Tech: Chinese cities wanting peace and quiet are using acoustic cameras to catch honking drivers

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Car horn camera

The cameras use 32 microphones and a high-definition camera to capture drivers who honk their horns unnecessarily.

  • China is using acoustic cameras to catch honking drivers.
  • Cameras have been rolled out in 40 cities, and work by capturing a two second film of a honking car.
  • The footage is analyzed by police to determine if drivers had a fair reason to honk and if not they'll receive a $16 fine.
  • This may be the first step to link car honking with penalties for a driver's social credit score.

Congestion in Beijing can be unbearable.

With far more than 5 million registered cars, traffic can crawl at half the speed it does in New York City. And aside from toxic air pollution, the noise pollution from constant horn honking has made Beijing the sixth noisiest city in the world.

But the government, which at one point created a noise map of the city, wants that to change.

After a pilot project last year, Beijing's Traffic Management Bureau has installed 20 acoustic cameras across the city that can identify honking cars, according to Inkstone News.

The cameras, installed near schools and hospitals, use 32 microphones and a HD camera to film a two second video and capture the number plate of each honking car. The footage will then be analyzed by police to determine if car's honking was warranted and, if not, whether a $16 fine will be issued.

But noise pollution isn't limited to Beijing's streets.

Roughly 40 cities, including Shenzen, have installed acoustic cameras that can catch honking drivers with an accuracy rate of 92-95%.

Part of the problem is the chaotic nature of driving in China where there are just too many vehicles on roads that just weren't designed for vehicles. There's also some interesting engineering, such as one road that requires drivers to merge from 50 lanes into 20.

According to the World Health Organisation, China had more than 260,000 road traffic deaths in 2013, making it one of the world's most dangerous countries for drivers.

While the current technology doesn't immediately identify drivers, it likely won't be long before the acoustic cameras include facial recognition technology that links to social credit scores, deducting points for repeated honking just as China plans to do for repeat jaywalkers.

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