Feeds

Roadpricing satnav spybox trials under way

ANPR alone too easy to beat

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

The UK's Transport minister has confirmed that technical trials of road-pricing systems are underway.

At a conference yesterday, Paul Clark discussed the ongoing tests - first reported in September - with delegates and journalists.

The government, despite having seemed to back away from a national road pricing scheme last year, has in fact simply proceeded with them under the new name "Managed Motorway". The government argues that no affordable level of road-building will keep traffic moving in years to come, so that maintaining the status quo is not an option.

“If we sit back and do nothing you can be sure that economic growth will lead to gridlock," said Clark, suggesting that perhaps sitting back and doing nothing for the next while might indeed be an option.

The Managed Motorway concept includes measures such as hard-shoulder driving and strictly-enforced lowered speed limits at peak times, which enable a given number of motorway lanes to get a significant amount more traffic through in a given time. These measures don't involve any extra payments by motorists, but they do require the use of widespread automated numberplate recognition (ANPR) average-speed traps to enforce the reduced speed limits.

Then, Managed Motorway also includes the use of paid toll lanes - in effect, road pricing. This could also be managed by the use of ANPR.

However, the government acknowledges that numberplates are easily stolen or faked beyond the ability of ANPR to detect - finding out the make and colour of vehicle registered under a given number is a trivial matter.

As Managed Motorway rolls out, then - with or without road pricing/toll lanes - there will be more and more powerful incentives to use faked plates and evade the ever-widening ANPR net. Hence the government plans to introduce networked satnav journey-logger devices, now being developed by several companies.

At least initially, the devices would be optional, punted as a convenience option. Rather than having to remember to pay all the various tolls you might have incurred in a day - through local zones like the London Congestion Charge, pay lanes on the motorways etc - your in-car box would keep track for you, transmit the info to a central computer, and a single bill would be generated.

According to the Times, Mr Clark has even suggested that the in-car box could be set up not to record or transmit any location information, merely mileages driven at each rate.

But in the end this is not a convenience system - if that were all it was, there would be no need to have the box networked at all. It could simply tell the honest motorist what tolls to pay at the end of the day in order to avoid any ANPR-generated enforcement fines. There'd be no need to have it as part of the car - your smartphone could do it.

The function of the network connection and central records is to make spoofing the system harder, not to make life easier for drivers. In future you could opt out of the voluntary box scheme and copy or steal someone else's plates (someone whose car was the same make and colour as yours, and not being used) - then drive about running up tolls and creating an ANPR trail in their name, happy in the knowledge that the surveillance state had no idea where you were and no reason to pull you over.

But you'd never know whether the car whose identity you had usurped was fitted with a tracker box. If it had, the roads panopticon could swiftly spot the mismatch between the activities of the box and the plates. Stealing the box as well might be tricky - it would no doubt feature anti-tamper technology.

In future, then, one might need to use a bit of nous to drive about unmonitored. To be honest, the simplest and most legal way would probably be to hire minicabs or limousines for cash, but you could also get creatively illegal. GPS signal simulator spoofing, cell phone jamming (to cut off the boxes' data link) and suchlike trickery may become as common as faked plates and registrations are right now.

Back in the mainstream, meanwhile, it also appeared that the gov doesn't rule out charging higher tolls for more carbon-intensive cars. The maximum rate envisaged per mile would normally be £1.30 - usually much less - but with heavy pressure on the national emissions targets it could be that gas guzzlers might face a national squeeze of the type that ex London mayor Ken Livingstone proposed to impose.

Read all about it from the Times here and the Mail here. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Bono apologises for iTunes album dump
Megalomania, generosity and FEAR of irrelevance drove group to Apple deal
HBO shocks US pay TV world: We're down with OTT. Netflix says, 'Gee'
This affects every broadcaster, every cable guy
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
French 'terror law' declares WAR on the INTERNET itself, say digi-rights folks
Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité: Two out of three ain't bad
SCREW YOU, EU: BBC rolls out Right To Remember as Google deletes links
Not even Google can withstand the power of Auntie
Arab States make play for greater government control of the internet
Nerds told to get lost in last-minute power grab bid at UN meeting
Zippy one-liners, broken promises: Doctor Who on the Orient Express
Series finally hits stride, but Clara's U-turn is baffling
Don't bother telling people if you lose their data, say Euro bods
You read that right – with the proviso that it's encrypted
America's super-secret X-37B plane returns to Earth after nearly TWO YEARS aloft
674 days in space for US Air Force's mystery orbital vehicle
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.