UK Testing Always-On Acoustic Cameras to Crack Down on Loud Cars and Bikes

This law enforcement tool sounds a bit like the premise to an episode of Black Mirror.

byChris Tsui|
UK Testing Always-On Acoustic Cameras to Crack Down on Loud Cars and Bikes

Drivers in the U.K. with questionably modified exhausts may need to take their fartcans off if they don't want to incur noise-related fines. Meanwhile, the tinfoil-hatted set with legally questionable, erm, hobbies might want to watch what they say in public. 

According to a BBC report, the Department for Transport in Britain will be testing what it calls "noise-detecting acoustic cameras" over the next seven months as a tool to crack down on vehicles that make an illegal amount of noise, namely, modified cars and motorcycles. Similar to a speed camera, an "acoustic camera"—which sounds a lot like how someone that's never heard of the word "microphone" would describe a microphone—can supposedly pick up when a loud, passing vehicle breaks the legal noise limit. It then triggers a normal, visual camera to take a picture of the offending car or bike's license plate and sends out a fine to the vehicle's registered owner.

The specific amount of noise deemed fine-worthy is yet to be determined. Transport Secretary Chris Grayling says the cameras will help police enforce noise regulations, specifically calling out "boy racers in souped-up vehicles." You know who you are.

As much as we enjoy basking in the glory of that one teenaged neighbor's straight-piped Honda Civic while we're having dinner in our own home, we like peace and quiet even more. However, we couldn't help but wonder about the privacy implications of essentially setting up a bunch of always-on microphones on every other street corner with a direct line to the government. Or perhaps we've been watching a little too much Black Mirror.

In any case, it isn't just the Brits who are fed up with excessively loud exhausts. At the beginning of the year, the state of California made driving around in a car exceeding 95 dBA a fineable offense rather than a correctable "fix-it" violation. The city of Toronto, meanwhile, expressed interest in fining audibly flashy cars and bikes late last year.