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England Testing Satellites to Catch Speeders

Well, there goes the radar detector industry. It was already bad enough that an automated camera hidden in on a street corner could catch you in the act of a traffic violation, then send you a ticket in the mail with a picture of your bewildered face, as you wondered where the camera flash had come from, but now things are getting positively unfair. Or at least that is what English police hope, as they begin testing on a new means to catch speeders from space.

The SpeedSpike system consists of a series of satellites that orbit the Earth above the British Isles. The satellites work in coordination with a network of cameras that time stamp vehicles as they pass by.  The Satellites then send GPS information to the network, which allows the system to determine the speed of a vehicle based on the time it takes for the vehicle to travel between set points.  If a vehicle is caught speeding, another camera on the ground will then take a picture of the license plate, and the offender will receive a ticket.

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The system is still being tested, but the UK paper The Telegraph, is claiming that a House of Lords report touts the system’s “low cost and ease of installation.“

SpeedSkate is also designed to prevent people from “rat-runs”, which is English slang for when drivers suddenly veer off main roads to side streets and back alleys to avoid traffic and speed traps.

The satellites also claims to be all weather, though details on the specifics are being kept quiet due to “commercial confidentiality.” No word on how it fares with Icelandic volcanic ash clouds either.

Despite the boon to the police and the endorsement by the House of Lords, SpeedSpike is not without controversy. The satellites raise some serious concerns over privacy and unlawful surveillance. England has been called the “most watched” country in the world, with CCTV cameras in every major city, and controversial programs including the “anti-social behavior act” that uses CCTV to identify and target offenders. This could prevent, or at least slow the introduction of the satellite radar guns from catching on elsewhere anytime soon.

Currently, the testing is limited to just two areas in England, but no word on if or when the satellites might expand coverage. Sorry speeders, shy of a lucky meteor strike you may be in trouble.

Edit 4/24/2010: This article has been updated to reflect new information we have gained, we apologize for the inconvenience.

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