Awesome ALPR Applications

Automated License Plate Recognition (ALPR) is Miovision’s newest data collection tool, opening up some cool applications for our system including O-D Studies and Travel-Time Studies. We’re all pretty excited about it.

While utilizing portable ALPR for data collection is valuable advancement for transportation professionals, ALPR technology has been around in other forms for years and some pretty interesting applications have been implemented:

ALPR for Commercial Use

Imagine identifying drive-thru orders by license plate? They certainly haven’t perfected the drive-thru speaker system, so maybe this is the perfect workaround.
ALPR cameras are being used in a variety of commercial applications. Technology has a habit of dropping in price over time, so my guess is that identifying loyal customers by license plate may not be far off – if they’re not already signed into Foursquare or Facebook Places.
Current ways that ALPR is being used for commercial purposes are at shopping centres to enforce long term parkers who are not customers or employees, and to avoid bilking (deliberately driving off without paying for gas).

ALPR for Electronic Toll Collection

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ALPR on the 407 ETR in Ontario, Canada

In Ontario Canada, the 407 Electronic Toll Route is a bit of a godsend. It avoids the busiest section of the 401 highway, North America’s busiest highway, and only costs a few bucks. For occasional users like me, the tolls are worth avoiding the almost guaranteed gridlock on the 401. The owners of the 407 know how to pick a location to make money!
The 407 opened in 1997 and has been using ALPR cameras located at the on-ramps and off-ramps to bill users. Users have the option to buy a portable radio transponder which bills the transponder owner at a reduced rate rather than the license plate owner at full pop, but ALPR is the backbone of the system.

ALPR for the London Congestion Charge

Transport for London (TFL) uses 1500 Automated Number Plate Recognition cameras to charge the £10 congestion charge when entering the congestion charge zone. The charge is in place to reduce unneeded vehicles from downtown London, England.
TFL’s cameras are extremely effective and it is estimated that 98% of plates are captured on camera. Different than the 407 cameras, TFL cameras capture both the front and back plates of vehicles, doubling the chances to correctly read the plates.

ALPR for Law Enforcement

The applications for law enforcement are numerous. With an active ALPR system mounted on police vehicles, plates can be scanned at a rate of over 3000 plates per hour and instantly compared against a database for:

  • Uninsured cars
  • Stolen cars
  • Suspended licenses
  • Amber alerts
  • Persons of Interest/Criminal warrants
  • Outstanding taxes, fines, fees
  • and much more…

Most law enforcement agencies will also store plate records with GPS coordinates and timestamps so that a record of your vehicle’s location at a certain time is on file.
ALPR for law enforcement raises some question of a “big brother” state, but, in my opinion, the good outweighs the bad. The more unsafe and undesirable drivers kept off the road may just save a life. At risk of sounding older than my years, driving is a privilege, not a right.