Privacy promised in new traffic monitoring

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 10 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 10 March, 2012, 12:00am


The government will protect the public's privacy when it tests four new devices for tracking real-time traffic on the streets, lawmakers were told yesterday.

Undersecretary for Transport and Housing Yau Shing-mu told the Legislative Council's transport panel that the test of four technologies - automatic licence plate recognition, Bluetooth, microwave radar and video-based analysis - would last 15 months and cost HK$4.86 million.

Most current traffic monitoring uses wire induction loops that are buried under roads to detect passing vehicles.

But installing and maintaining the loops disrupts traffic, so the government wants to introduce new technologies that do not require digging up the roads, Leung Tak-fai, the assistant commissioner for transport, told the meeting.

The new technologies measure vehicle speed and other indexes of congestion, Leung said. For example, a plate recognition system to be tested would detect the number plates of commercially registered vehicles at different points along the road, calculating their speed to determine traffic conditions. Data from personally registered plates would not be collected because of privacy issues, he said. Nor would speed data be used for enforcing traffic rules, which was not the responsibility of the transport department.

The technologies will be tested on Nathan Road, Hennessy Road, the Kwun Tong Bypass and Cheung Pei Shan Road, Tsuen Wan. Each road will be installed with different devices to test their performance in different conditions. Leung said the data collected would be encrypted and discarded once the analysis was finished, so drivers' and passengers' privacy would not be affected.

An assessment of each technology's impact on privacy would be carried out before the devices were put to the test, Leung said.