If automated speed cameras were not enough, the state of California is now mulling over a new pilot program to introduce “sound-activated enforcement systems” in six (undisclosed) cities that will help the authorities to crack down on loud exhausts, per a report by Autoweek. The California State Legislature approved the new bill that mandates the automated enforcement of the pilot program span from January 2023 to December 2027. As of this writing, the Senate bill is yet to be signed by California Governor Gavin Newsom; however, if it goes through, the experimental camera-enforcement program will start in the six cities on the first day of 2023. California is already infamous for its stringent emissions and modification regulations, but this new development will really make automotive enthusiasts very unhappy, especially those who have been vocal about their disapproval of the whole EV adoption.
But before we talk about the automated system that will issue traffic fines to the violators, let’s take a closer look at the Senate Bill 1079 first. Before you get queasy reading the news, let new tell you that the bill doesn’t alter the current legally-acceptable sound limits for automobiles – 95 decibels for cars and 80 for motorcycles built after 1985. The limits will remain unchanged if the bill is signed by the governor. What will change is the means of enforcement of those limits. Till now, cops largely rely on noise level meters they have to carry with them to check and issue tickets to violators.
According to the bill, the program will rely on a “sound-activated enforcement system” that will spring into action whenever its sensor detects if the noise level has been exceeded and its smart camera will be used “to obtain a clear photograph of a vehicle license plate. Although the specifics have not been mentioned, it looks like the equipment will work more or less like a standard automated speed camera – the only difference is it will sense sound instead of tracking the vehicle’s speed. What we are interested to know is how will the system be capable of pinpointing the offender in a sea of vehicles or in an otherwise noisy environment.
Interestingly, California is not the first to try an automated system to crack down on loud exhausts. Last year, we got to know that Paris is also considering a similar system to bring down the noise pollution in the city. However, New York has already started using automated camera-based systems in its war on loud cars. According to several reports, the pilot program in NYC began issuing notices via mail to offenders a few months back; some of them have already been shared on Facebook. Apparently, the automated system being used in New York is not very complicated and basically relies on a decibel meter that triggers a camera once it detects noise beyond the legal limit and sends a notice using an automated mailing system. The offenders are summoned for an inspection of their vehicle, which means they are given the time to fix the problem to get off without paying a fine. The pilot program in NYC will be re-evaluated on June 30th of 2022.
While it’s necessary to crack down on illegal aftermarket exhausts, we are not sure if an automated system could prove the right tool to fight this menace. We have seen how traffic cameras often prove to be more detrimental than reducing accidents and improving road safety. Putting into account how dumb the system that’s being used in NYC is, we predict it might not be very effective and cops with physical noise level meters still is a better option – although, it will be interesting to see the data. Moreover, we are racing towards a future without combustion-engine cars. In the next five years, there won’t be many noisy automobiles around, so the authorities should cut the enthusiast some slack and let them enjoy the last few years of exiting vehicles before they are banished to the history books.