Laws of Red-Light Robotics

Robocop warned us that the privatization of justice has a dark side. This week I was visited not by the Robocop’s bumbling would-be replacement, ED-209, but by his traffic citation analogue — a ticket from a Redflex red light camera with speed sensor.

Inside my letter from the City of Albuquerque was a full-color picture of my car accompanied by instructions to pay or contest the citation. If I don’t do this in two weeks, the fine doubles, and I implicitly waive my right to contest. The circumstances are unclear in the picture, but thankfully the notice refers me to, where I can view a Flash video of the “incident”.

More thorough review of these materials makes two things abundantly clear: (1) The light was yellow when I entered the intersection and (2) The citation indicates a speed limit of 35MPH, but I know that the speed limit at the intersection is 40MPH. So now if I wish to reduce this excessive fine the onus is on me to prove my innocence, or at least my reduced guilt. What a hassle…


ED-209, of Robocop fame

It troubles me that a machine began this process. An officer on the scene can weigh several factors, such as visibility, reaction time, and actual risk involved. The fixed camera can only capture video and indiscriminately relay sensor data. Myopic, indeed. As stated above, in my case the configured speed limit was wrong, and I don’t believe I ran the red light — topics I would have preferred to discuss with an officer minutes later rather than weeks later.

Apparently I’m not the only New Mexico resident who sees problems with the program. Retired law enforcement officer turned Albuquerque blogger M. G. Bradley points to legal concerns with the STOP program. Apparently because Albuquerque’s ordinance are done in the name of criminal nuisance abatement, they are able to bypass Metropolitan court and pocket more money:

The executive, here in the form of the mayor, appoints all the actors. The enforcement personnel, the administrative hearing officer, the assistant city attorney, the city clerk and the contracted vendor all now work within the executive branch.

Senator William Payne (R-NM) calls the red-light cameras “money generating traps” –Albuquerque Tribune. The article mentions that in less than a year “the cameras have generated about 80,000 tickets with fines totaling upward of $5 million.” Hard to believe Mayor Martin Chavez’ contenion that most of this money is reinvested in the program.

Santa Fe Sheriff Greg Solano suggests that the private interests fail to address the devices’ potential to increase rear-end collisions, and ignore other options, such as light timing. Why should they, when they “charge up to 40% of the fine to provide equipment, technical support, and administer the program”?

The danger incurred by running red lights is not sufficient to defend red light camera programs in light of the logistic, legal, and safety concerns as well as the profit motive. Unless Albuquerque reconsiders the program, I’ll have to be particularly wary of these devices and the traffic around them.

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7 Responses to “Laws of Red-Light Robotics”

  1. JonnyRo says:

    I just cant help but feel that we’re one step away from robot war.


  2. pat says:

    If anything we need more cameras. With them folks don’t run ’em. Without, they do.

  3. missb says:

    This. Freaks. Me. Out!

  4. JonnyRo says:

    Start blogging again, or ELSE

  5. Mr. D says:

    how bout some chaff to confuse the radar? Maybe an EMP grenade to fry the circuits.

  6. nathan lawes says:

    […] would-be replacement, ED-209, but by his traffic citation analogue ?? a ticket from a Redflex r U13s &ltWattonU13s&gtNathan lawes ST Tom Weatherill LWM Liam Cooper CM Johnathan Dack CB Josh […]

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