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Tuesday, 15 August, 2000, 14:40 GMT 15:40 UK
Faster than a speeding phone
speed camera
Mobile phones might help you spot the speed traps
By BBC News Online internet reporter Mark Ward

Soon your mobile phone might be able to help you avoid a speeding ticket.

A British company is working on a controversial service that will warn drivers when they are approaching speed cameras or roads monitored by police.

The service will use the location revealing abilities of mobile phones to keep track of where the users are.

But the plans could come to nothing as the UK Government prepares legislation to limit the use of technology that can help people get away with breaking the speed limit.

Phone finder

When fitted with special software, existing mobile phones can be used to locate the user to within 50 metres of their real position.

Future phones that use General Packet Radio Services (GPRS) or Universal Mobile Telecommunications Services (UMTS) can locate people to within 15 metres.

Initially the service will use SMS text messages to alert drivers when they are approaching a "hazard".

But it will work best with GPRS and UMTS, which are "always on" because they send information around in the form of packets of data.

By early next year, Project Eagle will start warning people when they are at risk of being booked for speeding.

It plans to combine the location finding abilities of phones with a database of safety cameras and areas where motorists have been caught exceeding the limit.

The developers of Project Eagle are reluctant to reveal their identities because of the "questionable legality" of what they are proposing to do.

Controversy

A spokesman for Project Eagle, who wished to remain anonymous, said: "Services we will develop range from the slightly controversial, to those which I think everyone will find useful."

school sign
Mobiles could warn you to slow down near schools
Project Eagle will also warn drivers when they are approaching schools, hospitals or nursing homes and should slow down.

Other services will include up to date accident and traffic reports to allow drivers to avoid congestion.

But it remains to be seen how long the service remains legal. A spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers said the Government was preparing legislation to limit the use of technology that could disrupt speed enforcement cameras.

New laws

It is already illegal to use jammers that stop the Police using radar guns to monitor motorists.

The Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions is now drawing up laws to outlaw devices that can spot speed cameras and warn motorists.

The laws are likely to come into force next year. It remains to be seen whether they stop mobile phones being used as warning devices.

But a spokesman for the AA said even if the service remains legal it would probably be of limited use.

"It is not going to be a failsafe device for the motorist," he said. "The police are increasingly using mobile cameras so motorists are not always going to know where they are going to be."

See also:

17 May 00 | Scotland
21 Jul 00 | AudioVideo
24 Jul 00 | Scotland
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