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Infrared camera targets carpool cheats

Published by Dan on August 3, 2007 10:49 AM

Visualize this scenario: You're sitting in bumper to bumper traffic in the Oldsmobile you inherited from your grandpa. The windows are rolled down because the air conditioning gave out years ago. A wall of heat encompasses you, and the cassette deck is jammed, stuck playing on a constant loop the Muppets tape you popped into the player two weeks ago for ironic purposes. You look to your left and to your dismay a Mazda Miata zips by with its top down revealing a lone rider, the driver, who's singing Phil Collins' "Another Day in Paradise" at the top of his lungs. You hear just enough for it to stick in your head, then raise your fist to the roof in a fit of rage. Sound familiar? Wait, are you telling me YOU are one of those people who illegally sneaks into the carpool lane in order to bypass hours of traffic each day? Well my friend, your day of reckoning may be just around the S-curve, thanks to a group of UK scientists who have developed a roadside surveillance camera that can actually calculate the number of people inside a moving vehicle. That's right. Welcome to the slow lane.

The ingenious camera shoots an infrared scan through a vehicle's windshield in order to determine the number of passengers. It can even distinguish human skin from animals, mannequins or blow-up dolls. Seriously, there are people who actually use props in order to cheat the carpool system. Currently, there's no effective way to consistently catch people illegally using carpool lanes. Police officers can make their rounds, and certainly issue fines to those caught, but many unsavory drivers feel the reward is worth the risk. If these cameras really can accurately count passengers, their presence could be enough to make regular offenders rethink their ways.

Read more in The Observer...