New Generation Number Plates: How Technology Is Used To Track High-speed Cars 

New Generation Number Plates
A design demonstrating how New Generation Number Plates can technologically be tracked by Police Officers.

Kenyan drivers are seldom replacing their old number plates with new ones, which have an interesting aesthetic look and feel. 

What many drivers do not know is the fact that new-generation number plates were designed with adequate security features that can in a matter of seconds help police officers to deal with any eventuality. 

While announcing the benefits of the new generation number plates, the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) explained that the new vehicle identifications were going to provide solutions to current transport challenges.

"Motorists in the country are charged Ksh3,050 to acquire the new plates, which are immediately used to replace the old ones," NTSA noted. 

Personalised Number Plate
A photo collage of Personalised Number Plates publicly used by popular Kenyans.

In the developed countries, new generation number plates are used to track and retrieve vital information about the car, owners and corresponding details. 

Police officers are able to execute such a scanning exercise even when the car is at high speed or well-parked at home or the office. 

Some of the features on the new generation number plates seem simple but are well integrated with a technical application that allows for automatic number-plate recognition (ANPR).

"ANPR is a technology that uses optical character recognition on images to read vehicle registration plates to create vehicle location data," Waterloo Regional Police explained. 

Police officers on patrol are able to use onboard technologies road-rule enforcement cameras, closed-circuit television and cameras specifically designed for the task to track high-speed vehicles.

"ANPR is used by police forces around the world for law enforcement purposes, including checking if a vehicle is registered or licensed. 

"It is also used for electronic toll collection on pay-per-use roads and as a method of cataloging the movements of traffic, for example by highways agencies," Waterloo Regional Police explained. 

The recognition technology has the ability to store the images captured by the cameras as well as the text from the license plate.

The contents captured are also configurable to store a photograph of the driver and transmit it to a digital system that will automatically send back information to the officer on patrol. 

"The new generation number plates would also be synchronised with the revenue authority systems to nab tax cheats and defaulters," NTSA stated. 

Automatic number-plate recognition device uses infrared lighting to allow the camera to take the picture at any time of day or night. 

"Privacy issues have caused concerns about ANPR, such as government tracking citizens' movements, misidentification, high error rates, and increased government spending. Critics have described it as a form of mass surveillance.

"The software aspect of the system runs on standard home computer hardware and can be linked to other applications or databases," Waterloo Regional Police warned. 

Advanced Automatic number plate recognition has the ability to consider and apply various techniques to detect, normalise and enhance the image of the number plate. 

GK Number Plates
A photo collage of GKA and GKB number plates photographed on October 20, 2022. The registration numbers are used by the Kenyan National Government.

The technology also uses optical character recognition (OCR) to extract the alphanumerics of the license plate. 

"ANPR systems are generally deployed in one of two basic approaches: one allows for the entire process to be performed at the lane location in real-time, and the other transmits all the images from many lanes to a remote computer location and performs the OCR process there at some later point in time," Waterloo Regional Police explained. 

The recorded images are well decribed in terms of the corresponding lane site, the information captured of the plate alphanumeric, date-time and lane identification.

The device is able to record the information required within approximately 250 milliseconds, after which, the details captured can then be transmitted to a remote computer for further processing if necessary.

"In the other arrangement, there are typically large numbers of PCs used in a server farm to handle high workloads, such as those found in the London congestion charge project. 

"Often in such systems, there is a requirement to forward images to the remote server, and this can require larger bandwidth transmission media," Waterloo Regional Police explained.

According to NTSA, the process of acquiring new generation number plates would only take seven days, while the transfer of logbook ownership is slated to take three days.

The application process for new generation number plates for boda boda riders released on Friday, January 27, 2023
The application process for new generation number plates for boda boda riders released on Friday, January 27, 2023