What Does Gatso 2 Mean to UK Motorists

By: Derek Both

So what is Gatso 2? Well, Gatso 2 is a network database that promises to be one of the most pervasive surveillance systems in modern times.

It may be defined as a national vehicle movement database that works round the clock. It is supposed to basically monitor and log everything on British roads and retain the data for a minimum of two years.

The system uses the Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology and will be overseen from a control centre in Hendon, London. The Gatso 2 network extends, enhances and links already existing close circuit TVs, ANPR and speed-cam systems and databases.

If things go according to plan, the control center will go live before April of end next year. Estimates say that the system will process around 50 million number plates per day by the end of the year. To begin with, the ANPR system is on trial on the M42 motorway near Birmingham to enforce variable speed limits and then will be modified to handle more serious crimes.

So what does this mean for UK's motorists?

Untaxed, uninsured, stolen cars are running undetected on UK roads and the Gatso 2 intends to tackle this problem with an iron fist. The primary aim claimed for the system in the broad sense is denying criminals the use of public roads.

Reports say the ANPR cameras will be spaced by placing one every quarter of a mile on motorways. This is a clear indication that the Gatso 2 system will also be used to enforce speed limits, which will effectively drive the current generation Gatsos into extinction. Otherwise, using cameras to check a vehicle's tax and insurance status around every 15 seconds would be unrealistic.

One of the major payoffs from the government viewpoint is the creation of a comprehensive tax database. Also, as a result of the ANPR system being linked to a database of uninsured vehicles, new offences and police powers were announced by the Transport Secretary Alistair Darling.

So, now the previously harmless pastime of owning an uninsured vehicle but not driving it has been criminalized and it comes on top of the last breakthrough of keeping an untaxed vehicle in the garage and not driving it. In other words, even if you don't actually commit the crime now, you have to pay the penalty.

With such a powerful surveillance system, vehicles can be followed remotely and a particular driver's past movements can be put together easily. The system also has the potential to recognize and store images of your face.

The biggest and by far most important advantage of this system is the role it has to play in the war against terror. The police can move quickly in response to tip-offs and sift computers, search homes and investigate an individuals circumstances and friends in search of evidence. At such a time, having this system as a back-up to let the police know where the person has been for the past two years is a big help to the investigation.

But, of course, if you haven't done anything, you have nothing to fear. Happy driving!

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