Automatic Number Plate Recognition FAQs

automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) Cars

There are plenty of questions and rumours around this topic and it can be difficult to find the answer you’re looking for. So, here at Reg Plates searched the internet for some of your most popular questions regarding automatic number plate recognition (ANPR). In this blog, we’ll answer each of these questions and help develop your understanding of ANPR systems in the UK.

What is an ANPR camera?

Automatic number plate recognition cameras do exactly that, they use a camera to read a license plate and don’t require any human interaction (unlike certain speed cameras that require an operator to take the photo.) 

Generally, when used by the police, this extracted reg plate is sent off to a database which checks the license for any red flags or violations. We’ll cover exactly what some of these are below.

How does ANPR work?

Simply put, the auto number plate recognition system works by using a high-speed camera that takes a photo of a number plate before using some form of optical character recognition software to extract the vehicle registration mark from the image. 

Most ANPR cameras will take advantage of infrared capabilities, as this allows for the system to continue working even in pitch black conditions, as well as in direct sunlight. 

Do all police cars have ANPR?

Not all police cars are equipped with an ANPR system. The exact number of police vehicles fitted with automatic number plate recognition capability is difficult to find as they avoid publishing specific information. 

Similarly, we don’t know exactly how many static ANPR systems there are and where they are located. This is likely because it would make it too easy for those breaking the rules to avoid them. The latest figures for this is 9000, but we expect this to be a much higher number now. 

What do ANPR cameras look like?

In the UK, most police ANPR cameras will either by situated on a tripod on a bridge overlooking a motorway or permanently situated looking over a motorway with a bright green plastic casing.

However, because ANPR works through software, you can essentially use any camera for this operation. This means they can be difficult to spot as there’s not necessarily a standardised way to identify them.

What do ANPR cameras check for?

ANPR cameras check your vehicle against a database for a wide variety of criteria. They likely check for much more, but these are the key data points they look for;

  • Has the vehicle passed an MOT recently?
  • Is the vehicles insured
  • Has the vehicle paid road tax
  • Is the driver wanted for criminal activities
  • Is the vehicle registration legitimate i.e. not cloned

Automatic number plate recognition car parks

A relatively new development is the introduction of automatic number plate recognition in modern car parks. This is when your vehicle registration will be stored upon entrance, allowing the car park to time how long you’ve been there for. Upon leaving the car park, the system will then stop the timer. This is a much more reliable method of accurately tracking how long each vehicle has been in the car park.

You can generally tell if a car park is fitted with one of these systems because there will either be a barrier at the entrance, which automatically lifts after taking a photo of your registration, or cameras dotted throughout the car park.