Imagine you're caught speeding and a police car signals for you to stop. You sit quietly in your car, until there's a knock at the window. It's a green man with three heads and some yellow dribble coming from one of his noses.
Oh, I know I'm exaggerating a little. I blame that on the world's excitement that we might now know what the iPhone 4G will look like. Well, there's also the delightful fact that new speed cameras, ones that connect to satellites in outer space, are being tested on the roads of the United Kingdom.
According to the BBC, the peeps at PIPS Technology, heretofore known as developing fine license plate recognition systems, have turned more than a head or two toward creating a new system that will couple their existing amusements with an ability to track your average speed over long distances.
The new SpeedSpike system connects to GPS satellites that clearly have nothing better to do than help your local council discover whether you have just slipped down a motorway at an average of 74 mph rather than the stipulated 70. And I say "motorway" because PIPS is testing its imaginative system in the U.K.
As I understand it, some funster at PIPS worked out that if you could photograph someone's license plate at points A and B, you could work out how quickly they got from A to B and therefore what their average speed might, indeed, have been.
So motorists on two lucky stretches of road--one in Southwark, South London (nice cathedral, otherwise dreary), the other on the A374 in Cornwall, at the very bottom left of England (perhaps someone at PIPS has a country house down there)--are to be the first to enjoy that feeling of being watched from a completely new angle.
I have some quotes for you. First, from the PIPS Web site: "The PIPS team are passionate about camera and software technology, we believe that anything is possible."
I know you will be stirred into some loin-girding that these days, when it comes to speed cameras, anything might be possible. However, these PIPSters of possibility did try to reassure the BBC (and sane people everywhere) that their new system always errs "on the side of the driver."
Perhaps because I am a person of limited capabilities, I wonder whether these systems really will be all that accurate. I can understand that if they are measuring a stretch of road adorned by only one speed limit, the calculation might be one that I could muster without the aid of an assistant, a calculator, or a green person secretly manning a space station. But the world seems increasingly to be plagued by speed limits more varied than some of the dresses on "Project Runway."
Would it be possible for some miscreant human to go 49 mph in a 40 mph zone and then, say, 62 mph in a 70 mph zone on his journey and still get caught? What if you simply decided to speed beyond all reason when you thought no one was looking and then slow down in other places just to balance out the fun of your speeding?
How, indeed, will they know when the speeding actually occurred? Or would the argument be "We know you were speeding somewhere, because you got here too quickly, so give us money now."
Because it really is all about money, isn't it?