Controversial new app can turn your phone into a speed camera

Now you, I and anyone with an Android phone can take a photo of your motorcycle to identify it and call you out if you're riding above the speed limit

Suzuki Hayabusa

A controversial new app that allows anyone with a smartphone to identify a vehicle and measure its speed has polarised opinion and prompted a backlash against its developers.

Named Speedcam Anywhere, the app - available only on Google Play for Android devices for now - is described as an ‘AI system that can accurately and verifiably measure vehicle speeds using a mobile phone camera’.

The app takes a short video clip of a car passing before using the registration plate to cross-reference it against the DVLA database to identify it. It then measures the velocity with the length of the wheelbase to calculate its speed of travel, before providing a report showing evidence of its speed and the limit of the area it was taken.

While the app is not approved as a certified speed detection device - meaning no fines will be handed out if it is issued to authorities - the generated report is designed as such that it could be shared for that very purpose.

Despite having no authority should it flag up a speeding vehicle, the app has generated a heated debate over whether it is appropriate for citizens to anonymously and covertly use an app that generates a significant amount of information about a vehicle identification and location.

So much so, the app developers - believed to originate in Silicon Valley by a team of AI specialists - have gone to ground after receiving a torrent of abuse in feedback.

“We’re getting quite abusive emails. It’s a Marmite product - some people think it’s a good idea, some people think that it turns us into a surveillance state,” the Guardian quotes one of the app developers as saying.

“There are 20,000 serious injuries on the roads every year – how can we reduce them? And the way we reduce them is we make a deterrent to speeding.”

Since its launch, Speedcam Anywhere has generated more than 10,000 instals according to Google Play, though it holds a one-and-a-half star rating with reviews criticising its lack of accuracy and buggy nature.