An ordinance before the city council of Iowa City, Iowa, would prohibit automated machines from issuing tickets without a human police officer present. Last night, the bill passed the first of three steps needed to become law.
The ordinance got its start as a petition against red light cameras, which automatically record the license plates of cars driving through red lights and then send fines to the car owner. Red light cameras have flaws: They can't check the license of the driver, and sometimes they catch legal right turns on red as well. Studies on the effectiveness of red light cameras in reducing accidents are tepidly in favor. But safety concerns aren't really the main objection people have to red light cameras.
Really, it's about fear of robots.
The Iowa City ordinance would also prohibit law enforcement from using license plate-reading devices, or any domestic drone system, to enforce traffic law violations, unless there is an officer present. This would end red light cameras, which work by monitoring intersections continuously and automatically mailing fines to violators.
License plate readers work similarly, and can be integrated into a system where they detect and fine "scofflaws," as this licence plate-reading device manufacturer advertises. Drones, at least ones used to enforce parking violations, would end up much like police dogs, as an extra sensing platform brought out for specific reasons, rather than an ambient and autonomous apparatus on patrol.
Automation is the greatest promise of these robots, and the proposed ban strikes an interesting line between public safety and privacy. Excepting false positives, red light cameras don't punish undeserving people. They very specifically catch a crime, one that lends itself to automation. Making it so only human officers can issue fines for this crime feels like a step backward.
License plate-reading devices are less about public safety and more about public order. When used for parking enforcement, they catch people who skirt fees or miss payments, fine them, and then store that data as potential evidence in case of disputes. This is clearly a privacy issue, but it's also the same thing a parking lot attendant could do with a camera and a notebook. Banning automation just reduces the number of violators who will be caught.
I remember the good old days when computers automated the processes, now its robot this and robot that. How in the world did these cameras become robots, verse they just following a firmware or software processing commands from a computer?
These camera's never seem to really be about safety. They are just get rich quick schemes. Companies push these on cities even for a take in the haul. Court cases have even shown that the companies that set these up have changed the light timings to get more action. Like organized crime. Nope, it is organized crime.
Good for Iowa. This is just a scheme by cities to rake in revenue.
If I'm being punished by the state, I expect a jury of my peers, or at least a quick decision by a police officer. I don't need a computer handing out the punishment.
Robots issuing fines. Next will be robots making arrests. Then what? Robots deciding if your guilty or innocent? Robot executioners? Whatever happened to facing your accuser? Computers make mistakes all the time in my experience. And as Jefro has pointed out, they can be manipulated and hacked. But that begs the question: What happens when computers become flawless? Should we then relinquish control over our lives to them for the sake of public safety?
No, a machine has no business working autonomously against us in any way. I'm a person, it's a machine. Kiss my what?Kudos to Iowa City, Iowa.
Today's magic is tomorrow's technology.
If only the robots\automated system hold the police to the same standards as I often watch their cars drive poorly, unsafely and with high speed.
These cameras and automated ticket system is all about collecting revenue and less about maintaining public safety.
Often it comes up on the news media of how the yellow light time gets shorten and then after the media report the yellow light duration then gets lengthens. Finally as time passes and all people forgets the yellow light time gets shorten again. This is all about making speed traps and collecting monies.
It's far from a fear of robots, it's a fear of big brother and their BS. Red light camera's send the owner a ticket regardless of who's driving the car. The system is the judge, jury, and executioner all rolled into one neat package that's meant to extract as $$ as possible from the populace. Safety my ass.
Well that means no Robocop. I hope your happy in your soon to be dystopian future.
I am pleasantly surprised by this news. Robots handing out tickets is simply immoral. I am in full agreement that robots/computers should remain assistant to the police and nothing more. Only tyrannical rulers fearful of their subjects desire constant surveillance, and this isn't communist Russia yet.
Yeah, a red light camera nabbed me in Victorville, CA last year. Just like you all have said, the timing was ridiculous, and word on the street (Internet) is that city makes a ton of money off that thing, installed right at the I-15 on-ramp where a lot of unsuspecting out-of-towners get nailed for $200. Screw red light cameras, and kudos to Iowa.
The reason the state of Iowa has been removing technologies like this is due to the fact that the systems are based in out of state companies. The state only get's 33% of the ticket that is fined to the driver. The rest goes to the owner of the technology that monitors the drivers.
Around here the red light cameras got tossed by the court and the city had to reimburse the fines. Basis was the lack of actual ID
In general, it's not a fear of robotics, but other things.
- cities have altered the timing of camera protected signals in order to increase the 'capture rate'
- some studies have reported a rise in other accident types due to drivers doing things such as dynamiting their brakes to avoid the ticket
As far as the license plate cams -- they're controversial right now as well. Not the tech, but the cops hang on to the data for months. They also release it to private citizens, which seems ill advised. Repo companies are probably the main customers, but it's not comforting to think that somebody can call up the cops and get a 3 month report on your whereabouts.
I also 2nd the comment on the overuse of 'robo'