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Rego plate errors take their toll

Date

Tony Moore

Zoom in on this story. Explore all there is to know.

Sue Brennan.

Sue Brennan.

More than 900 drivers have been wrongly issued with fees this year because vehicle registration plates were misread on southeast Queensland toll roads.

At this rate, by Christmas more than 1300 drivers would have received an incorrect toll notice to say their vehicle had been spotted in the Clem7 tunnel, on the Go Between Bridge or on the Gateway and Logan motorways.

Lord Mayor Graham Quirk yesterday waived the fine of Cairns woman Sue Brennan who left her car at Cairns airport but was wrongly fined for "driving" over Brisbane's Go Between Bridge.

The Go Between Bridge.

The Go Between Bridge. Photo: Glenn Hunt

However, the technology used by all tollways was more than 99.99 per cent accurate, all operators said.

On the Go Between Bridge there had been 213 misreads since January 1, representing a 99.992 per cent accuracy rate on the 2.4 million trips over the Go Between Bridge, the council said.

On the Clem7 tunnel there have been about 275 misreads after motorists made five million trips since January 1, according to RiverCity Motorway.

Clem7 operator RiverCity Motorway said it had "five to six misreads" for every 100,000 vehicles.

RiverCity Motorway chief executive Mark Snape said the technology was 99.995 per cent accurate.

“RiverCity Motorway uses a combination of advanced optical recognition technology using cameras at tolling points," Mr Snape said.

"We use a manual image review by a member of our team to process tolls for vehicles that travel through the Clem7 where a valid tag is not detected.

"The combined error rate across both automated and manual image review is five to six per 100,000 vehicles, which represents a 99.995 per cent accuracy rate on all vehicles that use the Clem7 where a valid tag is not detected."

On the Queensland Motorways network of Gateway and Logan motorways there are 200,000 vehicles each day.

Queensland Motorways chief executive Brendan Bourke said he could not estimate an exact figure, but said the company's number plate recognition standards were similar to Clem7 and the Go Between Bridge of around 5.5 "misreads" per 100,000 vehicles.

Based on an estimate of the 40,000 vehicles each day who are "manually checked" each day by an operator there would be about 450 misreads in the first seven months of this year.

Cr Quirk yesterday waived the fine of Ms Brennan, now living in Townsville, who was wrongly issued with a toll for driving her car over Brisbane's Go Between Bridge.

Go Between Bridge toll operators manually review about 500 images an hour, after the automatic system locks in on the front and back registration plates.

Cr Quirk said "human error" happened when the number plate information was manually written down for the bill when the error occurred.

"It doesn't happen very frequently, at all," Cr Quirk said.

"There are certainly cases where it does happen and it is simply human error."

"It is a case of transferring the photographic evidence to the paper where a bill is sent out to people.

"Human error occurs. We all make mistakes from time to time."

Last night, Ms Brennan said she was shocked by the figures detailing how many number plates had been misread since January 1.

"Wow. If you have got that information after one day after the article, it makes me wonder what sort of figures you will have after a week's time, or maybe a month's time," she said.

Ms Brennan said there needed to be a new look at how the manual checking stage worked.

Last year, the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority revealed some 14,000 fines were incorrectly issued. At the time, operator mistakes were also blamed.

How they read the number plate on the Go Between Bridge

  • When a vehicle crosses the tolling point, images of both the front and rear number plates are taken.
  • Optical Character Recognition is then performed on those images and a “confidence level” is assigned by the system which rates the certainty that each character is correct.
  • If there is a match between the front and rear licence plate numbers, and the confidence level exceeds a certain limit, then the number is locked in.
  • Otherwise the image is placed into a queue for manual review by an operator who will confirm the LPN.
  • Skilled operators can review up to 500 images an hour, and as with any manual process, human error can occur.

25 comments

  • Taking money that doesn't belong to them. Definition of criminal.

    Commenter
    mojo
    Location
    Brisbane
    Date and time
    August 30, 2012, 6:25AM
    • and returning it. Don't flagrantly apply definitions to everything. The sysyem is automated, with appeal processes for mistakes. Maybe understand the system better, as well as global systems before commenting.

      Commenter
      Pragmatic Person
      Location
      Brisbane
      Date and time
      August 30, 2012, 7:54AM
    • They have not taken the money, they are requesting the money. However, even though there is nothing illegal about that what about the time and resources the 'recipient' uses to get the problem sorted out? Maybe they should do a invoice for the City Council and add on a $10 'Admin Fee'.

      Commenter
      Opinion of mt Own
      Location
      Brisbane
      Date and time
      August 30, 2012, 8:22AM
    • Trust me. They take the money if you don't deal with THEIR mistake. 30 dollars/ 90 dollars/ sper. Why should I?

      Commenter
      mojo
      Location
      Brisbane
      Date and time
      August 30, 2012, 10:17AM
  • Not good enough City Council!!!!!!!

    Commenter
    Rosie H.
    Location
    Warwick
    Date and time
    August 30, 2012, 6:41AM
    • 99.992% accuracy. So of the two million or so vehicles, only in the 200s of misreads. I think that is great performance given its automated. What alternative would you suggest? If you don't want to be constructive, don't say anything at all.

      Commenter
      Pragmatic Person
      Location
      Brisbane
      Date and time
      August 30, 2012, 7:49AM
    • 99,999999999999999% accuracy is a load of B/S.

      Most vechicles use Transponders !

      Take them out of the 2.4 million trips and we get an Error reading of exacly What , Lord Mayor ?

      Shall we say 2 % .... unless you provide a figure based SOLELY on Snapshot " readings "... not ALL trips .

      Spin !

      Commenter
      Latte Lover
      Location
      BrisVagas
      Date and time
      August 30, 2012, 4:24PM
    • @pragmatic person....work for the council do we??????

      Commenter
      sniffer dog
      Date and time
      August 30, 2012, 7:12PM
  • I got a letter from them yesterday for this same bridge, but my car has an etoll and has successfully taken money from my etoll for the same car a few times since. now i have to pay a fee cause their gear doesnt work?????

    no good!

    Commenter
    Phil M
    Location
    Brisbane
    Date and time
    August 30, 2012, 7:43AM
    • What a pity all the toll operators were sacked , sorry, all this fool proof toll collecting stuff does not work - the evidence in in the above story

      Commenter
      Bob Menzies
      Location
      Cannon Hill
      Date and time
      August 30, 2012, 8:33AM

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