AI and Microdirectives

Imagine a future in which AIs automatically interpret—and enforce—laws.

All day and every day, you constantly receive highly personalized instructions for how to comply with the law, sent directly by your government and law enforcement. You’re told how to cross the street, how fast to drive on the way to work, and what you’re allowed to say or do online—if you’re in any situation that might have legal implications, you’re told exactly what to do, in real time.

Imagine that the computer system formulating these personal legal directives at mass scale is so complex that no one can explain how it reasons or works. But if you ignore a directive, the system will know, and it’ll be used as evidence in the prosecution that’s sure to follow.

This future may not be far off—automatic detection of lawbreaking is nothing new. Speed cameras and traffic-light cameras have been around for years. These systems automatically issue citations to the car’s owner based on the license plate. In such cases, the defendant is presumed guilty unless they prove otherwise, by naming and notifying the driver.

In New York, AI systems equipped with facial recognition technology are being used by businesses to identify shoplifters. Similar AI-powered systems are being used by retailers in Australia and the United Kingdom to identify shoplifters and provide real-time tailored alerts to employees or security personnel. China is experimenting with even more powerful forms of automated legal enforcement and targeted surveillance.

Breathalyzers are another example of automatic detection. They estimate blood alcohol content by calculating the number of alcohol molecules in the breath via an electrochemical reaction or infrared analysis (they’re basically computers with fuel cells or spectrometers attached). And they’re not without controversy: Courts across the country have found serious flaws and technical deficiencies with Breathalyzer devices and the software that powers them. Despite this, criminal defendants struggle to obtain access to devices or their software source code, with Breathalyzer companies and courts often refusing to grant such access. In the few cases where courts have actually ordered such disclosures, that has usually followed costly legal battles spanning many years.

AI is about to make this issue much more complicated, and could drastically expand the types of laws that can be enforced in this manner. Some legal scholars predict that computationally personalized law and its automated enforcement are the future of law. These would be administered by what Anthony Casey and Anthony Niblett call “microdirectives,” which provide individualized instructions for legal compliance in a particular scenario.

Made possible by advances in surveillance, communications technologies, and big-data analytics, microdirectives will be a new and predominant form of law shaped largely by machines. They are “micro” because they are not impersonal general rules or standards, but tailored to one specific circumstance. And they are “directives” because they prescribe action or inaction required by law.

A Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown notice is a present-day example of a microdirective. The DMCA’s enforcement is almost fully automated, with copyright “bots” constantly scanning the internet for copyright-infringing material, and automatically sending literally hundreds of millions of DMCA takedown notices daily to platforms and users. A DMCA takedown notice is tailored to the recipient’s specific legal circumstances. It also directs action—remove the targeted content or prove that it’s not infringing—based on the law.

It’s easy to see how the AI systems being deployed by retailers to identify shoplifters could be redesigned to employ microdirectives. In addition to alerting business owners, the systems could also send alerts to the identified persons themselves, with tailored legal directions or notices.

A future where AIs interpret, apply, and enforce most laws at societal scale like this will exponentially magnify problems around fairness, transparency, and freedom. Forget about software transparency—well-resourced AI firms, like Breathalyzer companies today, would no doubt ferociously guard their systems for competitive reasons. These systems would likely be so complex that even their designers would not be able to explain how the AIs interpret and apply the law—something we’re already seeing with today’s deep learning neural network systems, which are unable to explain their reasoning.

Even the law itself could become hopelessly vast and opaque. Legal microdirectives sent en masse for countless scenarios, each representing authoritative legal findings formulated by opaque computational processes, could create an expansive and increasingly complex body of law that would grow ad infinitum.

And this brings us to the heart of the issue: If you’re accused by a computer, are you entitled to review that computer’s inner workings and potentially challenge its accuracy in court? What does cross-examination look like when the prosecutor’s witness is a computer? How could you possibly access, analyze, and understand all microdirectives relevant to your case in order to challenge the AI’s legal interpretation? How could courts hope to ensure equal application of the law? Like the man from the country in Franz Kafka’s parable in The Trial, you’d die waiting for access to the law, because the law is limitless and incomprehensible.

This system would present an unprecedented threat to freedom. Ubiquitous AI-powered surveillance in society will be necessary to enable such automated enforcement. On top of that, research—including empirical studies conducted by one of us (Penney)—has shown that personalized legal threats or commands that originate from sources of authority—state or corporate—can have powerful chilling effects on people’s willingness to speak or act freely. Imagine receiving very specific legal instructions from law enforcement about what to say or do in a situation: Would you feel you had a choice to act freely?

This is a vision of AI’s invasive and Byzantine law of the future that chills to the bone. It would be unlike any other law system we’ve seen before in human history, and far more dangerous for our freedoms. Indeed, some legal scholars argue that this future would effectively be the death of law.

Yet it is not a future we must endure. Proposed bans on surveillance technology like facial recognition systems can be expanded to cover those enabling invasive automated legal enforcement. Laws can mandate interpretability and explainability for AI systems to ensure everyone can understand and explain how the systems operate. If a system is too complex, maybe it shouldn’t be deployed in legal contexts. Enforcement by personalized legal processes needs to be highly regulated to ensure oversight, and should be employed only where chilling effects are less likely, like in benign government administration or regulatory contexts where fundamental rights and freedoms are not at risk.

AI will inevitably change the course of law. It already has. But we don’t have to accept its most extreme and maximal instantiations, either today or tomorrow.

This essay was written with Jon Penney, and previously appeared on

Posted on July 21, 2023 at 7:16 AM73 Comments


K.S. July 21, 2023 8:17 AM

If all laws are enforced all the time our society would break down. Our laws are nowhere near robust where such compliance is possible even by well-meaning parties.

Topper July 21, 2023 8:55 AM

“AI will inevitably change the course of law”


…. Yes, but that might be a very good thing.

The staggering problem with current American “Law” is that it is vast, incomprehensible in total, and arbitrarily applied.

Total American laws, statutes, regulations, codes, etc easily exceed 1,000,000 in the number of Do’s and Dont’s.
Tax laws alone occupy entire bookcases.
Nobody can even count the number of laws today.

AI could at least accurately catalog all these laws — and show what an ‘invasive and Byzantine’ mess our present legal system is.

Further, AI could greatly help citizens defend against government legal abuses by objectively demonstrating the vast contradictions in formal law and the routine corruption in its enforcement.

Lawyers, legislators, prosecutors. and judges should greatly fear AI analysis of their racket.

Safer roads July 21, 2023 8:59 AM

Important issues, certainly. But we should avoid taking the “freedom” argument too far.

Freedom to recklessly endanger oneself and others unpunished isn’t “freedom”, it’s just crime. Unlike shoplifters, speeding/drunk/drugged/texting car drivers lead to mass death and injuries, and more should be done to stop them. Ideally without reporting every car’s location and speed at all times, but only when laws are broken.

We don’t even need AI to do a lot more here. For instance, serially connected speed cameras can measure speed not just at a point, but the average speed between two points. They need to remember license plates to do this, but can purge them when it’s clear the driver wasn’t speeding at the given stretch of road.

Yeah, I know the “sacrifice freedom for security” argument. But how much death and suffering is it worth? Terrorism is a rather minor threat compared to dangerous drivers. And again, this isn’t about “freedom”, it’s crime.

Erdem Memisyazici July 21, 2023 9:42 AM

I do think we overestimate the capability of A.I. It’s just as hackable and has the capacity for being faulty as any other software and it would be scientifically wrong to compare it against the entropy of actual people in real life conditions. I know that the average person just wants to “set it and forget it” when it comes to automation in general but law enforcement simply won’t work that way.

Winter July 21, 2023 9:42 AM

@Safer Roads

But we should avoid taking the “freedom” argument too far.

This is generally a pointless argument as this uses a very limited and useless definition of Freedom.

First, Freedom can be negatively defined as “being free of …” filling in the blank with concepts ranging from hunger to neighbors. In this mindset, a person is maximally free when living isolated on a desert island where he is bothered by absolutely no one and is thus free from coercion, taxes, zoning laws, and whatever you can think of.

Others, generally outside the USA, define freedom as positive rights, eg, the freedom to congregate, have conversations, speak and write, travel, work with whomever wants to employ you, and relocate to whatever place that wants to accept you. It is obvious that you need other people to enjoy these freedoms.

A “Freedom to drive recklessly on the roads” might be arguable under the first definition, it is certainly not argued under the second definition.

Clive Robinson July 21, 2023 10:01 AM

@ Bruce, ALL,

Re : Drivers, owners, and keepers of cars.

“In such cases, the defendant is presumed guilty unless they prove otherwise, by naming and notifying the driver.”

Who “own’s”, who “keeps”, and who “drives” a vehicle is a complicated subject.

And in some cases the “owner” can not say who the driver is (disabled people who own vehicles others drive them around in may not have “mental” or “physical” capacity).

But owners can be leasing companies or businesses not related in any way to the driver, which is where the “Keeper of a vehicle” comes into play.

But of importance only in some cases is an auditable record of drivers required or even expected to be kept…

Take for instance “dust carts”, “road maintenance” and similar vehicles “crewed by a team” anyone of whom can drive the vehicle at any time during a work period.

But… the curious fact that in the US the majority of speeding and similar citations are actually illegaly issued is something that is not as widely known as it should be.

The reason, the court paperwork has to be signed by a “witnessing officer” “at the time and location” of the offence.

Watching CCTV footage does not make you a valid witness even if you are an officer of the law (nor can it when you think about it as the footage is rarely if ever part of a legal “chain of custody” thus can not be verified as genuine or untamperd with).

In practice the legal requirment for “witnesses” is abused, not just via the court paper work but by the process… All to often the signing officer never even sees the CCTV footage, unless “called to give evidence in court”, when they get the tape out of archive weeks or months after the alledged offence and give it a viewing just before going into court.

Therefore all to often there is no way an officer can truthly say what happened, they were not there, at the time, and they did not see it. Thus they are giving at best “hearsay” that can not qualify as even “opinion”[1] as they cannot say if the video is a fake or not. Thus the officer can not meet the requirment to be a witness to the event the law requires for a lawful conviction…

Thus for lawful convictions the law in general with regards “evidence” will have to be changed, and it won’t be untill it is forced to be.

[1] The trick pulled is to pretend the officer is appearing as an “Expert Witness” and thus shows the video with a time code on it and talks it through and then says “based on what I’ve seen it is my opinion that an offense of XXX was commited at the time”…

yet another bruce July 21, 2023 10:02 AM

I don’t think I have ever seen a speed camera in the US. Even toll systems that measure average speed as a side effect seem to ignore speeding. Only a few cities in the US have rolled out red light cameras. Issues of alleged corruption or demonstrated incompetence often plague these projects. I would love to understand why these systems are so unpopular in the US and why red light cameras seem more acceptable than speed cameras. Extrapolating from these examples, I would not expect micromanagement by AI to feature in the US in my lifetime.

Q July 21, 2023 10:22 AM

Just how are these “microdirectives” expected to be delivered?

Does every street sign, and pavement block, have an inbuilt display and speaker system?

I’m sure the advertisers would love that scenario. “Citizen RQI-39002354: Only cross the road when the signalling system says ‘Cross’. And also, make sure to spend all your money at Acme Corp to get all the latest hyped-up products you don’t need.”

Anonymouse July 21, 2023 11:03 AM

“potentially challenge its accuracy in court”

In court? Court is so… yesterday. Who needs courts when he immediately can punish one and teach hundreds, for any occurrence of disobedience? I’m pretty sure about one thing: This much power WILL be misused.

Short film “Slaughterbots”:

Winter July 21, 2023 11:16 AM

@yet another bruce

I would love to understand why these systems are so unpopular in the US

My conclusion from the numbers below is that Americans do not mind other people dying as much as, eg, people from the UK. So anything that prevents other people from dying seems to have a very low priority in the USA.

For a comparison:
Avoidable deaths: Preventable causes and treatable causes per 100k inhabitants

UK 119 69
USA 177 88

Traffic fatalities: Per 100k inhabitants, 100k vehicles, 1B vehicle-km

UK 2.9 5.7 3.8
USA 12.9 16.1 8.3

Fire ant[1] related fatalities: per 100k inhabitants per year, ants[1] per 100(!) inhabitants

UK 0.20 2.8
USA 12.21 120.5

[1] This is about an “arm”

Bob Paddock July 21, 2023 11:17 AM

Someone already made a short film about this near future dystopian AI enforced world.

It covers several controversial subject areas.
This forum is not the best place to debate those.

BEYOND THE GREAT RESET – Animated Short Film

JonKnowsNothing July 21, 2023 11:35 AM

@Q, yet another bruce, All

re: Smart Street Light Systems

Cities of all sizes have been investing in “Smart Street Light Systems” for many years now. These systems have a number of components and the cities buy which ever ones they need and can add-on more features later.

They are essentially a self contained wifi network, linked pole-2-pole to a central command setup at the police station. There maybe several policing agencies contributing or getting access to the “intel” (county, city, regional, state, federal).

Some components may have dubious value for policing, however, it’s an active network. As the police officer travels past the poles it can track their movement. A voice forwarding system can listen to the officer as they chase someone down the street. Officers can activate special emergency codes on the poles including a PA system.

Some poles are equipped with sound detection, chemical detection and radiation detection.

Speed cameras are installed in even small towns. The ticket revenue is a long time money maker for the community. In some locales there are known ticket bait areas where the speed limit suddenly changes to a lower speed. There is the legal signage and the bait works because people do not always register a change in the signs on first encounter.

In those jurisdictions the police carry CC Readers. You provide your documentation and a CC. The officer swipes the card immediately to pay for the speeding fine.

It’s all legal and with full documentation; you can challenge it in court but most folks just pay up and plan never to return to that area in the future. The beauty of the system is that Highways are fixed and there are few alternate routes people can take.

Zho, want to drive your new T$$ car at 155 mph (250 km/h)? Best not do that in Wales UK.



Wales became the first UK nation to pass legislation to lower the default national speed limit on residential roads and busy pedestrian streets from 30mph to 20mph … the new speed limit coming into force on 17 September 2023.

120 countries from across the world signed the Stockholm Declaration on Road Safety in 2020, agreeing that reducing the speed limit to 20mph…

Al Sneed July 21, 2023 11:35 AM

Any society must strike a balance between authoritarian stagnation and wild west chaos. Laws are not the same thing as justice, and if all laws were perfectly enforced by a machine, the society would stop evolving and become dystopian.

Winter July 21, 2023 12:26 PM

@AI sneed

Any society must strike a balance between authoritarian stagnation and wild west chaos.

That is a false dichotomy. Every society is organized, else it’s members die.

The UK is not more stagnant than the USA, still, only a fraction of it’s citizens die in traffic accidents compared to the USA, on any metric.

Al Sneed July 21, 2023 12:40 PM

That is a false dichotomy.

it’s a spectrum, not a dichotomy

The UK is not more stagnant than the USA

the UK is absolutely more stagnant than the USA and even the rest of Europe.

regarding traffic fatalities, it’s probably because a car is necessary to even live in the U.S. and there’s no public transport. therefore, you can’t be too stringent on your loicense tests.

are there even fire ants in the UK?

Mexaly July 21, 2023 12:49 PM

How are we going to handle bad law bots,
when we can’t or won’t prosecute human, very bad lawyers?
Since 2020, the media is rife with examples of the latter.

Clive Robinson July 21, 2023 1:32 PM

@ ALL,

As I’ve noted before several times on this blog, legislation and regulation are just a way of codifing the norms or mores of society into a system that protects society.

Two problems,

1, Society has a broad series of view points.
2, Society is fluid and viewpoints thus norms and mores change continuously.

It is generally accepted in the west that society is moved forward by those with a liberal view point and held back by those with a conservative viewpoint.

Further research finds most in the US generally are liberal in their outlook and want society to move forward. Not regress into some faux-view of a glorious past, that never actually existed. As many know the real past was generally worse in just about every respect that has socialy significant meaning (life expectency, standard of living, freedom of movment, freedom of association, social and life opportunities, etc, etc).

Part of being a member of society is understanding what society considers good and bad today. This understanding is usually –but not always– years ahead of legislation and regulation, that in a way “codifies the past so it’s nolonger acceptable harms remain past”.

That is one of the implicit responsibilities of a citizen is to act as an observer of the behaviour of others and make judgment upon such behavioir when called to do so.

That is they are required to judge a “Directing mind” to decide if those actions were good or bad and for what reason the directing mind did what it did.

For instance to kill another human is almost universally regarded as bad. But it’s also recognised that there are times when the intent of the directing mind was not to do bad. One such reason is self defence or the defence of others in danger of suffering immediate harm.

If we judge purely by automatic application of legislation, then either there can not be a current socially recognised defence, or the legislation has to be written such that “good” would be seen in almost every case such that it would address all potential future sociataly recognised defences.

Thus it can be seen that justice has to be in two parts, a consetvative set of legislation and regulation, with recognition for societies ever changing often liberal views.

I very much doubt that any form of AI we can currently envision as a practical proposition will be able to reptesent societal views in any way close to that of human observers of society and the way it functions.

So any AI system we could build currently or in the next third to half century, is realistically not going to be capable of acting as a representative of society and it’s views.

Worse any AI will –for a whole slew of reasons– be made as “ultra-consetvitive” as possible because as with the reasonings of times long past,

“Finding guilt can never be wrong[1]”

Hence you were condemned to death once accused, and to prove your innocence you would have to die by drowning…

It becomes without doubt a “Might is Right” evil used to gain power over others and to significantly harm society… In essence just another varient of the “Idiot as King” guided by a “humble advisor acting in the King’s name” game that amoungst others Machiavelli commited to paper.

[1] I have to be careful how I say this to avoid auto-mod but it’s not exactly unknown in the US currently that in some states one biological side of the citizens have had war declared on them and their organs, by people who are without a doubt a small minority, who have illegitamately grabed control and are now using what ever form of surveilance they can to track down these unfortunate citizens for what was just a short while ago a legal activity, and still is in many other places.

Clive Robinson July 21, 2023 1:45 PM

@ Al Sneed,

“are there even fire ants in the UK?”

Yup, way more than you realise.

The same is true for Europe.

As for,

“the UK is absolutely more stagnant than the USA and even the rest of Europe.”

Said like a person who considers the travel from the TV couch to the cooler to be a major journey of insight.

Winter July 21, 2023 2:28 PM

@AI Sneed

it’s a spectrum, not a dichotomy

It is not 1 dimensional. There are more options and more scales than kill or being killed.

the UK is absolutely more stagnant than the USA and even the rest of Europe.

Citation needed

regarding traffic fatalities, it’s probably because a car is necessary to even live in the U.S. and there’s no public transport.

That is by choice. A choice made using the same argument that public transport is the highway to Stalinism.[1]

However, the numbers are equally bad per car and per km (mile).

are there even fire ants in the UK?

I don’t know.

[1] No country with good public transport has a Stalinist regime.

Winter July 21, 2023 2:33 PM

@AI Sneep
Re: stagnation

Feed your search engine “America stagnation” and you get a nice list too.

Al Sneed July 21, 2023 3:03 PM

Feed your search engine “America stagnation” and you get a nice list too.

hey now, both can be true

Winter July 21, 2023 3:11 PM

@AI Sneep

hey now, both can be true

Showing traffic rules enforcement does not lead to Authoritarian stagnation.

Al Sneed July 21, 2023 3:23 PM

Let’s get back to fire ants. They’re a distributed intelligence in a way. Has anyone tried to communicate with them? Do they have a leader? Is their society authoritarian? They seem to be doing really well, do we need to decouple?

Clive Robinson July 21, 2023 3:31 PM

@ Al Sneed,

Re : Remember you said it.

“cope and seethe. pick your favorite news source”

Result via duckduckgo,

The first paragraph of which says,

“What retarded 14 year olds on internet forums like reddit say when you prove them wrong and they don’t [have] any other comeback.”

I would quote the rest, but you get the general idea…

So not the TV couch but as the Trumper put it,

“could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds.”

Oh by the way, it looks like you live and breath one of the more derogatory “sneed” definations. So as the old saying a lady friend says under her breath of your sort,

“Wenn sich die menstruationskappe an die abnutzung anpasst, tragen sie sie”

A Nonny Bunny July 21, 2023 3:41 PM

If you’re accused by a computer, are you entitled to review that computer’s inner workings and potentially challenge its accuracy in court?

If I understand the GDPR correctly, yes.
(Which doesn’t necessarily mean it will be easy, unfortunately.)

lurker July 21, 2023 3:46 PM

Problem: the law is too complex, poorly defined, and interpreted in many ways.

Solution: let a machine administer the law.


Problem: the machine should be simple, well defined, with Boolean output.

Is there an inverse recursion here? Even using Newton’s iteration to harmonize the two problems, as others have observed edge cases will result. The notion of using AI to administer justice is as bad as letting Silicon Valley build the AI. Ummm …

Steve July 21, 2023 4:41 PM

Is this the same Bruce Schneier who scoffed at “movie plot scenarios?”

Askin’ for a friend.

JonKnowsNothing July 21, 2023 5:04 PM

@Bunny, All

re: If you’re accused by a computer, are you entitled to review that computer’s inner workings and potentially challenge its accuracy in court?

Not really happening in the USA. Several impediments one of which is the “acceptance of factual behavior”; the same condition that follows fake forensic findings into court.

Lots of “That is well known” stuff is incorrect but gets accepted as-is in many court cases. While testimony from police is not supposed to carry more weight than other testimony, it would be hard to find the average person who would not accept that what the cop says is correct. The presumption of innocence is way behind the Reid Technique.

  • In an existing USA high profile case, the 2 FBI officers who certified the contents of a thumb drive and submitted official FBI documented reports to the courts, decided that since they had not done so before they wrote and submitted the reports, perhaps they ought to look at the contents of the thumb drive afterward.

In cases with complex software, there are many procedural blocks plus getting someone with enough experience to decipher the code.

  • A person with an engineering degree living in Oregon determined that the timing between Yellow and Red lights was incorrect and the automatic ticket for Running a Red Light was triggered even though the initial condition and definition for that infraction, was not met. He was sued by the Oregon Engineering group for using the word “Engineer” when he was not certified by the Oregon Board controlling the title. Showing the timing proofs took several years before it was accepted that the timing was wrong and the Oregon Board dropped their $$$$ lawsuit against the person.

If you also factor in the difficulties in getting the “government algorithms” published for functions like the AU ROBODEBT calculations and similar programs in the USA, it’s hard to find out how the government adds 2+2 and gets back a result that You Owe US 10. Much less looking at the code for it.

In the case of the on-going 20yr UK POSTOFFICE scandal, everyone knew the mainframe could not add 2+2 at all. They knew the books were skewered but that didn’t stop the program from bankrupting, imprisoning and causing the deaths of hundreds of people.

So even if you know, it won’t help. In court it will be an Ex Parte presentation, a fancy phrase for “kangaroo court”.

modem phonemes July 21, 2023 5:09 PM

Be sure to stock up early on popcorn 🍿so you will ne ready when AI starts presiding in divorce court.

Sydney Australia July 21, 2023 11:00 PM

Thanks for your commentary about cameras Clive.
Aussie Speeding Fines is a group produce a very detailed and reliable e-book with much practical support, also just as helpful for those in other jurisdictions. They address the same issues you raised.

They go to tremendous lengths to demonstrate why speeding is not the primary cause of accidents, and why speeding cameras and artifical speed limits are proven to be accident inducing. Which, for the purposes of this topic, brings rise to the question, is so- called AI (getting tired of how casually that term is thrown around) even enforcing things that are legal or that help us.

Aussie Speeding Fines grouo point out traffic camera data relies on MD5 which obviously constitutes a fatal flaw in the chain of evidence. Did a disgruntled employee tamper with the outcome?

I saw a silicon valley insider on Joe Rogan explain that he had reviewed the capacity of AI technology and concluded that it wouldn’t amount to anything more than data in, data out, in his lifetime. And he was about 40 years.

Winter July 22, 2023 2:20 AM

@AI Sneed

Has anyone tried to communicate with them?

I do not know about human and ant, but they do communicate.


This study is mind baffling:
Experimental studies of the ability of ants to add and subtract small numbers

Ants had to communicate information to each other in an apparatus consisting of a horizontal “trunk” with “branches” in order to obtain food, the information being used to identify which of 40 branches had a feeder. The feeder was placed on two preselected branches significantly more frequently than one the other branches. The ants were able to tune their communication system such that the duration of communications was related to the frequency with which feeders were located on branches, and the ants could add and subtract small numbers during communication of information on the feeder identification number.

lurker July 22, 2023 4:13 AM

@Al Sneed
“Has anyone tried to communicate with them?”

The dinosaurs did, to their ultimate disadvantage: Ants and Dinosaurs by Cixin Liu.

More to the point if you read @Clive R’s post carefully you might see he was not referring to social insects.

Winter July 22, 2023 6:12 AM

@Al Sneed, Lurker, Clive

“Has anyone tried to communicate with them?”

I did some “internet search” and found two nice works telling more about the wonderful world of ant communication (pdf’s available):

Advanced cognition in ants

The Use of Ideas of Information Theory for Studying “Language” and Intelligence in Ants

If you cannot get enough, the biggest source of Ant Writing can be found from the late Edward Osborne Wilson Wilson.

Note that ant colonies are in no way Stalinist Societies, there is a lot of competition between queens and workers (but maybe that is how Stalinism worked):
Reproductive competition and conflicts in colonies of the ant Formica sanguinea
(could not find a link to PDF)

Clive Robinson July 22, 2023 7:17 AM

@ , ALL,

Re : Speed is relative and it’s the difference that does the damage.

“They go to tremendous lengths to demonstrate why speeding is not the primary cause of accidents, and why speeding cameras and artifical speed limits are proven to be accident inducing.”

Physics tells us several things about velocity and how it causes issues with friction in very non-linear ways.

But the two lesson we should all learn is that the “force” that does the damage is energy expended over the stoping distance, where the,energy released on stopping is not related to velocity difference linearly but as the square of the velocity difference and resulting force vector.


Ke = 0.5(Mk.Vm^2)

Fn = Ke / Dm

Fn = (Mk.Vm^2)/2Dm


Ke = Kinetic Energy
Mk = Mass in kg
Vm = Velocity in m/sec
Fn = Stoping Force in newtons.
Dm = Stoping distance in meters

A quick look says if we rearange so we split by what are experiment constants and variables,

Fn = (Mk/2).(Vm^2/Dm)

We can see the stoping force goes up by Vm squared and the inverse of the stopping distance Dm.

Whilst legislators have concentrated on reducing Vm^2[1] engineers have worked on effectively increasing Dm by the use of “soft bodywork” in vehicles that crumples and absorbs energy so less force Fn works at tearing the driver and passenger organs away from our skeletal structure.

The problem is “crumple zones” are graded across the crumple distance so is only realy effective for those in the vehicle not those outside it…

The strength of human ligiments and bones to resist injury is aproximately proportional to surface area which goes up at H^2 so children are way more susceptable than adults. However the inverse force also depends on body mass which is proportional to volume or H^3. Which with various constants makes an odd looking graph.

Which is why as an adult pedestrian your chance of death at 30mph is given by some as “less than 10%” but at 40mph “over 90%”

If you look at it one way those 1829 writers of letters less than a decade befor Victoria rose to the throne, so opposed to steam trains who claimed “Man would die if he traveled at more than 30mph” were nearly right. They should have said “stopped”[2] not “traveled” 😉

Look at it this way, if the stopping distance Dm is zero the stopping force is infinite. The reason humans do not instantly turn into a damp smear on the wall is three fold.

Firstly even if you hit concrete it does fractionaly compress.

Secondly the impact force Fn is a result of energy over distance, and energy is transfered from one object to another and the environment (see and hear a Newton’s Cradle toy to observer this in action). So the force is limited by the amount of energy transfered out of the object and how quickly (see hydrostatic forces and similar of the various “above the speed of XXX” effects).

Thirdly and oh so unpleasently, the natural design of the human body is such that the flesh around the bones and organs acts as both an energy absorber and crumple zone.

But it’s not always effective. A number of deaths are atributable to “cardiac arrest” from a blunt force to the chest. Similar happens in competitive sports,

It’s why “hard stop” seat belts that cross the left side of the chest are discoraged these days in vehicle design. But “hard stop” seat belts also contribute significantly to “whip-lash” type injuries in all parts of the body that are not restrained as limbs etc “flail”.

Note that a “flail injury” in the above document is a very specific type of impact injury. Most of the other injuries such as point impact and penetration wounds occure because “the limb flails” but are named by the resulting visable effect not the cause.

Look at it this way your arm is flung out sideways (flailed) if it hits a protruding object then the injury is a point inpact or penetrating wound. If however the forearm or back of the hand hits more or less flat onto a nearly flat surface then that is a “flail type” injury, similar applies to other injuries from flailing limbs.

We see the same issues with other accidents, if you trip and land on the tines of a garden fork or rake, it results in a “stabing injury” even though nobody “stabbed” you.

Such naming issues come about because peoples “Points of View” are different. Anything a “domain practitioner” talks about within the “knowledge domain” is almost certainly going to be at varience with “common usage” in some way.

That said it is as, if not more important, to note what the paper says about the history and state of investigations into upper limb injuries in vehicles. Even now they are both rare and seen as recent, so what is found is still in “early days”, and not moving forward fast enough to engineers and legislators.

[1] As was noted the other day Wales, a small part of the UK is the first of many nations to enact what they all signed up to do, which is reduce the maximum speed in city and urban areas where vehicals and pedestrians are colocated from 30mph / 48kph to 20mph / 32kph. Which will reduce Fn by 400/900 or 44.4% of what it currently is.

[2] Back befor the century that straddled the birth of both science and engineering, man did get upto speeds over twenty miles an hour and approaching thirty miles an hour by horse power. There were a lot of fatalities at these speeds, not due to the speed as such but the very short stopping distances of trees, buildings and compact ground. Especially when you consider the effective stopping distance was inside the human body, creating all sorts of additional compression issues.

Sumadelet July 22, 2023 8:08 AM

@Clive Robinson

I think you might need to revisit your death statistics for impacts at different speeds:


An analysis of vehicle speed in pedestrian fatalities in Great Britain4, found that 85% of pedestrians killed when struck by cars or car-derived vans, died in collision that occurred at impact speeds below 40mph, 45% at less than 30 mph and 5% at speeds below 20 mph. The risk of a pedestrian who is hit by a car being killed increases slowly until impact speeds of around 30 mph.
Above this speed, the risk increases rapidly, so that a pedestrian who is hit by a car travelling at between 30 mph and 40 mph is between 3.5 and 5.5 times more likely to be killed than if hit by a car travelling at below 30 mph. However, about half of pedestrian fatalities occur at impact speeds of 30 mph or below. Elderly pedestrians have a much greater risk of suffering fatal injuries than other age groups


Results show that the average risk of severe injury for a pedestrian struck by a vehicle reaches 10% at an impact speed of 16 mph, 25% at 23 mph, 50% at 31 mph, 75% at 39 mph, and 90% at 46 mph. The average risk of death for a pedestrian reaches 10% at an impact speed of 23 mph, 25% at 32 mph, 50% at 42 mph, 75% at 50 mph, and 90% at 58 mph. Risks vary significantly by age. For example, the average risk of severe injury or death for a 70‐year old pedestrian struck by a car traveling at 25 mph is similar to the risk for a 30‐year‐old pedestrian struck at 35 mph.

Winter July 22, 2023 9:05 AM


Physics tells us several things about velocity and how it causes issues with friction in very non-linear ways.

The damage to a pedestrian is done when the car bounces the pedestrian to the speed of the car (transfer mv^2 to body) and when the pedestrian hits the ground again (transfer mv^2 to ground). The total damage of impact is a consequence of contact force, accelerating the body to the speed of the car in a ~10 cm, and hitting the ground.

From 30km/h to 45km/h does make a (kwadratic) difference. See post of Sumadelet. Also, it makes a difference in braking distance and reaction time.

Clive Robinson July 22, 2023 11:22 AM

@ Winter,

Re : Friction.

The way a vehicle is normally slowed is by the friction between the tires and the surface they are on.

Increase that friction and you reduce the stopping distance. Which is why there is quite a bit of research into not just increasing friction but in a way that ovetcome detritus such as “dead rubber”, “part combusted and uncombusted hydrocarbons”, “leaf mould” and similar detritus that makes the surface “more slick” thus skiding more prevelant and stopping distances longer.

“Also, it makes a difference in braking distance and reaction time.”

I’m well aware of that and it should have been abundantly clear from my comment. But I did not want to get into the fact that reaction time is related to Vm and stopping Vm^2 which means you get a Sd = k(Vm+Vm^2) relationship.

@ Sumadelet,

“I think you might need to revisit your death statistics for impacts at different speeds”

They are not my death statistics, but as I indicated those of others that I had not checked independebtly in any way as,

“is given by some”

Should have given a “heads up to”.

Some here have been around long enough to know people used to complain my posts that although information dense were “to long” so I’ve tried to cut them down…

Now people are in effect complaining I’m not making things clear enough by being to brief…

To quote the words of the song,

“C’est la vie say the old folks, it shows you never can tell”

And putting a little twist on it which takes me back to my much mispent youth,

Winter July 22, 2023 12:49 PM


The way a vehicle is normally slowed is by the friction between the tires and the surface they are on.

The thing that counts is the speed of the car on impact. The slower the speed, the less lethal the outcome. The time in which a driver can stop a car after seeing a pedestrian in his or her trajectory determines the safe speed. I crowded areas with parked cars and unpredictable children running around, 30 km/h is very reasonable. I for one am all for it.

Overhere, they enforce it with copious speed bumps.

pattiM July 22, 2023 12:59 PM

What’s the estimate on how much power this would take? As much as a single NASA/NOAA supercomputer? Would there be power battles among research supercomputers, wallstreet computers, google, etc. and whatever set of massive servers would run this?

pattiM July 22, 2023 1:06 PM

…and dont’ forget all the rich folks who will be charging their Teslas many times a day…

Steve July 22, 2023 1:17 PM


Overhere, they enforce it with copious speed bumps.

Speed bumps are great unless you have one outside your bedroom window, as I do.

Then all day and on into the night you hear the whump-bump… whump-bump of cars going over them, punctuated by the whump bump rattle… whump bump rattle of gardener and landscaper trailers going over them, as well as the gunning of engines as the slowed cars resume speed.

“Traffic calming” is often synonymous with “resident annoying.’

Winter July 22, 2023 1:45 PM


Speed bumps are great unless you have one outside your bedroom window, as I do.

I didn’t say speedbumps are great, only that they sre many. The areas I see them do not have much traffic at night. What I also see is that they use ones that entice drivers to drive around them instead of over them.

But it is a science top put them to good use.

Winter July 22, 2023 3:16 PM


What’s the estimate on how much power this would take?

Here are some guesstimates. It would be ~1000 times more than Google search per answer. Remember that the real expenses are in the training.


vas pup July 22, 2023 4:46 PM

@all: Do you know what is Italian strike? That is when railroad workers in Italy who are banned from strike start following letter by letter all instructions WITHOUT applying logic, reason and common sense. As result railroads are paralyzed immediately but you can’t blame or accuse anybody of wrongdoing.
Same applied for application of laws in a future by AI/machine: it could be legal but stupid and definitely counterproductive.

What I’d like to see AI is changing unreasonable sentencing guidelines and as result no more than one life sentence, no more 300 years in prison and other absolutely insane recommendations.

vas pup July 22, 2023 4:52 PM

Seven AI companies agree to safeguards in the US

“Seven leading companies in artificial intelligence have committed to managing risks posed by the tech, the White House has said.

This will include testing the security of AI, and making the results of those tests

Representatives from Amazon, Anthropic, Google, Inflection, Meta, Microsoft, and OpenAI joined US President Joe Biden to make the announcement.

It follows a number of warnings about the capabilities of the technology.

The pace at which the companies have been developing their tools have prompted fears
over the spread of disinformation, especially in the run up to the 2024 US presidential election.

“We must be clear-eyed and vigilant about the threats emerging from emerging
technologies that can pose – don’t have to but can pose – to our democracy and our
values,” President Joe Biden said during remarks on Friday.

On Wednesday, Meta, Facebook’s parent company, announced its own AI tool called Llama 2.

Sir Nick Clegg, president of global affairs at Meta, told the BBC the “hype has somewhat run ahead of the technology”.

!!!As part of the agreement signed on Friday, the companies agreed to:

Security testing of their AI systems by internal and !!!external experts before their release.
Ensuring that people are able to spot AI by implementing watermarks.
Publicly reporting AI capabilities and limitations on a regular basis.
=>Researching the risks such as bias, discrimination and the invasion of privacy.

The goal is for it to be easy for people to tell when online content is created by AI.
=>Watermarks for AI-generated content were among topics EU commissioner Thierry Breton discussed with OpenAI chief executive Sam Altman during a June visit to San Francisco.

“Looking forward to pursuing our discussions – notably on watermarking,” Breton wrote in a tweet that included a video snippet of him and Mr Altman.

The administration is also working on an executive order, it said in a statement.

The White House said it would also work with allies to establish an international
framework to govern the development and use of AI.

Warnings abut the technology include that it could be used to generate misinformation and destabilize society, and even that it could pose an existential risk to humanity – although some ground-breaking computer scientists have said apocalyptic warnings are overblown.”

Clive Robinson July 22, 2023 4:54 PM

@ Winter,

“The thing that counts is the speed of the car on impact.”

Not as much as we are led to believe by “first approximations”.

It is but one factor in the chain of events from at some point the driver accelerating, to them making contact with another object.

In many cases the impact speed will be well below the last speed the driver accelerated to, simply because the driver breaked.

Either way the level of friction between the tire and the road has an effect on,

1, Acceletation
2, Cruising
3, breaking

As long as the clutch and gears are engaged the rate of turn of the driven wheels is controled by the engine.

With either the clutch pulled in or gears disengaged then the viehicle is freewheeling with a small amount of loss in the transmission system.

If the driver applies either the driving or parking breaks then the rotational speed of the wheels will be decreased.

The effectiveness of the wheel rotation speed for slowing the vehicle is very much dependent on the level of friction or not between the wheel and the road surface.

Hence the friction does frequently play a very important part in the impact speed of a vehical.

After all “no friction – no control” for either speed or direction changes by the driver.

But as I indicated it’s not just Vm^2 that controls the averaged Force of impact, it’s also the Dm depth of stopping distance. If Dm is large then average force in Newtons Fn is significantly reduced,

Fn = f.K(Vm^2/Dm)

Where f is a value between 0 and 1 that defines the effective friction of the road surface with the transmission.

Winter July 22, 2023 5:34 PM


Not as much as we are led to believe by “first approximations”.

If researchers get out of their armchairs and collect real fatality data of vehicle-pedestrian crashes, then the outcome is clear:

Fifty-five studies were identified for a full-text assessment, 27 met inclusion criteria, and 20 were included in a meta-analysis. The analyses found that when the estimated impact speed increases by 1 km/h, the odds of a pedestrian fatality increases on average by 11% (OR = 1.11, 95% CI: 1.10–1.12). The risk of a fatality reaches 5% at an estimated impact speed of 30 km/h, 10% at 37 km/h, 50% at 59 km/h, 75% at 69 km/h and 90% at 80 km/h. Evidence of publication bias and time trend bias among included studies were found.

PDF at:

MarkH July 23, 2023 1:01 AM

@yet another bruce:

As can be seen even in this thread, speed cameras (and their cousins, stoplight cameras) are a “theological issue.”

Emotion and prejudice prevail over fact.

Thanks to Winter, for citing empirical data! Of course, Those Who Have Their Minds Made Up, will never accept it. It’s like climate change.

Winter July 23, 2023 2:59 AM


As can be seen even in this thread, speed cameras (and their cousins, stoplight cameras) are a “theological issue.”

Emotion and prejudice prevail over fact.

Emotion, theology, and prejudice do not save lives. In the end, it is only facts that can tell us how to save lives.

Running red lights is another such blatant disregard for other people’s lives that should be prevented with effective measures.

For some data see below. Note the contribution of DUI.

Prevalence and characteristics of red light running crashes in the United States

It was estimated that about 260 000 red light running crashes occur annually in the United States, of which approximately 750 result in fatalities. Comparisons were made between red light running drivers and drivers deemed not to have run red lights in these same crashes. As a group, red light runners were more likely than other drivers to be younger than age 30, male, have prior moving violations and convictions for driving while intoxicated, have invalid driver’s licenses, and have consumed alcohol prior to the crash.

(Sorry, no open access PDF)

It is not clear whether red light cameras would help if you look at the culprits who run the lights. In many countries they simply replace the intersection+traffic lights with roundabouts. They make the intersections safer and lead to faster traffic flow.

JonKnowsNothing July 23, 2023 3:57 AM

@Winter, MarkH, Clive, All

There are 2 (at least) parts of the equation, each part is normally considered separate from the other, arguments for and against are based on only part of the equation. Each as been touched on.

1) No law, surveillance system, hindrance or impediment can alter determined behavior before it happens. There are claims that such things called “deterrents” prevent actions, these are only counter-consequences after the fact.

2) Designs to hinder or accelerate injury or death, can do exactly what they are designed for. Some things are designed in what is termed “helpful or humanitarian” ways, while other things are designed to cause “mass deaths, destruction, displacement, economic catastrophes”.

There attempts at pre-determined guilt, by analyzing behaviors, speech, actions, activities, time and date. This is the current level of surveillance.

  • Guilt by Accumulated Lattes.

As noted some actions can hinder but not stop an adverse events, while loads of people comply with rules or recommendations with no hesitation.

In some aspects this is part of the Dark Forrest. The concept is, that within the Dark Forrest you will never hear the bullet that kills you much less see it. All around us is the Dark Forrest. We make attempts to tame the forest and reduce the threats we feel, however we can never truly alter the nature of the Dark Forrest.

Thousands of people around the global risk their lives every day in the Dark Forrest. At home a slip in the bath tub, a fall down the stairs, taking a walk in the park, drive to work, get the kids from school, pick up dinner can all result in The End of Life in the Dark Forrest.

It is the “Thing that goes Bump in the Night” for us.

FA July 23, 2023 4:20 AM

The way a vehicle is normally slowed is by the friction between the tires and the surface they are on.

Only when the tire is slipping, which does not in most cases provide the best braking distance and may also lead to loss of control.

Normally the friction is between the static and moving parts of the brakes.

The force that ultimately slows down the car is exerted via the tires. How much they can provide without slipping will determine how effective the braking can be.

Clive Robinson July 23, 2023 4:36 AM

@ Winter,

The speeds in the study you quote were in kph not mph. So

5% at 30 km/h, 18.750m/h
10% at 37 km/h, 23.125m/h
50% at 59 km/h, 36.875m/h
75% at 69 km/h, 43.125m/h
90% at 80 km/h, 50.000m/h

With the 10% fatality at 23mph not the 30mph I’ve seen before, likewise the 90% at 50mph not 40mph.

So more spread out but actually broadly similar.

If we compare to the UK ROSPA figures then we can see that the UK is markedly below the figures you give.

Likewise the US are higher.

Which suggests there is a significant “nation” driving style component.

Things to note are the mass of UK cars are on average some of the lowest in the West and are considerably less than those in the US (cost of fuel compared to lowest wage median will drive this).

Also in built up and urban UK areas where pedestrians are expected trying to find a straight road without junctions with mini-round abouts, or other physical road shaping measures such as traffic islands, offset islands, chicanes, alternate traffic islands road humps, sleeping police men, etc is getting harder year by year.

But what we are seeing removed are those sturdy barriers/fences at the road edge in busy pedestrian areas, that formarly, stoped cars parking easily or mounting the pavment, and also stopped or significantly limited jaywalking by pedestrians[1].

Where the barriers have been removed but no other “traffic passivation measures” taken, traffic speeds have increased by 8-16kph or 5-10mph which suggests from the study you quote the fatality risk has gone up by 1.11^8 to 1.11^16 or 2.3 to 5.3 times…

[1] Having made formal complaint about the removal of barriers and traffic islands to turn a busy main road from two lane into a three lane road with reduced width pavements I received a letter that said that “Transport for London”(TfL) had after studies found that the barriers were ineffective at reducing pedestrian injuries… However I would note that 20-40cm 8-16inch high lumps of concrete do significantly increase the pedestrian “tripping hazzard”… But not get anywhere near as much damage as 1.2meter 4ft metal fences/bariers when vehicles hit them making it most likely “cost saving” was a significant feature in the decision making process.

Winter July 23, 2023 4:57 AM


Which suggests there is a significant “nation” driving style component.

Obviously, cars, driving style, sidewalks, intersections are all different between nations. In some countries, car drivers will stop for every pedestrian trying to cross, in others, trying to cross a road is an exercise in playing tag with cars[1]. But it is well known that “traffic passivation measures” are much more effective than punitive measures.

[1] Which one is more dangerous for pedestrians is not quite clear. If pedestrians expect every car to stop, they might encounter the wrong driver. If they expect every driver to be looking the other way, they might be more cautious and more safe.

Clive Robinson July 23, 2023 8:42 AM

@ FA,

Re : Nonsense from sense.

“Only when the tire is slipping, which does not in most cases provide the best braking distance and may also lead to loss of control.”

A tire has friction with the surface it’s on whenever there is pressure between the two. That is true even when the wheel is not rotating or in other ways moving with respect to the surface. That can be demonstrated with simple geometry and physics you would get taught in early high school maths and science.

So either you are on another planet, or you don’t proof read what you’ve written.

But as others are more than aware, yet again it is an unhelpfull wrong comment aimed at me which is your “style” for what the past half decade or more…

Try actually contributing something correct and maybe original rather than exhibiting stalkerish behaviours…

You never know other people might then engage with you in a way related to this blog.

Clive Robinson July 23, 2023 9:10 AM

@ Winter,

‘But it is well known that “traffic passivation measures” are much more effective than punitive measures.’

It was “well known” that the Sun like the Moon rotated the earth which was flat…

Then what we now call physics allied with what was natural philosophy backed by mathmatics that showed only one of those three things were true…

That is,

“‘Well known’ is a widely held belief like ‘the grass is always greener…’ not an ‘established fact’ via ‘accepted proof’ such as ‘Pi D gives the circumferance of a circle”.

The problem of “establishing fact” when “the entities under test” “have agency” or even “free will” has always been challenging and subject to error. Whilst statistics can point a direction they are not the journeys destination of “proof” and “Established fact”.

I could argue that is not true, and you are applying an incorrect test.

That is,

“Punitive Measures are not less effective than Passive Measures.”

I could arge it’s just that,

“Punitive Measures are effectively so badly policed they are not actually being applied”

And the actual test results you are seeing are because,

“Passive Measures are more effective than No Measures.”

Or that,

“Passive Measures if ignored cause physical damage to vehicles thus are actually Avoidable Cost Measures”

Both of which might be evidenced by the gouges in road humps, and the famed sarcastic “truism” of,

“Rentals do 60mph in second gear”

Which we may all have heard the tortured metal of at some point 😉

Winter July 23, 2023 9:33 AM


The problem of “establishing fact” when “the entities under test” “have agency” or even “free will” has always been challenging and subject to error. Whilst statistics can point a direction they are not the journeys destination of “proof” and “Established fact”.

I do not know what you are after here. What I wrote was that there is ample evidence that smart road design and traffic engineering can reduce fatalities.

*A Review of Evidence-Based Traffic Engineering Measures Designed to Reduce Pedestrian–Motor Vehicle Crashes *

The Built Environment and Traffic Safety: A Review of Empirical Evidence
(PDF: ‘

“Punitive Measures are effectively so badly policed they are not actually being applied”

Punitive measures never work when too many people ignore them. The economics of enforcement are simply too bad. Only for rare crimes is punishment cheaper than prevention.

“Passive Measures if ignored cause physical damage to vehicles thus are actually Avoidable Cost Measures”

Which means that the road must communicate very clearly what is safe and what not (see linked papers).

Ted July 23, 2023 9:51 AM

I just saw this on Slashdot:

“California City Tests AI Cameras On Buses for Parking Tickets”

Santa Monica ran a 45 day pilot to identify cars improperly parked in bus lanes. The AI identified 500+ potential violations. Each fine would be close to $300 dollars and could be issued in real time.

Santa Monica still hasn’t decided if they’ll implement the technology.

Hayden AI already has cameras installed in buses in New York City, and soon will have them in DC.

Petre Peter July 23, 2023 10:28 AM

An AI that can tell us what reason means. An AI that can provide equality in front of the law. An AI that cannot explain its reasoning!

JonKnowsNothing July 23, 2023 11:21 AM

@Ted, All

re: Santa Monica AI cars improperly parked in bus lanes

This area of California is a popular spot for tourists. Loads of folks & surfers go there from Los Angeles and hang out on the beaches. There is not enough parking. The distance to unload your beach gear from the vehicle and get it down to the beach can be a long jaunt. So people double park or squeeze into a too small spot or do any of many variations of not being “legally parked”.

There are a couple of items to note about how this works out for the city.

  • Image surveillance and AI interpretations, HAIL and all, are attempts to replace the street side human police surveillance system. Police will be all for digital surveillance as long as they don’t get any terminations.

Very few cities will attempt to downsize their police departments regardless of the technology deployed.

  • So the AI will analyze discrete parameters like distance from the curb, distance from no-parking zones, distance from other cars, and time limitations (1hr 2hr etc).

One question tbd is how fine will those measurements be? in millimeters or yards

Some cities have installed electronic parking meters. You feed in a CC which is auto-debited by the number of hours you select. If you have a monthly parking card you can insert that for validation. When the timer expires and the system determines the vehicle has not moved, it sends a notice to the roving “meter person” where a violation has happened.

The roving meter person now uses a LPR License Plate Reader as they cruise their route. They can track a lot of data from that. So when they roll around to that section of their path, the system picks up if the car is still there and in violation.

There is still the human interface and payroll costs to the city.

A fully automated roving Ticket Dog would be of interest economically. Currently the roving Robot Dogs on the sidewalks do not cruise fast as the meter cart can in the street. It is not that Robot Dogs cannot go faster but there many laws about what happens on a sidewalk and what happens in the street.

Bicycle riders have to deal with conflicting rules and conflicting self-interest in avoiding getting squashed. E-Bikes have even more conflicts. Motorized skate boards and variations of scooters also have differing rules of the road.

The economic balance point is:

  • Can the city get rid of the human interface while still generating or increasing parking fine revenues?

Ted July 23, 2023 11:52 AM

@JonKnowsNothing, All

re: Santa Monica AI cars improperly parked in bus lanes

I forgot about the tourist aspect to Santa Monica.

The KTLA article said Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus Line provided 7.7 million trips last year, but not all were on time due cars being parked/stopped in the bus lanes.

One question tbd is how fine will those measurements be? in millimeters or yards

According to Charlie Territo of Hayden AI, “Our cameras are able to be accurate to within 10 centimeters…”

Hayden AI’s website also lists other applications for their technology, such as for streetcars, school buses, police vehicles, garbage trucks, and street sweepers.

I’m just wondering about all the weird (or not so weird) one-off cases. Like what if there is a family of ducks crossing the road?

Clive Robinson July 23, 2023 1:25 PM

@ Winter,

“I do not know what you are after here. What I wrote was that there is ample evidence that smart road design and traffic engineering can reduce fatalities.”

I’m not after anything as such other than perhaps the effective allocation of societal resources (tax) as any competent engineer would want to do.

The point is,

“Effect is not cause”

If I make a change, and then claim the change caused XXX, I realy should have a tracable chain from claimed cause to claimed effect XXX.

If I don’t then I have an issue, in that the actual cause of XXX might be something else entirely.

For instance it has been noted that an increas in the price of fuel is followed by a drop in road accidents for a while. So a short term localised,study over that event will show a fall in accident statistics, but not from “smart road design”.

We’ve seen similar short term too localised studies in public safety for years that give rise to significant spending that fails. As, I’ve mentioned for years we’ve seen this effect with putting CCTV in areas reduces crime…

Firstly it doesen’t reduce crime, it just moves crime elsewhere, following the instalation of the cameras… But it also can make the crime more violent… Then it was found that crime just came back in the area after the “Honeymoon period” and like as not brought the increased violence with it.

So if you put traffic calming measures in and only measure accidents in that immediate area, for say six months, I would treat your results with deep suspicion. Because the measure more likely than not “moves the problem” not removes it.

Think of it like a bubble of air under wallpaper you are putting up. Unless you know the correct way to remove the air, you just end up chasing it about not removing it.

An awful lot of studies involving “entities with agency” have this failing in their results. The studies are both toi local and too short, officially because “they are too expensive” to do otherwise.

The classic for road construction was “bypasses” they not only moved the problem from one location to several others, they actually increased the number of accidents noticably not just measurably.

So a lot of money spent, major disruption if not devistation to local businesses, leading to social stagnation and increases in accidents and injuries else where and increases in crime…

But this is not just known about it’s beeb used as a socio-political weapon for decades, which is where I get twitchy.

In the US they have an expression in parts of the construction industry, called “Bridge Out Syndrome” which has made it into social sciences. Basically it can be shown that the loss of an access road and thus through traffic, causes communities to die very quickly like dominoes going over all you are left with is an unsightly mess that even the rats move out of.

Simply what happens is local businesses that are usually marginal get loss of income and lay off staff or close reducing local spending further thus spirals down. Tax income falls further, community spending falls as a concequence and unenployment rises even more. People who can, move out, taxes drop further, property prices drop and tax income falls even further. The tax income falls below a point where other often essential community maintainance can not be funded. A tipping point is reached and schools etc close and the community is a “dead man walking” more people move out crime rises and so on. And joy of joy in some States “the wrong voters” are gone… Even though the tax take is down this is seen as a positive, and apparently shows up in spending allocation… Further it enables voting districts to be rejiggered in ways described as gerrymandering.

We had this sort of political nonsense back in the 1980’s in the UK with Westminster Council and the equivalent of “ethnic cleansing” by certain political faces…

Winter July 23, 2023 1:57 PM


“Effect is not cause”

There a studies that look for correlations in the light of existing theories of accidents. They find that accidents are linked to road designs and build area. Then there are before-after studies where the effects of certain interventions are studied.[1] I gave some links and a search in, eg, Google scholar will give you more.

Speed bumps are better than cameras, roundabouts better than stop light cameras, both are better than fines. There is not much to argue about if you look at the studies. But neither speed bumps nor roundabouts can be put everywhere [2] and they are more expensive than a speed sign and traffic lights.

As for friction between tires and road, braking and all that. Research in traffic accidents simply links vehicle speed to fatalities. That takes care of visibility, average reaction time, braking characteristics of vehicles, and tire-road friction. It also takes care of average driving style.You might be able to model these from first principles, but the number of variables you have to “estimate” to get a number is simply too large to make that worthwhile.

[1] You will not be surprised to hear that those working in the field of traffic policies understand that correlation is not causation.

[2] Not always true. Long time ago I travelled by car from Cambridge to Oxford. I got the impression that every intersection was a roundabout.

Clive Robinson July 24, 2023 5:49 AM

@ Winter,

“Speed bumps are better than cameras, roundabouts better than stop light cameras, both are better than fines. There is not much to argue about if you look at the studies. But neither speed bumps nor roundabouts can be put everywhere [2] and they are more expensive than a speed sign and traffic lights.”

This is effectively proof of an economic cost model of risk.

Speed bumps and roundabouts will cause a driver direct cost by damage to their vehicle. Thus punishment is effectively certain.

Cameras simply record an offense which may or may not result in a fine. The fact municipalities run them as a “profit center” should tell you that they are seen by a significant number of drivers as a nuisance to be tolerated rather than a deterrent. Which suggests your hierarchy of,

1, Physical impediment
2, Offence recording
3, Financial punnishment

Is not seen by offenders as such.

Which does not in the slightest surprise me.

Certain types of people can not see future punishment over current gratification / perceived entitlement no matter how severe the punishment is. Why they behave this way can be attributable to various reasons including chemical induced reasoning impediment / intoxication making their behaviours worse. It’s a failing of reasoning ability and in most modern societies such people form the bulk of criminals.

As I’ve already indicated the gouges you can see in “speed bumps” some extrodinarily deep indicate some people will not even be detered by costly damage to their vehicles.

Some actually deliberately cause such damage as they take the view of,

“Their personal entitlement v. Their societal responsabilities.”

We saw such behaviours over mask wearing and similar during lockdown where some deliberately initiated physical altercations, and caused actual harms that were without doubt crimes. Ranging through harassment, intimidation, to full on “Grevious Bodily Harm”(GBH), attempted murder, and in some cases even murder. Whilst the individual statistics are hard to identify due to the way crimes are recorded. There is evidence to suggest these crimes were being committed by significant numbers of women.

Which illustrates part of the problem, that is those that very occasionaly drive badly and those that make a habit of it. The “Points system” was designed to ban habitual offenders is actually not stopping those who feel they have no responsability to others in the society they live in. Some go to great expense to abuse the legal process others just commit other crimes such as purchasing second hand vehicles or even scrap vehicles and put them on the road without registering their ownership or obtaining insurance etc.

For such people a recording system such as integrated and centralized cameras are required that have ANPR and can also “follow an offence in progress”.

Whilst we have the technology to do this in a number of ways, they are all seen as both intrusive and abusive surveillance. Further in most jurisdictions the legislation to support it does not yet exist, nore is it likely to directly due to the notion of “The presumption of innocence”. But expect it to get slid in bit by bit in other ways such as “Toll ticket readers” being used as speed traps[1].

The first step solution to increasing safety on the roads without a doubt is to design vehicles that can not go at above 20mph. The second is to increase the size of pedestrian safe areas. The third is to increase public transport only roads.

Put short, for various sound reasons personal private transportation is a disaster we can not as a society aford any more, so we should phase it out. Yet as you know it won’t be considered as an option… Which kind of proves my point.

[1] Not so long ago in the UK the government were trying to push a “pay as you go as you go” system for road fund tax and easing traffic congestion. It was pointed out what sort of expense would be involved and how the current flat rate system would remain considerably less expensive. But the politicos were keen, untill it was pointed out quite voluably what sort of surveillance system would result and there was some quite animated opposition, so it’s been shelved for now. But all such systems when thought up, become irresistible to those in power who then make the systems inevitable, because the plan is for surveillance that can be monetized in various ways. As I’ve pointed out in the past, governments can not keep raising taxes, and the taxes from corporates that once provided the bulk of tax income are effectively gone. So the only options to raise income to buy votes is by fines or selling services etc. So the idea of “collect it all” has had “and sell it all” added on as has been seen with UK health records. The thing is as was discovered with selling off radio spectrum, markets are finite thus the more information you add the less income raising value it has…

Winter July 24, 2023 5:53 AM


Speed bumps and roundabouts will cause a driver direct cost by damage to their vehicle.

Not when they keep to the speed limits and watch the road. That is, they make the cost of ignoring traffic rules unavoidable.

This is effectively proof of an economic cost model of risk.

As money is limited, all risk reduction has economic limits.

Winter July 24, 2023 6:01 AM


Certain types of people can not see future punishment over current gratification / perceived entitlement no matter how severe the punishment is.

Which is the perfect argument to make breaking the rules have direct consequences, like speeding over a speed bump or roundabout.


Peter Galbavy July 24, 2023 12:01 PM

This is just the next illogical step of “the law” (criminal law, I think we all mean).

Our betters (sarcasm, it’s a thing…) have decided that instead of waiting until someone causes harm that we should have laws that try to change our behaviour to not do that harm – speeding has been mentioned above to a great extent – but now we’ll be subject to the additional layer of being seen to have the potential to behave in a way that causes harm, and so we should be further discouraged.

In many of these case those better off can opt for “pay to play”, since camera imposed fines are just requests for money. In very few instances do any of these secondary laws have an escalation mechanism beyond an uplift in pricing.

In addition to speeding we’ve also got the ridiculous greenwash framework in the UK around “low emissions zones”. In London you can drive your smoke belching tractor into the city as long as you are willing to pay the daily fee; If there was actually a concern over the harms caused then this would be a prohibited act, along with all the criminal punishments that should go with it but instead just hand over the fare and you’re good. That happens to be ANPR enforced too. Odd that.

Oh, before anyone says anything I’ve been driving zero emissions EVs for most of the last decade. I just think that ULEZ, in this case, is a good concept porrly (or dishonestly) implemented.

Francis Mayer July 26, 2023 2:30 AM

Artificial Intelligence must be itself regulated by software assurance experts who must audit it for neutrality and security. The deep dive technical experts will be able to subvert all AI as they have all other technology. AI systems can not escape kinetic destruction either and if they become widely deployed just watch AI sensors and systems being continuously attacked both physically and electronicly. Anyone with an ounce of software ststem development experience knows how flaky and error ridden all software and systems are in real world applications. Studies have shown how AI systems track off correct responses over time to the point of being grossly inaccurate. Just do a scholarly search on AI issues online and you will be amazed at how bad AI accuracy and reliability are in actual applications. AI is just another hyped up information technology capability. Sure it looks impressive until it fails spectacularly.

Clive Robinson July 26, 2023 4:47 AM

@ Francis Mayer,

Re : Failure is the only option.

“AI is just another hyped up information technology capability. Sure it looks impressive until it fails spectacularly.”

Back in the early 1990’s I met an MSM cartoonist via an Educational Establishment, where they guest lectured.

During “tea break” we chatted and they bemoaned the state of software they were increasingly being forced to use.

I sympathised with them and said, “It’s easy, you just do this or that and when it looks like you are getting somewhere so you are just about to save it MS crashes the whole system”… I then joked about it being a bit like one of those circus acts where an elephant has a silly hat on it’s head and stands on one leg on a podium, only much much more cruel, in that the elephant is on that podium riding a unicycle with a blindfold on and a noose around it’s neck, pretty soon you know what is going to happen…

They winced and then laughed about it and the conversation moved on.

Not much later the course administrator called me in as “I had mail, real mail…” in a cardboard tube was a little note and a hand drawn and signed cartoon of the poor unfortunate pachyderm with the words “Microsoft user testing” written underneath. The original is still in the cardboard tube in a safe place for documents to be stored long term and I have a good photographic copy hanging in a picture frame on the office wall.

Hopefully if I ever get grand children they will still see the ammusing side of it and keep it rather than sell it.

Leave a comment


Allowed HTML <a href="URL"> • <em> <cite> <i> • <strong> <b> • <sub> <sup> • <ul> <ol> <li> • <blockquote> <pre> Markdown Extra syntax via

Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.