Chinese cities wanting peace and quiet are using acoustic cameras to catch honking drivers

Screenshot
  • China is using acoustic cameras to catch honking drivers.
  • The cameras, which have been rolled out in 40 cities, work by capturing a two-second film of a honking car.
  • The police analyse the footage to determine whether drivers who honked had a fair reason to do so – if not, they could receive a $US16 fine.
  • This may be the first step to link car honking with further penalties for drivers.

Congestion in Beijing can be unbearable.

With more than 5 million registered cars, traffic can crawl at half the speed it does in New York City. And aside from toxic air pollution, the noise pollution from constant honking has made Beijing the sixth-noisiest city in the world.

But the government, which at one point created a noise map of the city, wants that to change.

After a pilot project last year, Beijing’s Traffic Management Bureau has installed 20 acoustic cameras designed to identify honking cars, according to the news website Inkstone.

The cameras, installed near schools and hospitals in Beijing, use 32 microphones and an HD camera to film a two-second video and capture the licence plate of each honking car. The police analyse the footage to determine whether a car’s honking was warranted and, if not, whether a $US16 fine will be issued.


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But noise pollution isn’t limited to Beijing’s streets.

Roughly 40 cities, including Shenzhen, have installed acoustic cameras that can catch honking drivers with an accuracy rate of 92% to 95%, Inkstone said.

Part of the problem is the chaotic nature of driving in China, where there are just too many vehicles on roads. There’s also some interesting engineering, such as one road requiring drivers to merge from 50 lanes into 20.

According to the World Health Organisation, China had more than 260,000 traffic deaths in 2013, making it one of the world’s most dangerous countries for drivers.

While the latest technology doesn’t immediately identify drivers, it most likely won’t be long before the acoustic cameras include facial-recognition technology that links to so-called social credit scores, deducting points for repeated honking just as China plans to do for repeat jaywalkers.

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