On board spy threat

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Bikes could have to carry onboard microchips which transmit the machine and owner’s identity to police, it emerged today.

The chips are contained in number plates and enable police to identify motorcycles on the move even when another vehicle is in the way.

Data such as the frame is transmitted via radio waves to handheld receivers and checked against a database of untaxed and uninsured vehicles.

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) has just launched a six-month study into the feasibility of making the chips compulsory specifically for motorcycles.

DVLA crime reduction officer Allan Lindenburn said the aim was to see whether the chips, called Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chips, could provide a solution to high rates of road tax evasion for motorcycles.

He said Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) currently used by police was limited because systems were usually front facing and bikes have only rear number plates.

He said: “We have looked at the problem of motorcycle Vehicle Excise Duty evasion, which is obviously higher than for any other vehicles, and we’re simply looking to address the problem.”

Critics have pointed out once the chips are fitted to bikes, the Government will find it difficult to resist pressure to fit chip readers to front facing speed cameras, allowing them to catch bikes for the first time.

David Short, campaigns manager for the Motorcycle Action Group, said: “That’s the whole issue. Their [the DVLA’s] argument is that this would take away the sting of requiring motorcycles to have front facing number plates.” 

Number plate spy chips were first revealed in MCN in 2005, when we reported plans for trials using police vehicles the following year.

Those trials found that a vehicle could be identified “from a handheld reader in a police patrol car pursuing the target vehicle with a third vehicle placed in the between them,” according to a subsequent DVLA report.

See our full investigation in tomorrow’s MCN, available form Wednesday, May 2, 2007.


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Steve Farrell

By Steve Farrell