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D.C. Commuters to be Scanned With Infrared Cameras 452

Posted by samzenpus
from the seeing-what's-real dept.
owlgorithm writes "Washington, D.C. area commuters are going to be "scanned like groceries at the supermarket" in order to catch single-occupant vehicles who are illegally using carpool lanes. The article, from the Washington Post, says that infrared cameras capable of detecting human skin will be installed, rather than the visible-spectrum cameras in use today. So much for using dummies in the front seat."
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D.C. Commuters to be Scanned With Infrared Cameras

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  • Wait... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by daveschroeder (516195) * on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @09:30PM (#20846147)
    A local municipal government agency, using technology to solve a problem, as part of its charge to the public?

    O, the humanity!
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      This is not just any technology. This is antiterrorist technology. Which invites the question: who gave the city officials access to secret antiterrorist technology in a time of war? Don't they realize that terrorists will just use a screwdriver to unmount the cameras, and start scanning buildings and in particular female bathrooms, terrorizing innocent American coeds?

    • by adatepej (1154117) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @03:45AM (#20848825)
      They're just automating an inspection that could have been performed by cops on the ground. I know because I got a ticket for driving in the stupid carpool lane once. And you're already in public in a vehicle where you're, at most, shielded from plain view by a bit of glass. Which is to say you're not shielded from plain view.

      So, unless law enforcement plans to use this technology to see something it's not already capable of seeing, e.g. using it to see through the walls of your home, I don't think this is a big deal.
      • by ultranova (717540) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @05:11AM (#20849167)

        So, unless law enforcement plans to use this technology to see something it's not already capable of seeing, e.g. using it to see through the walls of your home, I don't think this is a big deal.

        Dunno about you, but my home has heat insulation in the walls. And in any case, infrared is only slightly more penetrating that visible light, so it couldn't be used for seeing through opaque objects anyway.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by caluml (551744)
          And in any case, infrared is only slightly more penetrating that visible light,

          Which is why the stop light is red - red is less attenuated by fog, smoke, etc.
      • by parcel (145162) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @09:48AM (#20850903)

        They're just automating an inspection that could have been performed by cops on the ground
        That's what bothers me more than the privacy aspect of this... the automated law enforcement. Same deal with the red light cameras they put up all over the area (at least, Loudoun and Fairfax counties)... A friend of mine got an automated ticket for being 0.1 seconds under the red. And we have some short yellows, that are difficult to stop for in good conditions. If it was raining, you could easily end up fishtailing into an intersection trying to stop for the silly things.

        I've been in a lot of squealing-tires, near-accidents to avoid these cameras in situations that, were the enforcement done by a human being who could apply rational judgement, would be ignored (barring cops on a power trip - and most here seem to be good, rational people).

        So, that's exactly what scares me... this general migration towards automated law enforcement.
  • Interesting (Score:5, Funny)

    by wasted (94866) on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @09:33PM (#20846171)
    From the summary:

    So much for using dummies in the front seat.

    If we get rid of dummies in the front seat, half of the cars on my way to work would be driverless.
    • Only half the cars will be empty?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Um how about heated dummies?
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by goldspider (445116)
      "So much for using dummies in the front seat."

      I thought they used all of those up filling seats on the city council.
    • or just apply some thermo-electric pads plugged into the car. Lots of IR then.
    • See, I was thinking of something more along the lines of, "It's DC. Most of the dummies ride in the *back* seats." :-)
    • Re:Interesting (Score:5, Informative)

      by Heir Of The Mess (939658) on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @10:18PM (#20846625) Homepage

      So much for using dummies in the front seat
      In Jakarta you just pay an unemployed person standing on the sidewalk $1 to ride with you to work. At certain times single occupant cars aren't even allowed on the road. The dude then gets another $1 to ride back with someone else. There's queues of these people waiting at highway entrances waiting to get a $1 to ride with you.
      • Slug Lines (Score:5, Informative)

        by ToasterMonkey (467067) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @02:42AM (#20848503) Homepage
        In DC/northern Virginia, and probably elsewhere, they're called "Slug Lines". Very employed people use them, and whole parking lots are set up near the interstate for people to park, and wait in line for another commuter to take them the rest of the way to DC via the HOV lane. Web sites are available to help arrange car pools if you don't like hopping in with just anyone. The biggest slug line downtown is probably at the Pentagon, but I think there are others. I don't know if Maryland has any.

        This makes a whole lot more sense because it actually reduces the number of cars on the road. The HOV lanes are silly anyway, they need a Metro Bus system that doesn't scare away everyone but those with no choice. Or maybe better Metro (light rail) and VRE (commuter train) access. To get to a train station in northern Virginia, you usually have to drive fifteen minutes away from the interstate, through twisty two lane roads, four way stops, and even G^d d*mned subdivisions with 15MPH limits. Every day after work, people huddle near the train doors as it stops, and run to their cars to get out of the parking lot as fast as they can. Few have the luxury of being the first to wait in traffic on the main road or interstate while the rest curse the stupid road planning for what would otherwise be a perfect alternative to spending three hours driving thirty miles up the interstate.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by doug141 (863552)

          they need a Metro Bus system that doesn't scare away everyone but those with no choice

          Any idea how to do this without getting the ACLU all worked up?
  • Big Brother (Score:2, Insightful)

    by JoshJ (1009085)
    is watching you...

    Remember, the ultimate goal of these politicians is to have such a dizzying array of laws that they can arrest anyone at any time and always have a "legitimate" reason.

    Cameras only help them.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MikeJ9919 (48520)
      Oh please...this has nothing to do with government's desire for power...this is about the government's desire for money. It's just like red light cameras, parking meters that reset when you drive away (instead of mechanical meters that continue to run and let someone else piggyback), etc. Yes, the desire for money is intimately related to the desire for power, but it is not the same. Yes, all the technologies I've mentioned have desirable secondary effects (reducing commuter congestion, injuries at intersec
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Remember, the ultimate goal of people riding alone in their cars is to use it as a burka, putting up a wall and shielding themselves from other people. For all I care the authorities can put up powerful CO2 lasers and burn them to a crust.
  • by p0tat03 (985078) on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @09:34PM (#20846183)
    1 - Have a machine vision backend analyze images coming back from cameras, picking out "guilty" cars along with their plates. Discard other data.
    2 - Ensure that the code used for this vision system is open to public scrutiny.
    3 - Catch the crooks, and the regular folk don't even get recorded to a hard drive at any point.
    4 - ???
    5 - You know the rest...
    • by KillerCow (213458) on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @09:49PM (#20846335)

      1 - ...Discard other data.

      They won't.

      2 - ...open to public scrutiny.

      It won't.

      3 - ...don't even get recorded to a hard drive at any point.

      It will.

      The problem with this stuff is that there is a constant erosion or privacy. Every step is just one more little thing. What's the big deal about "a" when they are already doing b,c,d,e, and f. And once "a" is gone, you never get it back because the people already accepted giving it up. When people say "we don't have to worry about losing x because people would never accept it" ... well ... I don't think that the forefathers ever thought that people would give up habius corpus, or require national IDs to get into federal parks.
      • by TubeSteak (669689)

        1 - ...Discard other data.

        They won't.
        Don't you mean they can't?

        If they throw out the image of you driving solo, what tangible proof do they have for a Judge that it wasn't a computer screwup?
        • by grommit (97148)
          They most certainly can, and should discard the data that isn't relevant to a ticket. That's the point of the post. The municipality should discard the pictures of drivers with more than one person in a vehicle but they probably won't.
      • >>habius corpus

        I knew all that my latin in highschool would be useful for something. I just never dared to hope it would be something as important as correcting trivial errors on Slashdot!

        Here goes:

        Habius might a singular genitive of an irregular noun, or a masculine second family nominate noun, but either way, it isn't "habeas" which is a subjunctive 2nd person singular verb meaning "may you have" [the body].

        That felt great. Hail Caesar!
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        1. lack of toleration; unwillingness or refusal to tolerate or respect contrary opinions or beliefs, persons of different races or backgrounds, etc.
        2. incapacity or indisposition to bear or endure.

        - Random House Unabridged Dictionary

        Rome didn't last forever either. A country is only as good as its citizens force it to be at any given moment in time. If you look at the history of the US - you see a constant struggle to protect the Constitution and the Bill of Rights - an ebb and flow of interpretatio

    • I've always been worried that heat-images of myself might be displayed to the public. Nothing is scarier than images that can identify me as well as a silhouette.
  • ... new dummies on the market that can be plugged in to your cigarette lighter...
  • placed strategically on the dummies will not fool the infrared cameras.... Shucks.....
  • by UncleTogie (1004853) * on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @09:38PM (#20846227) Homepage Journal

    ...that a few things will happen:

    1. Burqa-wearing folk will have a field day.

    2. Some ninny will don tin-foil to jack with the system. He/she will later collapse from heat.

    or

    3. Some enterprising yob will try to create a heated, moving dummy. This will culminate in a video shot on the news: "Flaming Car Of Doom in a HOV lane near you....film at 11!"

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Jeff DeMaagd (2015)
      1. Burqa-wearing folk will have a field day.

      They might. I don't think fabric blocks that much IR. A person wearing full-body clothing would still be warmer than a mannequin.
  • by jmv (93421)
    So much for using dummies in the front seat.

    Of course. Now, you'll have heated dummies.
  • by Scrameustache (459504) on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @09:46PM (#20846299) Homepage Journal

    infrared cameras capable of detecting human skin will be installed, rather than the visible-spectrum cameras in use today. So much for using dummies in the front seat.
    Silicone rubber can withstand over 400 degrees of heat. You can soak REALDOLL in a hot bath, or put her under an electric blanket to give it lifelike body heat. [realdoll.com] REALDOLL's silicone flesh retains heat very efficiently.
    • by waferhead (557795)
      IR reflecting film for the whole windshield?

      Is there any on the market that's transparent enough in the visible spectrum?

      (If they can't see the driver either, it'll be hard to prove a ticket)
  • by conteXXt (249905) on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @09:52PM (#20846359)
    Hannibal Lecter: "Why do you think he removes their skins, Agent Starling?"

  • ...while traveling. It was in the Singapore airport during the SARS scare. They were checking if anyone was running a fever. They weren't scanning a moving vehicle, though.
  • ... better dummies like they do on Myth Busters.

  • No more HOV (Score:5, Insightful)

    by StikyPad (445176) on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @10:14PM (#20846587) Homepage
    HOV lanes are fairly pointless as is. It's clear that people are not significantly incentivized to use the carpool lanes. Moreover, conflicting schedules (particularly after work) and the impossibility of spontaneity provide heavy disincentives toward their use. They certainly don't cut down on pollution or fuel consumption as cars spend more time stuck in traffic in the adjacent lanes, or taking longer, more circuitous routes. They don't cut down on traffic, as more cars are forced to fit in fewer lanes. People who live in Arlington or Falls Church, especially, could have to go miles out of the way to get to work, despite having a major traffic artery in their back yards.

    The money spent on policing, enforcement, and, in some cases, construction and maintenance of elaborate switching mechanisms to change the direction of traffic in center lanes, could be more efficiently spent toward carbon offsets, and opening the lanes themselves to normal traffic would better accomplish the goal of reducing congestion. Or make the Metro train free to ride; it's already heavily subsidized anyway, and everyone would benefit from increased use. (Of course, capacity would likely need to be increased as well, since they're heavily used already).

    Regulating the routes of traffic in an effort to decrease traffic is an exercise in futility. It merely relocates the problem; it does nothing to alleviate it. Traffic is already self-regulating, especially as the distribution of information becomes increasingly streamlined. When one route slows down, people take alternate routes. If the distribution is inequitable, it's because of poor infrastructure design in relation to the population. The cure is redesign, not banishing the overwhelming majority of vehicles from the shortest route between Point A and Point B. It would be one thing if HOV was a stopgap while more effective measures were implemented, but as it stands, it's merely contributing to the problem it claims to resolve.
    • by NotQuiteReal (608241) on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @10:52PM (#20846949) Journal
      study that suggests hov lanes don't work [berkeley.edu].
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by dodobh (65811)
      Like making better mass transit available? Your problem is that cars don't scale up to high population densities. What you need is to get a solution which does not involve cars being used as your primary means of transport. Your current choices are: Mass transit, telecommuting, moving offices into mixed use neighbourhoods ... .
    • Washington DC (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Slashdot Parent (995749) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @10:23AM (#20851407)

      It's clear that people are not significantly incentivized to use the carpool lanes.
      Not true at all in the DC area. There are several rideshare organizations and slug lots to accommodate those who want to use the carpool lanes.

      Moreover, conflicting schedules (particularly after work) and the impossibility of spontaneity provide heavy disincentives toward their use.
      That's why you ave slug lots. People line up in those lots and motorists pick people up from the lines. It doesn't matter if your schedule conflicts with your carpool buddies, because your buddies will be different on the way home.

      People who live in Arlington or Falls Church, especially, could have to go miles out of the way to get to work, despite having a major traffic artery in their back yards.
      Jumpin' Jesus H. Christ on a pogo stick. Please don't tell me you consider I-66 to be a "major traffic artery". Because of Arlington's pigheadedness, Route 50 has more travel lanes through Arlington than Interstate 66.

      And anyway, Falls Churchians and Arlingtonians have plenty of roads other than 66 to choose from. Hell, you can't even get onto 66 going Eastbound from half of Arlington, anyhow.

      more efficiently spent toward carbon offsets
      I've never understood this whole carbon offsets thing. Is there any actual legal framework with teeth in place to force emitters to purchase "carbon credits"?

      Even if there was such a thing, I would be against it for this purpose. Why should we prefer to spend our "carbon emition" resources on ParkingLot-66 as opposed to actual production of useful goods? To me, that seems wasteful.

      Or make the Metro train free to ride; it's already heavily subsidized anyway, and everyone would benefit from increased use.
      DC Metro is already at capacity. You seem to be familiar with Northern VA, so you've probably heard the term "Orange Crush". The Blue line is at capacity as well.

      There really isn't much more that Metro can do to increase capacity. They're already running many 8 car trains. What metro really needs to do, that they will never do, is add more tracks. Currently, if there is one "sick passenger" on one train in one direction, the entire metro system gets brought to its knees. This is because that line will have to single-track (trains going in both directions on one track), and the resulting slowdown gums up the other lines as well.

      At any rate, I disagree with your assertion that HOV won't change behavior. I know plenty of people who HOV when they otherwise would not. Slug lines further support this position.

      What I think may screw the whole thing up is these HOT lanes. I mean, really. People in NoVA have way more money than time. Why should I bother to pick up slugs if I can just pay $5 or whatever and not even have to slow down?
  • If it's being scanned from the front, how well will it pick up children in the back seat? Especially rear-facing car seats. Or sleeping, and lying down.

    If it were a human cop pulling you over, you can just tell him to look in the back seat. If they're scanning and sending tickets automatically, I see a potential problem.

  • I had an idea for a major improvement to slashcode, and I've been waiting for my best shot. This is the perfect forum.

    The problem with the moderation system is that you have to wait for the post before you can moderate it. This is a serious design mistake. It's quite obvious with a story like this one. An enterprising moderator could have moderated half the jokes here "-1 obligatory" *before* the jokes were posted.

    This single feature would go a long way toward rebalancing the force. The chuckleheads co
  • So much for using dummies in the front seat."

    Now the newest dummies will come with a 4ft cord ending in a cigarette lighter plug, in addition to the shirt that makes it look like it's wearing a seat belt.
  • I don't know about anybody else, but I first saw the headline as reading that drivers were being scammed by IR cameras, not scanned. Then, of course, when I read the summary, I found out that for all practical purposes, I was right.
  • by blackcoot (124938) on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @11:06PM (#20847113)
    ... through glass (which is almost totally reflective for the long wave ir cameras that i've used). i wonder if there's something special about the glass they use in vehicles...
  • by flyingfsck (986395) on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @11:54PM (#20847489)
    If Mick Jagger and his ex drive in a HOV lane they'll get fined: I'm so hot and she's so cold - cold like a tooooomb stone...
  • Udall's Fourth Law (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Plutonite (999141) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @02:03AM (#20848297)
    Udall's Fourth Law: Any change or reform you make is going to have consequences you don't like.

    Straight from the slashdot quotes, very convenient. Now the problem with techy solutions, and the reason slashdot geeks will always be skeptical of them, leading to other geeks making fun of the said skepticism as a sort of mature outlook on the matter - the problem is that technology always has loopholes:

    You introduce a harmless little thing like an IR based camera solution and suddenly people buy thin, invisible, heated coating for their seats or windshields that will fool your nifty little cam for a little cost. Camera tech evolves to identify human heat signatures using pattern matching techniques on the images. Spoofing tech evolves to comply. Police begin searches of cars... do you see where this is going?

    I live (and go to grad school) in DC; I honor the code, everybody I know does, and HOV lanes almost never get blocked because of violators, AFAIK. If they do, then maybe the troopers on the road, instead of being busy tossing salad, can keep an eye out for infractions and produce solid cases that nobody can contend. Humans are good for some things. Use them. Automating criminalization is not easy, and should be avoided when possible.
  • I like it (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheSync (5291) * on Thursday October 04, 2007 @02:07AM (#20848323) Journal
    Speaking as a DC area commuter who takes I-95 in Virginia everyday, this is a great idea.

    When traffic is heavy, any small distraction can turn into a back-up as the flow phase changes from movement to stoppage.

    So on I-95, cops patrol the HOV lanes, and when they find a violator they turn on their lights and pull the miscreant over.

    Meanwhile, the very action of turning on their lights and pulling the miscreant over slows down the traffic in the non-HOV lanes, leading to a back-up.

    I'd much prefer that HOV violators are detected by camera and mailed tickets than stopped by a police car.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by poot_rootbeer (188613)
      I'd much prefer that HOV violators are detected by camera and mailed tickets than stopped by a police car.

      I'd much prefer that HOV lanes be done away with entirely, allowing motorists to use the full available bandwidth of the highway system, and for the police not to waste any resources on counting people and issuing HOV violations.

      I mean, when NEW JERSEY has scrapped a traffic control initiative, you know it has to be a bad idea.
  • by clickety6 (141178) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @04:19AM (#20848983)
    So many suggested avoidance schemes, but haven't any of you actually thought that maybe you could just car pool instead? Easy solution and so much better for the environment. Plus you might actually get some stimulating conversation on the way rather than the inane radio DJ chatter ;-)
  • by gelfling (6534) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @07:26AM (#20849769) Homepage Journal
    Dog Body Heat = 1 standard human commuter unit.

I'd rather just believe that it's done by little elves running around.

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