Acoustic 'noise' cameras to tackle loud motorists

Published: 10 June 2019

► Noise cameras could be introduced
► Will punish motorists over 74 decibels
► Seven month trial first

The war on motorists continues, and this time the target is sound, rather than speed. In an announcement over the weekend, the UK government revealed plans to monitor the sound of vehicles, and punish those exceeding legal noise limits.

For some context, all cars made since 2016 are legally limited to 74 decibels, while 70 is the sound of a loud telephone ring.

Further reading

Proposed new laws would be enforced by ‘acoustic cameras’ and offending motorists would be identified by ANPR number-plate reading tech already used in conventional speed cameras. A device to monitor sound levels has already been commissioned, and a seven-month trial will take place following its completion. The government will decide whether to roll out the scheme nationwide after that.

As expected, the story hasn’t gone down well with car enthusiasts, and it’s causing even more of a stir on our sister site MCN.

Wait - are modern cars really that noisy?

It seems the new proposals are aimed at those in modified hatchbacks doing laps of the high street, bouncing off their limiter all day long. And that can’t be a bad thing.

Unmodified cars and models made since 2016 should meet the legal noise limits in any gear, so this is more about straight-through pies, decats and components designed to be too loud for the road. It’ll certainly keep the aftermarket guys on their toes.

Noise pollution in urban areas is a growing concern across Europe, with Prague even having noise level displays, (pictures above).

How will acoustic cameras be deployed?

There are a few questions surrounding the new so-called acoustic cameras. It’ll be interesting to see how they will be signposted, and the exact range of their audio skills. Speed cameras can be seen as a preventative, and flagging up their presence is deemed as effective in cutting speeding as the threat of a ticket.

But how far will they be able to detect a noisy car? And how will the tech be able to single out the noise of one car from the other? These are queries the forthcoming trials will have to answer.

Imagine being the Toyota Prius right behind an R8 Spyder with aftermarket pipes. How do you really prove it wasn’t your car?

Is this really the most pressing problem on our roads right now? Or are there other things our government should be tackling first? Let us know in the comments below.

Image credit: Vit Simanek/Czech News Agency/Press Association Images

By Curtis Moldrich

CAR's online editor and racing-sim enthusiast