In recent months, Google have been rolling out new speed camera icons onto their maps application. This will surely come as welcome news to the nation’s motorists, however much it might worry to treasury. In 2016, more than two million drivers were caught speeding, a significant portion of which will have been served with a £100 fine and three points, and a minority of which will have been served far heftier fines. That’s a lot of pot-hole repairs (or a world-class centre-forward).
The new function hasn’t received much in the way of fanfare. Google have preferred to slyly roll it out around the world in select locations like San Francisco and Rio de Janeiro, with the feature finally coming to British roads in January. You’ll get speed limits displayed on the bottom left corner of your phone, and the speed cameras themselves will appear as little yellow dots.
The app will also provide an audio warning of new changes to the speed limit, as well as advance notice of a speed camera. That way you won’t have to actually look at your phone and risk another hefty fine.
It’s been six years since Google bought out Waze, a GPS app which incorporated speed cameras into its maps. It seems that the feature has finally been deemed fit for purpose after extensive testing in limited locations. If you’re driving professionally, you might have already invested in a paid-for satnav, such as TomTom, which provides this service for a fee. The good news is that you might soon be able to make the switch to a free alternative.
Of course, Google Maps is not directly connected to the UK’s speed camera network – it faces a continual arms race with the authorities when it comes to documenting the locations of new cameras. We’ll be relying on our fellow motorists (and their helpful passengers) to document speed traps, accidents and other hazards.
Whether the system can be exploited remains to be seen. Will a single report be enough to get a new speed trap updated? Or will pranksters need to collaborate in groups of six or seven to get a false report onto the map? We imagine that the clever people at Google are up to the challenge – they have, after all, overcome far more considerable ones. And maybe the joke will wear thin pretty quickly, laborious as it might seem.
And we should also bear in mind that many speed cameras are mobile: while a map alert might provide notice of one of the dreaded yellow boxes, mobile speed traps are more difficult to pin down. You might even get a few false positives where speed-gun-wielding coppers on bikes are spotted, but then move on before you’ve got a chance to outsmart them.
In short, while these new alerts might save you from getting an unpleasant notice through the post, they shouldn’t be relied on. The only sure way to protect yourself is to stick to the speed limit!