A new generation of speed cameras which use satellites to track average speeds over several MILES are being secretly trialled in Britain.
The high-tech devices – called SpeedSpike – are an enhanced version of the spy cameras which enforce London’s congestion charge.
They combine number plate recognition technology with global positioning satellite (GPS), enabling average speed to be measured over long distances.
The manufacturer claims they are so small and cheap they could be used to target rat runs and reduce the need for speed bumps on smaller roads.
Police hope the new cameras will enable them to re-create the system used on motorway contraflows on virtually any road.
The Home Office is currently testing them at two sites – one in Southwark in London and another on the A374 between Antony and Torpoint in Cornwall.
SpeedSpike uses automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) technology, which in 2008 took photos of 64 million of motorists in Britain – ten times more than the previous year.
Details of the secret trials emerged in a House of Commons report and have been slammed by civil rights’ groups and MPs.
Torridge and West Devon MP Geoffrey Cox said ”fundamental” questions had to be addressed before the ”alarming” level of surveillance was extended.
He said: ”You always have to ask if it is really necessary to watch over people, to spy on them and film them.
”Unless we keep asking the question ‘is it necessary?’ we will get to a point where it becomes routine and it should never be a matter of routine that the state spies on its citizens.”
The SpeedSpike cameras have been developed by PIPS Technology Ltd, an American-owned business with a base in Hampshire.
In the company’s evidence to the House of Commons Transport Committee, it boasted of ”number plate capture in all weather conditions, 24 hours a day” as well as the system’s ”low cost” and ease of installation.
The company believes the cameras can be used for ”main road enforcement for congestion reduction and speed enforcement”, can help to ”eliminate rat-runs” and cut speeds outside schools.
It said: ”We have an urban test site at Salter Road in Southwark and are working in conjunction with the Metropolitan Police.
”We also have an inter urban test site located on the A374 from Torpoint to Antony at which we are working with the Devon and Cornwall Constabulary.”
The trial is being carried out in conjunction with the police and the Devon and Cornwall Safety Camera Partnership.
Superintendent Tim Swarbrick, chairman of the partnership and head of roads policing, said it was being tested ”on a live road system to assess how effective and accurate it is”.
He added: ”Average speed recorders have proved to be very successful in roadworks on the major trunk roads. They have reduced injury and deaths and we would like to replicate this positive effect on more rural roads.
”To this end we are assisting the Home Office in piloting a new version of this equipment to gauge both its accuracy and operational effectiveness.
”The equipment is not being used for enforcement purposes, as it is not Home Office approved at this stage.”
The Home Office said it was unable to comment on the trials because of ”commercial confidentiality”.
It is not known when the cameras might come into use.