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Clever cameras have your record
    Jani Meyer
    November 21 2004 at 07:56PM

Cameras picking up speedsters are nothing new and they continue to be the bane of many a motorist’s existence, but cameras used by traffic officials are becoming even more intelligent by being able to identify “wanted” vehicles.

A Durban man, Barry Dudley, and his Johannesburg-based partner, David Marshall, have developed a licence plate recognition system that identifies number plates stored in its database. The system can be used in the same way a speed camera is, but it “reads” vehicle registration numbers and alerts officials that the owner has outstanding warrants.

The system has already been implemented in Pietermaritzburg and it has proved so successful that the capital city’s traffic department is in the process of buying a further three cameras.


Senior Traffic Superitendent Tony Brinklow said the vehicle registration numbers of people with outstanding warrants issued in Pietermaritzburg were put on a database linked to the camera.

The camera can be set up anywhere in and around the city
The camera can be set up anywhere in and around the city and officers are deployed a few metres up or down the road.

If the camera picks up a licence plate on the database, the traffic officers are alerted and the vehicle is pulled off the road.

Brinklow said about 70 drivers with outstanding warrants were picked up every weekend.

Pietermaritzburg is owed R17-million in outstanding fines and about 39 000 are issued every month.

It can also be used in existing closed-circuit television cameras and information about stolen or wanted cars can be put into the system within minutes.

If a stolen or wanted vehicle is picked up by a camera connected to the system, the control room is alerted and police dispatched. The system can also be implemented at border controls.

But it is not only licence plates that can be detected. Dudley and Marshall also developed a facial identification system that can be used to pick up wanted people or for security control.

The system can also be used for parking security. The camera is placed at a gate and only people registered on the database are allowed in.

What sets the system apart is that once implemented, it is “constantly learning”. Once a face is in the system, the program picks up any changes every time it is scanned and adds it to its memory bank. Marshall said that the program learnt, remembered and recognised, becoming more familiar with a face each time it saw it, adjusting for differences owing to ageing and cosmetics.

Apart from acting as non-intrusive security at companies, the system can also be used to check work attendance by preventing people clocking in for colleagues or strangers entering a building.

The system is also expected to be used for the 2010 Soccer World Cup, to prevent known soccer hooligans entering the country.

The programme is available to the Westville police, where it is used to check whether suspects are wanted or connected with any other crimes.

    • This article was originally published on page 7 of Tribune on November 21, 2004

National Traffic Control Centre to use automatic number plate recognition to warn drivers on the M25 of traffic delays.

Traffic delays and other travel information are set to be displayed in real-time on electronic roadsides signs down the M25 around London.

Following a trial in the West Midlands and South West, 89 per cent of surveyed drivers said the real-time messages were a good idea. The area covered by the message service now includes the M25, as well the M6 and parts of the M5.

The National Traffic Control Centre system uses automatic number plate recognition cameras, taking a snapshot and comparing it to previous data for that part of the motorway, updating the signs to new travel times every five minutes. The signs can also be used to show safety messages or other warnings.

"We are making best use of our technology to help drivers find out about traffic conditions on their route both before they leave and during their journey," said roads minister Tom Harris in a statement. "Displaying journey times on our electronic signs gives drivers greater certainty about the time it will take to get them to their destinations. It also helps them to consider options such as changing their route or taking a break if there are traffic delays on the road ahead."

The Highways Agency is also set to launch its own digital traffic radio station as well as making CCTV pictures of major roads available to the public and media by spring of 2008.

Ramp metering to go live

[ Johannesburg, 26 September 2007 ] - Ramp metering has arrived for motorists using the N1 highway between Johannesburg and Pretoria. It forms part of the SA National Road Agency Limited's (Sanral's) ongoing efforts to use IT to keep traffic flowing on Africa's busiest road.

A ramp meter is a smart traffic light on the onramp to a highway that, by alternating between red and green every few seconds, breaks up the flow of traffic onto the freeway. The meter is supervised real-time by closed-circuit television (CCTV) and via an intelligent traffic (i-traffic) management system.

“At a certain point, you have a breakdown in the flow of traffic and everything slows to standstill,” says Sanral toll and traffic manager Alex van Niekerk. “Metering will attempt to keep the traffic flowing.”

The year-long pilot project will see ramp meters on the southbound onramps of the N1, at Samrand and New Roads, as well as at the N1-Old Johannesburg Road intersection. There is another on the northbound onramp to the N1, at New Road, in Midrand, to be joined shortly by a ramp meter at Samrand Road.

Constantly monitored

Van Niekerk says acceleration lines will be painted onto the road to further aid traffic flow. “The expectation is that these two measures should improve traffic flow on the freeway.”

He adds that the ramp meters and their effectiveness will be constantly monitored, especially their impact on the roads surrounding the onramps. The frequency of the lights – the length of time they flash red or green – can be adjusted remotely and, should traffic on the ramps back up substantially, the lights can be set to green.

Other i-traffic measures already in place include CCTV along most of Gauteng's highways, as well as electronic variable messaging boards. The CCTVs are linked by fibre optic cables to a central control room, in Midrand.

At its launch last year, the project was valued at about R100 million. At the time, transport minister Jeff Radebe said the ever-increasing traffic congestion on the province's roads was impeding economic growth.

Related stories:
No escaping Gauteng tolls
Smart highways for 2010
IT will take toll
Transport department in IT push
Police contact centre on track
Technology takes control of traffic
Jo'burg's answer to traffic blues


South Africa faces a R17-billion shortfall in its efforts to repair its national road network over the next five years, the transport minister said on Monday.

Replying in writing to a question in parliament, Jeff Radebe said a total of R30,2-billion would be spent on roadworks in that period, leaving a backlog in infrastructure projects.

South Africa hopes to improve its infrastructure before hosting the 2010 soccer World Cup.

AUTHOR: Reuters
DATED: 3rd September 2007


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