Bust this one mythbusters!
Traffic-light tickets have ticked off a gazillion drivers, some of whom have had to fork over $500 for running a light. Now there’s a way for you to throw a monkey wrench into that money-making machine.
Jonathan Dandrow has developed noPhoto, which renders the pix snapped by those revenue-generating robo-cams useless. The technology behind noPhoto is fairly simple. At the top of the gadget, which doubles as a license plate frame, there’s an optical flash trigger that detects the flash of the traffic-light camera. That trigger sets off one or both xenon flashes in the sides of the noPhoto, so when the traffic-light camera opens its shutter, there’s too much light and the picture of your license plate is overexposed. Big Brother can’t read your plate.
The impetus for the noPhoto is two-fold, Dandrow says. On the one hand he just wanted to see if could make something that worked. He’s not an engineer, but he’s always tinkered with car-related gadgets and he loves cameras. NoPhoto combines both interests.
He also thinks red-light cameras are a serious infringement of a drivers’ rights. As Gary Biller, the president of the National Motorists Association, recently wrote in U.S. News and World Report, traffic-light cameras violate “several key tenets of a citizen’s due process rights,” because there is “no certifiable witness to the alleged violation,” and so therefore, “the defendant loses the right to cross-examine his accuser in court.” Many cities are deactivating their cameras, but there are still plenty of them around.
“I just had a lot of reservations about the cameras,” Dandrow says. “They are trying to circumvent the constitution.”
Nothing about noPhoto is revolutionary. You can find optical flash triggers at a variety at places like Amazon and B&H Photo. What’s unique about the noPhoto trigger, though, is it works at much longer distance — about 150 feet in direct sunlight and farther in the dark.
“Distance was definitely the biggest challenge,” Dandrow says.
The noPhoto also has a clever piece of engineering to thwart those cameras that fire multiple flashes. On those cameras, Dandrow says, the first flash is a metering flash to help set the exposure. If the noPhoto reacts to the metering flash, the camera can correct the over-exposure. To win this tricky game of back-and-forth, noPhoto will incrementally up its power to ensure the pictures are washed out no matter what.
There is also, of course, the problem with false triggers where the device could react to other light sources like the sun or headlights. To compensate, Dandrow says, noPhoto has a filtering circuit that can differentiate between things like natural light and the light from a red-light camera flash.
“With that technology we were able to reduce false alerts by over 90 percent,” he says.
Originally designed two years ago in a garage, noPhoto might soon become a national product. Dandrow says he has a fully functional prototype built with help from Advantage Electronic Product Development Inc.. The company will mass-produce the item, he says, once it’s been tested and certified. At the moment he’s running an Indiegogo campaign to fund that certification process which he says can cost up to $50,000.
To allay people’s fears, Dandrow notes on his Indiegogo site that noPhoto is legal because it doesn’t obscure the license plate, and he’s shot a video to prove the noPhoto can work at the distances he promises.
If all goes smoothly with the certification process, Dandrow says he hopes to have noPhoto on the market by March. He figures it’ll cost around $350, or about the cost of a red-light ticket in many cities.
Images: Jonathan Dandrow