Big Brother is watching you

When I was a wide-eyed freshman EE student, I had a great idea for a senior project.  I was going to devise a patrol car-mounted system that would automatically detect the speed of an oncoming car and, if it was traveling above the speed limit, my system would snap a picture of the license plate and automatically generate a ticket for the owner of the car.  Obviously, I didn't think this through very far, but it was a fascinating idea to me at the time. 

Then, around the end of my sophomore year, I got bitten by the programming bug.

Bye-bye vehicle-mounted automated ticketing sytem, hello Web apps.

Well, it looks like parts of my idea are coming to fruition*:

The Sacramento Police Department will receive an award Wednesday for its high-tech license plate reader system during a ceremony recognizing outstanding accomplishments within the public sector's information technology community. […]

The system allows a computer to read license plates in real time and compares it with information on stolen and wanted vehicles in a police database, Young said.

Patrol cars outfitted with the license plate reader are equipped with three external camera systems, which constantly scan license plate images during routine patrols. The images are then transmitted to a computer database and processed. The system notifies the officer if a match is made.

That's pretty sweet… and pretty gnarly, too. 

I suspect that it's only a matter of time before they're able to tie in GPS, radar, and video, and make each patrol car an automated hammer of justice.  Drivers, beware.

* To be clear, I had nothing to do with the design or implementation of Sac PD's new system.