PetaPixel

noPhoto License Plate Frame Flashes to Foil Traffic Enforcement Cameras

Jonathan Dandrow believes that traffic enforcement cameras are “dangerous, invasive, error-prone, and unconstitutional,” so he decided to find a way to turn camera technology against those cameras. He ended up creating the noPhoto, a high-tech license plate frame that makes it impossible for a red light or speed trap camera to snap a useable photograph of your plate.

The trick is that that the frame is basically a optically-triggered slave-mode flash unit that’s placed right up to the subject (the license place). A sensor at the top of the frame detects when a flash is fired, which in turn instantly triggers two xenon flashes built into the sides. The powerful flash will turn your license plate into a rectangle of blown-out highlights.

A before-and-after comparison showing what the noPhoto does to photos

Dandrow writes,

One of the most difficult parts of the noPhoto’s design was engineering the proprietary flash detection circuitry. Some of you photographers out there may be thinking, “But wait! We’ve had optical slave flash triggers for years!” This is true, but what you also know is that optical flash triggers are useless outdoors beyond several feet due to infrared interference. This is why radio flash triggers are preferred in the photographic industry.

What we’ve managed to do is develop flash detection circuitry that can detect a typical traffic enforcement flash as far away as 150+ feet in direct sunlight. It can even detect less powerful consumer camera flashes up to 60 feet away in direct sunlight. In overcast or nighttime conditions, the range nearly doubles [...]

Once we solved the distance problem, another issue cropped up. Our flash detection circuit was so good that it was detecting too many sources of light, causing false triggers. The sun, car headlights, and even a flashlight would set the device off! [...] by creating a hardware filtering circuit, we were able to reduce false alerts by over 90%.

Say what? That’s some pretty interesting technology they’ve developed — something photography companies might interested in talking to Dandrow about.

He also notes that his technology could have applications that don’t involve defying law enforcement. It could be deployed as a privacy tool by anyone wishing to prevent photography; celebrities who are constantly hounded by paparazzi, for example. Imagine if there existed a pendant necklace that could ruin flash photos taken of the wearer.

Dandrow is currently attempting to raise $80,000 for his idea through Indiegogo, and is planning to sell the frames for $350 a pop once they’re officially launched.

noPhoto (via Digital Trends)


 
  • Lawrie

    surely it’s unconstitutional to ‘break the law’?

    Reducing your speed by 1mph reduces the chances of an accident by 5%

    If you hit a child at 40mph – there’s an 80% chance they will die, at 30mph it’s reduced to 50% and at 20mph there’s a good chance of survival.

    So why try and find a way of evading something that is there to slow your speed?

  • http://www.markwheadon.com/ Mark Wheadon

    Surely the false triggers will dazzle oncoming drivers? (And even with 90% of the false triggers removed there’s still some left.) Is it reasonable to fire a flashgun at people driving towards you? Or is the light so localised that’s not a problem?

    Is it legal to so blatantly stop speed cameras etc. from reading your number plate?

  • Amir Asyraf

    No, WTF, bad idea… What is this guy thinking… The speed traps are there for countless of reasons.

    It’s not about freedom, it’s not about rights, it’s about safety. If you so much as eager to break the law on the road, then you have no rights to be on the road.

    What he’s doing is basically a blatant disregard of the law, and the people who actually buy these may face consequences.

    You might as well remove your license plate, because everyone should have freedom, right? Or make an appeal to remove speed limits so we can joyfully accelerate up to in excess of 300 km/h above, or stop at yellow box, or run the red light and kill someone.

    I myself have a lot of time been ticketed, summoned, fined or whatever you may call it, and I certainly hate it when it happens. But to think about it, I was guilty. So if you’re doing nothing wrong on the road, then these cameras shouldn’t be a problem.

  • http://www.facebook.com/borje.dahren Börje Dahrén

    Totally agree. cool technology, but the traffic enforcement cameras are there for a reason.

    What’s the thing the constitution, anyway? it’s more than 200 years old – time for an update? :-) The way I see it, it’s mostly used as an excuse to do bad things, while shouting FREEEEEDOOOM at the top of your lungs.

  • http://www.petapixel.com Michael Zhang

    Just to be clear, we’re reporting on this to share the interesting technology/idea behind the plates, not because we think you should buy and use them. Thanks for sharing those startling figures.

  • http://alfanick.biz Amadeusz Leonardo Juskowiak

    A. It is wrong.
    B. It’s not innovating at all – you can buy stuff like this without any problems in Europe, it’s been done already.

  • DafOwen

    Haven’t there been other alternatives like reflective coatings that have since been made illegal ? I assume this will too.

  • Sam

    This will become illegal, without doubt. Not only it’s against the law, it’s extremely dangerous for the cars who drive right behind you, they get a flash right in their faces. This encourages speeding, I’m not a fan.

  • fahrertuer

    Interesting technological development with the flash detection stuff.
    But WOW! What an idiot. Blinding other drivers just to avoid the occasional speeding ticket?
    And I’m not sure how speeding cameras in the US work, but in Germany I’ve seen less and less of the flashing kind and instead ones using available light…

  • Dave

    “Every constitution, then, and every law, naturally expires at the end
    of nineteen years. If it be enforced longer, it is an act of force, and
    not of right.”

    Thomas Jefferson

  • Bob Nelson

    Your math doesn’t make any sense.
    Hit a kid at 120 mph. 100% chance they will die.
    Hit same kid at 100 mph. 0% chance they will die.
    Don’t make stuff up just out of your head!

  • Greg

    This is an old idea I think one of the radar detector manufactures had it out in the 90′s and they don’t anymore, there has to be a reason. I posted it to myth busters when they were trying to beat the radar camera years ago. Just think if people would spend as much time and money on planing their day so they could be on time without speeding.

  • lokiparan

    I’m guessing it’s 5% of the new probability each time, not the original probability.

    100 – (5% of 100) = 95
    95 – (5% of 95) = 90.25
    90.25 – (5% of 90.25) = 85.7375
    etc.

  • Stijn

    The concept doesn’t look like a problem for other drivers since it only has to provide light from the sides of the license plate. Since these lights are also close to the license plate, the light needed to overexpose the shot isn’t much :)

  • Marc

    It may be illegal in some places already, without the flash. My understanding is that some states don’t even allow the frame around the license plate.

  • noLimits Enterprises

    Hi,

    The noPhoto’s legality is not an issue. Radar detectors are legal in all states except one and have been on the market for years. Further, the federal government has no jurisdiction over the issue – each state and municipality will have to outlaw the device one by one. This will not happen unless the noPhoto costs them more revenue than the legislation to outlaw it will cost. Due to the near zero cost of a voided camera ticket (the camera will just capture the next driver), this is extremely unlikely to happen.

    Also, the following driver does not get a flash in the face. Aside from the fact that the flashes are hidden behind the plastic bezel, keep in mind that there is a 250w flash coming from the red light camera already. As I’m sure many of you know, slave flashes fire so quickly the human eye can barely detect the delay from the primary flash. When the noPhoto activates, it simply looks like part of the reflection from the 250w flash.

    All we’re doing is using the same type of flash from the red light camera – just closer to the plate!

    Thanks,

    -Jon

  • noLimits Enterprises

    This was one of the first things that we looked at. The problem with the coatings is twofold. After extensive testing, we discovered that the coatings don’t work because they don’t significantly change the contrast ration between the retroreflective background and the relatively flat numbers. After running the images through photoshop, it’s very easy to make the numbers stand out.

    Second, the reason that the coatings are illegal is because they physically alter the plates. This is a big no-no. The noPhoto doesn’t alter or cover the plate in any way.

    Thanks,

    -Jon

  • noLimits Enterprises

    Hi Amir,

    Did you know that red light and speed cameras are not actually owned or operated by the police or government? They are run by big business multinational corporations that log and store all of your information in proprietary databases. Further, they get up to 40% of the profit from each ticket. Most police unions, the ALCU, and countless other organizations oppose them.

    Additionally, they have been removed from several US cities to to faulty operation.

    We do not support running red lights in any way. They are there for a reason. We just would rather have live officer enforcement – we trust our police offers.

    Thanks,

    -Jon

  • Peter

    So what??? You live in a country that pays companies to run prisons for them, that pays companies to fight wars for them… to you want me to go on? Those companies make billions out of it. Are you going to nuke them all?

  • noLimits Enterprises

    Hi Peter,

    For now we’re starting with the companies that we posses the technology to defeat – today!

    Thanks,

    -Jon

  • Keith D

    For those saying that this will increase the number of people running red lights and that those cameras are there to prevent accidents, you clearly don’t actually understand the reason they are there.

    The majority, if not all, of those red light cameras are not installed by local governments. Big corporations come into a town and offer a monetary incentive to the town in return for installing those cameras. After those cameras are installed, the corporations take about 40-50% of the ticket amount, giving very little back to the local government. Did you know that usually when red light cameras are installed, those corporations have the ability to dictate the length of the yellow light? Those corporations, more often than not, shorten yellows lights slightly to raise profits. It has been shown in many cases that an increase in yellow light times and a decrease in red light cameras lead to a MAJOR decrease in accidents.

    I’d rather not have my innocence proved or discredited by a large, profit driven corporation who’s sole purpose it is to get you ticketed. If a town wants to crack down on accidents and red light violators, get rid of red light cameras, lengthen yellow lights slightly and hire more police, which in turn creates more jobs.

  • Amir Asyraf

    No offense, but you, on the other hand, doesn’t know any maths and/or physics do you? Ever heard of momentum, mv(mass X velocity)?

  • OSAM

    You’re ignoring a lot of the economics of it: Cities don’t have MONEY to hire more people, and they NEED the money from the corporations. Your plan is fine and good if your city has the money to give up from the corporations and give to more officers; trick is, most don’t.

  • Amir Asyraf

    Well they are called corporation or company, they exist for money. And now, money exist because of them.

    My point is that these cameras, wherever they’re from, regulate the law on the road. Even though it’s installed and managed by third parties. That’s what important.

    Regarding using people, I’d like that as well. But you’d have to think of the massive implications it will have… Such as an exponential increase in budgets. And since the police will be using more and more men for regulating traffic, I expect there will be a decrease in work force in other vital area of the police.

  • Keith D

    I do understand that it is obviously not a one size fits all model, but I don’t think it is right that municipalities are choosing a route that puts that kind of power into the hands of the private sector. When a municipality is presented with a slight monetary gain versus the safety of it’s citizens, they should ALWAYS choose safety or money. It defeats the point and purpose of having “To Protect and Serve” on the side of a patrol car.

  • fahrertuer

    The reflected light of the overpowering flash has to reach the recording camera to work.
    And to do that it will also hit other drivers.

  • http://twitter.com/cimphotography Jeremy Madore

    Massachusetts has a ‘lax’ no-plate-frame law. It’s more of a talking point when you get pulled over, but not something that you get pulled over for. Nonetheless, this would increase the profiling.

  • Mansgame

    I hate enforcement cameras as much as the next person because they are 100% there to bring in revenue to the city and usually catch people for doing a rolling right turn, but once the cameras see you like this a couple of times, police are going to be on notice and look for you. A lot of places ban borders around license plates too. Never mind that you may blind other drivers.

    If you hate traffic cameras, get your city council to remove them. It’s working in most cities now. Houston for instance got rid of theirs as well as many other cities because they don’t work.

  • MikeAlgar42

    You should possibly write that into the article ;)

  • [email protected]

    Hi noLimits,
    This is pretty awesome, something I had thought about but would never have gotten around to testing/implementing, good for you. As a marketing point, you should really get some test shots “out in the wild”. I know the principles behind it, and it seems sound, but it is easy to see this working in a studio, and a bit harder to believe outdoors at 50 or 60 feet. Good luck to you, and thanks for the innovation.

  • Renato Valenzuela

    it isn’t wrong when a big corporation is making money off of something you can prove you couldn’t avoid. these things will cause more accidents in the long run from people that will stop short that are afraid of getting a $151 ticket.

  • Renato Valenzuela

    but they don’t regulate the law on the road! especially the red light cameras! it’s another way of being nickel-and-dimed.

    if city government truly wanted to regulate the law of the road, there would be a far more intelligent way of doing it.

  • fahrertuer

    You still give people that endorse speeding a forum to spread their ideas and to show others how to break the law.

  • Check

    Proof with a link please (with actual studies of what you hold to be true), otherwise this sounds like more anti-corporation nonsense that we hear from the fringe elements.

  • noLimits Enterprises

    Hi Check,

    The Federal Highway Administration as well as the Virginia Transportation Research Council have published studies that show red light cameras increase accidents, fatalities, and decrease safety at intersections where they are installed.

    Thanks for your interest in this issue – it’s an important one!

  • dvid9976

    somebody should have into account that this kind of devices are completely ilegal in some conuntries.
    You can even go to the jail if you are caught using something like this.

  • slvrscoobie

    Tried to do this years ago with IR-Cut glass but never made it out.
    This isnt about speeding or not speeding. Its about the fact that a non-human is making a police action that we, as Americans, have the right to cross examine. As a non-human its impossible. I remember an episode of Top Gear where Jeremy Clarkson used a mask to avoid the speed cameras in Japan. And to overexpose a camera it only needs a flash SLIGHTLY higher than ambient. And since plates are VERY reflective that means very little light needs to be used. No ones getting blinded. And I bet everyone of you saying how this is illegal or skirting the law, i bet you follow EVER LAW to a T Every time. Right? Even the ones your not aware of breaking? Give me a break.

  • novacaine7

    Micheal, good reporting on the techy side of this. I understand that this is a “hot topic” and will draw criticism due to the legality of both the red light photo camera and the use of the flash deterrent.

    Here in California, especially San Diego, we have had the red light cameras for probably going on 10 years or so, again with much controversy. The 1st few years they were installed, accidents at the installed intersections rose, dramatically, up towards 73% at some, while it reduced the accident rate at most.
    The lights were shut down for some time due to the legality of a non-peace officer 3rd party running and operating the lights and determining the “offense” which was a direct violation of California law. The red light cameras have been re-activated and have been running for some time now.
    At that time, we saw many technologies, usually coatings or covers that prevented or obscured the readability of the license plate, those were all determined to be a violation under the California Traffic code section 5201 sub-section “f” or section 44081 & 44081.6.
    This technology, in California in a direction violation under Traffic code 25250 were it clearly states that flashing lights are prohibited unless permitted. Though I see it would be hard to enforce unless the officer saw the flashing lights for themselves or someone reported you to the police. Not sure if other states have the same type of traffic code as they vary, but I am sure that somewhere in the traffic code there is a stipulation about flashing lights on a moving vehicle.

    That is the risk you take if you decide to use these capture deterrents. That and knowing that you will be disorienting the driver behind you and possible cause them to not see you stopping and have them crash into you or someone else.

    One thing to remember and to avoid any issues with these red light cameras and the use of the technology to prevent them capturing your license plate, try your best to drive appropriately and pay attention. I know it’s hard, and not so easy to do, but it is possible. When your driving, that should be your main focus, not texting, updating your status or typing a reply to this. There will be time for that later, when you pull over.

  • Guest

    The Fringe
    elements, so you like corporations buying your government so that you no longer
    have no say in how your country is run? You like having the fraud voting machines to vote with
    so that your vote doesn’t count anymore? You like them crashing your countries
    economy and then being bailed out by you with your tax dollars and then their
    CEO’s are given even bigger pay checks and bonuses as a reward for stealing over a trillion
    dollars of the middle classes money and equity in their houses. I think my
    friend if you ask most Americans what they think about Corporations you will
    find that you are the fringe element and an ignorant one at that. I can’t believe
    anyone would stick up for these White collar Thief’s and Murderers, yes
    Murderers. These scum bags are responsible for the pain and suffering of
    millions of people around the world. One example is the many Americans who lost
    all that they had when these criminals crashed our economy. Many of these hard
    working people could not deal with it and committed suicide. And Yes they are
    responsible!

  • http://www.facebook.com/netwerkjim Jim OFallin

    The Fringe
    elements, so you like corporations buying your government so that you no longer
    have a say in how your country is run?

    You like having the
    fraudulent voting machines to vote with so that your vote doesn’t count
    anymore?

    You like them
    crashing your countries economy and then being bailed out by you with your tax
    dollars and then their CEO’s are given even bigger pay checks and bonuses as a reward for stealing over a trillion
    dollars of the middle classes money and equity in their houses.

    I think my friend if you ask most Americans
    what they think about Corporations you will find that you are the fringe
    element and an ignorant one at that.

    I can’t believe anyone would stick up for
    these White collar Thief’s and Murderers, yes Murderers. These scum bags are
    responsible for the pain and suffering of millions of people around the world.

    One example is the many Americans who lost all
    that they had when these criminals crashed our economy. Many of these hard
    working people could not deal with it and committed suicide. And Yes they are
    responsible!

  • http://twitter.com/intensitystudio Antonio Carrasco

    I had this exact idea a few years ago. But then LA stopped using red light cameras…

    To anyone that thinks red light cameras increase safety–that’s not true, because people end up driving MORE recklessly to avoid getting their picture taken with these things, usually flooring the gas pedal when the light turns yellow.

  • http://twitter.com/intensitystudio Antonio Carrasco

    keith is absolutely right. These red light cameras are installed and operated by private corporations with a financial interest in issuing more tickets. The cities go along with it because it raises more money for the government as well.

    Anyone who thinks red light cameras are for safety is actually a fool.

  • Coyote Red

    As backwards as South Carolina is we recognize the problem with speed and traffic cameras, and have outlawed them as of last year.

    I also have heard of such studies of red light cameras. The theory behind the increase in a accidents is folks, upon seeing a yellow light, will more likely panic, not wanting to risk a ticket, and attempt a sudden, unsafe stop causing a rear-end collision.

    Don’t get me wrong, running red lights is a pet-peeve of mine and, as time permits, watch chronic intersections for violators.

    EDIT TO ADD: Some states, like South Carolina, prohibit anything covering the license plate. The way it’s written you can’t even place a perfectly clear cover over the plate and all license frames are illegal. Not even blip of priority in enforcement though, just saying.

  • Navychief

    Wouldn’t it be easier, cheaper and safer just to slow down? If you’re in such a rush as to break the law by speeding, just leave 5 minutes earlier!!

  • TSY87

    ive tried coatings, they didnt work. I believe they have lic covers that do work, but are illegal… (note, the spray on coatings are also technically illegal but its almost impossible to tell it was applied, not that it worked anyway, i swear it was just a can of spray on clear coat).

  • Matthew Wagg

    Well good luck on this working at all. Most of the cameras in the UK and Europe are already flashless models so its a waste of time and money.

  • JPK

    This will not work in most US states, since the camera is also operating as a video camera. If they get a flashed place they roll the video – it’s really very simple.

  • ninpou_kobanashi

    Er, won’t this get broken in the next version?
    ex. high iso cameras or IR, UV flashes?

  • guest

    the problem and the failed solution are two different things, don’t get them tangled up.

  • Dinmamma

    How’s that capitalism working out for you guys?