do you welcome the SafeZone™ systems? Do you think they will help road safety by monitoring more than just speeding? Or do you think it is Big Brother gone mad? Let us know what you think be leaving your comments below.

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[1] Siemens News Release, 25th May 2012: Government grants Siemens SafeZone™ type approval.

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