Controversial app turns smartphones into speed cameras

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Developers of controversial new app Speedcam Anywhere have hidden their identities following alleged abusive emails.

A new app, which allows people to record passing cars with their smartphone camera and determine whether they’re breaking the speed limit, is generating controversy after only weeks on the market.

The app, named Speedcam Anywhere, can be used by pedestrians to take a video of a passing car suspected of speeding. The software will read the car’s number plate and can use the UK’s DVLA data to identify its make and model, then determine the length between its front and rear axles. It then compares this information to the footage to calculate whether the car was speeding or not.

The footage can then be saved by the user and a report can be generated. The idea is that this report can be shared with the relevant authorities. The app cannot be used to penalise drivers in the UK, as the country’s Home Office has not approved it as a certified speed detection device. The app is also being prepared for launch in the US.

Speedcam Anywhere was developed by a team of artificial intelligence scientists, with backgrounds from universities and in Silicon Valley. However, their actual identities are being kept secret, as they claim to have received abusive emails from members of the public who disagree with the purpose of the app.

One of the app’s founders, speaking anonymously to the Guardian, said: “We’re getting quite abusive emails. It’s a Marmite product – some people think it’s a good idea, some people think that it turns us into a surveillance state.”

He added: “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.”

Google initially didn’t allow the app to be published on its Play Store, but has since approved the app, where it is available for download in the UK for Android devices. Apple has yet to approve it for distribution on its App Store for iOS devices such as iPhones and iPads.

Tristan Shale-Hester

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