Emissions camera in Edinburgh is not linked to fines or points

31 July 2023
What was claimed

A photo shows a camera in Edinburgh that can detect a vehicle’s emissions, speed, acceleration and number plates. The post also suggests the camera may cause people to receive points and fines.

Our verdict

This is a part of an EDAR (Emissions Detector and Reporter) system. Transport Scotland has confirmed that the device monitors emissions and no enforcement is associated with it.

A Facebook post appears to show a camera that it claims can detect vehicle emissions, speed and acceleration, as well as recognising number plates. It also suggests it can cause people to receive fines and points. But these claims are not entirely true. 

The post, which has almost 5,000 shares, says: “This was seen in Edinburgh yesterday…..seemingly it tests vehicle emissions as they go past with a near 99% efficiency rate and no need to calibrate. It also seemingly detects speed, acceleration, anpr [Automatic Number Plate Recognition] and is rumoured to have mobile phone and seatbelt detection on the way. Coming to a motorway/road near you soon.”

The post goes on to suggest that the camera may cause people to receive points and fines. 

It shares a photo of what looks like a temporary traffic camera on the side of an A-road. A sign attached to the scaffolding holding the camera says “Remote Sensing of Vehicle Exhaust/ EDAR”. 

EDAR stands for Emissions Detection And Reporting and is an “above-road open path instrument” that can “provide a highly sensitive and selective measure of passing vehicle emissions.” The data can be used to see whether vehicles meet emission regulations in the “real-world” and “not just in lab tests”. 

While it is true that the EDAR device in the photograph detects emissions from passing cars, it does not detect the other things mentioned in the post and is not associated with any penalties. 

A spokesperson for Transport Scotland confirmed to Full Fact that the camera belongs to them and said “it’s used to monitor exhaust emissions only, there’s no enforcement associated with it.”

The EDAR system was first installed in Glasgow and Edinburgh in 2017, and the collected emissions data was used to provide assessment of  “various transportation policies that have been proposed or planned to address air quality issues in urban areas.” The same device pictured in the Facebook post is marked as point A/F on this map and can be seen from a different angle in the photo here

A Low Emission Zone (LEZ) was introduced in Edinburgh in May 2022 but will start being enforced from 1 June 2024. This means that both diesel and petrol cars that enter the area, and don’t meet the minimum emissions requirements set across Scotland, will be fined. A similar LEZ came into force in Glasgow on 1 June 2023. 

Automatic Number Plate Recognition [ANPR] technology enforces LEZ areas using a vehicle database held by Transport Scotland—not EDAR cameras.

A spokesperson for Transport Scotland said EDAR cameras “measure individual vehicle emissions—but also produce larger datasets”. By using EDAR systems before and after LEZ enforcement, metrics including air quality and improvements in wider fleet compliances can be monitored. 

Full Fact has seen lots of online misinformation relating to traffic cameras and vehicle emissions, including that traffic cameras in Leeds capture faces and that there was no public consultation held on London’s ULEZ expansion proposals. 

Image courtesy of Mat Fascione

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