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7/1/2016
European Speed Cameras Raise Accuracy Concerns
Speed cameras hand out inaccurate citations in France and Germany.

Discarded speed camera photo
European motorists are increasingly receiving tickets in the mail for offenses that they did not commit. On April 12, the speed camera on the RN520 in Chaptelat, France accused a vehicle owner of traveling at 229 km/h (142 MPH) in a 90 km/h (55 MPH) zone.

The owner of the Renault Kangoo van was baffled by the charge. He had been driving to Limoges that day to pick up a coffee table and he certainly was not driving fast. In fact, he could not have reached those speeds even if he had wanted to. The Kangoo is available with engines that range in output from 55 to 95 horsepower. Even with the highest-output engine, performance is anything but brisk with a 0-60 MPH time of 14.3 seconds and a top speed of 100 MPH.

The accused driver spent an entire weekend trying to convince police of his innocence. The charges were dropped in June.

"The excessive speed reading saved me, otherwise I would have had problems," he told Le Populaire.

The incident recalls the ticket issued to Australian motorist Vanessa Bridges in July 2003 for driving 98 MPH, a speed her 1975 Datsun 120Y was demonstrably incapable of reaching. The bogus citation kicked off an inquiry that ultimately cost the Victoria state government A$26 million in refunds.

In Germany, the ADAC auto club raised accuracy concerns about the PoliScanSpeed brand of automated ticketing machines manufactured by Vitronic, a German company. Recognized expert Roland Bladt found a surprisingly high error rate in the Vitronic cameras, depending on the software revision used (view complaint, PDF File 300k PDF file in German).

Bladt examined 106 data files supplied by local police and found a hidden function within the backend software that concealed incorrect readings. So, for instance, whenever a second vehicle is partially hidden in a speed camera photo, the results are suppressed. Out of the 106 cases tested, Bladt found 23 instances in which results were suppressed -- an error rate of 21 percent.

The German regulator Physikalisch-Technischen Bundesanstalt dismissed the accuracy concern by pointing out that the software feature works out to the benefit of the motorist.



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