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Speeding Ticket Robots — Laws As Algorithms 400

An anonymous reader writes "As the age of autonomous cars and drone surveillance draws nearer, it's reasonable to expect government to increasingly automate enforcement of traffic laws. We already deal with red light cameras, speed limit cameras, and special lane cameras. But they aren't widespread, and there are a host of problems with them. Now, Ars reports on a group of academics who are attempting to solve the problem of converting simple laws to machine-readable code. They found that when the human filter was removed from the system, results became unreasonable very quickly. For example, if you aren't shy about going 5 mph over the limit, you'll likely break the law dozens of times during an hour of city driving. On the freeway, you might break it continuously for an hour. But it's highly unlikely you'd get more than one ticket for either transgression. Not so with computers (PDF): 'An automated system, however, could maintain a continuous flow of samples based on driving behavior and thus issue tickets accordingly. This level of resolution is not possible in manual law enforcement. In our experiment, the programmers were faced with the choice of how to treat many continuous samples all showing speeding behavior. Should each instance of speeding (e.g. a single sample) be treated as a separate offense, or should all consecutive speeding samples be treated as a single offense? Should the duration of time exceeding the speed limit be considered in the severity of the offense?' One of the academics said, 'When you're talking about automated enforcement, all of the enforcement has to be put in before implementation of the law—you have to be able to predict different circumstances.'"
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Speeding Ticket Robots — Laws As Algorithms

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  • by ichthus ( 72442 ) on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @05:18PM (#43406251) Homepage
    What the hell are they going to do when we're all in autonomous vehicles that always obey the speed limit and their revenue stream dries up?

    (Actually, I don't even think we'll need speed limits once autonomous cars are commonplace -- at least, not on highways)
  • by jbresciani ( 2860867 ) on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @05:20PM (#43406277)

    and if they don't pull you over to ticket you, how does it fix the problem? you are ticketed for speeding because someone somewhere has deemed that speed unsafe to yourself and/or others in that location. if you simply ticket, you didn't fix the problem. if you pull them over and ticket, then there is a good chance they will shy away from speeding for a little while.

    I know people who've received multiple automated speeding tickets but they didn't get the first one for three days, then they got three more form the same location. Lesson learned, but potentially to late.

  • by concealment ( 2447304 ) on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @05:23PM (#43406321) Homepage Journal

    Our technologies and laws allow us to do lots of things.

    We should perhaps ask instead, what kind of society we are making?

    If we're making a miserable place that focuses on details of law-breaking more than the big factor, which is how safe/smart of a driver someone is, we're penalizing good behavior and encouraging people to live in a nit-picky miserable world.

    We can make a horrible world, if we want; however, we might prefer not to.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @05:35PM (#43406491)

    What would be the point when it then promptly crashes into the car ahead? If I could have a car where I could sit back and relax with a cup of coffee and a newspaper while it drives me to work I would gladly have it go at (or even under) the speed limit. In an automated system, there could even be a designated lane (accessible for a small fee) where cars would go faster, and those of us not in a rush could chill in the regular lanes. Sounds fantastic.

  • the difference is (Score:4, Insightful)

    by new death barbie ( 240326 ) on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @05:37PM (#43406515)

    ... that an actual cop will PULL YOU OVER to issue a ticket. The speeding behavior stops, and the roads become safer, at least while your car is parked at the side of the road, and hopefully remain safer when you proceed, suitably chastised. The cop has a chance to ensure that you are not inebriated or otherwise unfit to drive before he allows you to proceed. If you choose to speed again and he catches you again, you get stopped and a second ticket is issued. Repeat as necessary.

    Issuing tickets based purely on observation fail to stop the illegal behavior and do little to make the roads safer, until much much later, when the ticket catches up with you in the mail (assuming a ticket is enough to change your behavior).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @05:38PM (#43406529)

    ng above the limit by 15% on a nice, dry, sunny summer day isn't as bad as being 15% above on a snowy/icey winter morning/evening.

    Except, it's not safe to pull cars over in the rain or heavy traffic, so you only get speeding tickets when it's perfectly safe to speed. Sadly, I don't believe ticketing and safety have anything to do with each other any more. Personally, I'd love to see some ticketing for lack of turn signals, failure to yield and tail gating. Then again, I'd like to see the cops start obeying those laws.

  • Re:Terrible idea (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CanHasDIY ( 1672858 ) on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @05:50PM (#43406655) Homepage Journal

    ... and get railroaded, then have some hefty court costs lumped on top of the already excessive fine (as a punishment for exercising your rights), not to mention the time missed from work to go down to the courthouse and fight it...

    Sorry, hard for me to believe there are still people out there who buy the whole "right to defend yourself" lie...

  • by swalve ( 1980968 ) on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @06:20PM (#43406955)
    It's perfectly possible to get a ticket for both of those things simultaneously. Many states have left lane pass/move over laws that say that drivers need to move to the right and leave the left lane open. Yes, even for speeders. If she was doing 70 in a 65 in the left lane, and cars were zooming around and trying to pass her on the right, that is a very unsafe situation created simply by her poor driving skills.
  • by CrimsonAvenger ( 580665 ) on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @06:22PM (#43406967)

    you are ticketed for speeding because someone somewhere has deemed that speed unsafe to yourself and/or others in that location.

    Or because the cop in question needs a few more tickets issued to make his quota.

    Or perhaps the area is a "speed trap".

    If ALL speedlimits were based on safety requirements ONLY, there's not be all that much speeding. As witnessed by the fact that virtually everyone speeds, and yet the carnage level on the roads is mostly based on the alcohol content of the drivers. Or the features on their phones....

  • by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @06:29PM (#43407023)

    Automated law enforcement is almost universally a terrible idea. Its the kind of thing an eager-beaver engineer without much real world exposure would come up with. Either that, or a fascist.

    The world runs on slack. Not just laws, but pretty much every human interaction requires slack at some point. Slack is the lubricant that makes society work. Without slack the machinery of society will freeze up and burn out.

    On the other side of the spectrum, too much slack and the wheels just spin without getting any traction. We need the right amount of slack - fortunately there is usually lots of meta-slack in determining what is the right amount of slack.

  • by Rockoon ( 1252108 ) on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @06:32PM (#43407057)
    Expect someone to chime in that "there are no quotas" ..

    Of course there arent any official quotas.. but you can be damned sure if the officer gave 0 tickets out each month that he would be fired.. proving that there are in fact both acceptable and unacceptable levels of ticketing.. which are of course quotas.
  • Re:You know.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by QuantumBeep ( 748940 ) on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @06:37PM (#43407091)

    Less sweepingly, I propose that all traffic fines be pooled on a state level and distributed by population proportion - this will be easier to get passed, but will prevent shitty little townships from funding themselves entirely through farming their nearby interstate highway for tickets.

    The fact that enforcing traffic law is wildly profitable means that the system is naturally and automatically corrupt and attracts corrupt people to run it. When you uncouple the action from the reward, bad behaviour tends to stop.

  • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @06:47PM (#43407157) Journal

    Who would have thought we can break many laws every day and no one dies.

    That's a pretty good indicator that the law in question shouldn't be a law at all. I welcome these kinds of automated systems with perfect enforcement. If perfect enforcement of the law creates problems, it's a bad law. Repeal it.

  • by radtea ( 464814 ) on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @06:48PM (#43407167)

    I make a distinction about that being a good safety regulation imposed by law, versus speed limits where one driver can be safer over the speed limit than a less capable driver under the speed limit.

    There are no less capable drivers. I mean seriously, just ask any driver. They are all more capable than average, and therefore it's safe for them to flout the rules of the road, speed laws, you-name-it, because they feel safe, and really, when have feelings ever let anyone down as a means of perfectly objective self-assessment?

  • by jbresciani ( 2860867 ) on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @07:04PM (#43407271)

    regardless if quotas exist or not, a human still pulled you over, a mailed ticket is simply a cash grab (potential future deterrent), it has no effect in the now.

  • by cheater512 ( 783349 ) <> on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @07:41PM (#43407527) Homepage

    What exactly is wrong with that? If you accidentally speed as a once off then 3 days shouldn't be an issue.
    If you are speeding consistently then you really need to be taught what a law is and multiple speed tickets should hopefully accomplish that.

    You shouldn't use speeding tickets to determine what you're going. You should look at your bloody speedo.

  • by mjwx ( 966435 ) on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @10:14PM (#43408439)

    I don't think that you are thinking about this clearly

    No, I'm certain you aren't thinking about this clearly.

    The problem is, people who get speeding tickets dont want to take responsibility for their actions. In order to overcome their cognitive dissonance about this they continually create conspiracy theories that absolve them of their responsibility.

    The speeder didn't get a ticket for speeding, it's revenue raising so no need to take responsibility. A speeder didn't get a ticket for speeding, they got a ticket so they get a quota.

    No matter how much evidence against their conspiracy theory there is, because they cant admit responsibility for it they cant thing straight about it.

    because what you are claiming is obviously not true.

    What makes it untrue?

    Police forces, especially in Australia have repeatedly said there is no quota. Yet the conspiracy exists. Not because they're lying but because people who habitually speed need to absolve themselves of responsibility when they get a ticket.

    What you are claiming is obviously not true, just by using occams razor.

  • by mjwx ( 966435 ) on Wednesday April 10, 2013 @12:59AM (#43409201)

    Speeding isn't that big of a cause of accidents,

    No, Speeding is a big cause of fatalities.

    People who try to defend speeding always try to mix up accidents with fatalities. The main cause of accidents is driver error, but at 60 KPH driver error gets you sent to the hospital. 75 KPH gets you sent to the morgue.

    You get a lot of low speed impacts, but next to no fatalities. You get few high speed impacts but they almost always end with a fatality.

    Picture it like this, the mob throws a man off a building, scientifically he died from hitting the ground so should the mobster's be acquitted?

    BTW, it's not revenue raising because you know exactly what you have to do to avoid it. You choose not to, calling it "revenue raising" is just you trying to avoid taking responsibility for yourself.

If it's not in the computer, it doesn't exist.