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Surveillance Cameras Watch over Cab Drivers

Photonics Spectra
Mar 2000
Melissa A. Adams

Houston is becoming a safer place for taxi drivers, thanks to onboard surveillance cameras from Raywood Communications, headquartered in Melbourne, Australia. Mark Ward, business development manager at Raywood's Houston facility, said the infrared devices have helped to decrease criminal acts against drivers by about 65 percent.

Donald McCurdy, executive vice president of Greater Houston Transportation Co., which installed 1000 of the cameras in its vehicles last year, said that driving a cab is still a dangerous business, however, and that drivers must be cautious when they pick up certain passengers in certain areas. The primary function of the camera is prevention. Drivers who are leery about a passenger can inform the rider that surveillance is in use. Stickers on the inside and outside of the cabs' rear windows indicate that a surveillance system is in place, although these warnings largely go unnoticed, McCurdy said.

Spotting trouble

Prior to the cameras' installation, drivers relied on training courses to teach them how to identify potential criminals. Shields in the cabs also served as protection, but they were unpopular with both drivers and passengers because they were intrusive and restricted legroom for passengers seated in the back of the vehicle.

The Raywood SnapShot RDC-2010 digital camera is mounted above the rearview mirror. Infrared light-emitting diodes help the camera work in the dark, and a wide-angle lens captures images of the interior of the vehicle every few seconds.


The images captured by the infrared surveillance cameras are stamped with the date, time and car number to facilitate identification if a crime is committed. Courtesy of Raywood Communications.

Encryption of the images prevents unauthorized access. If a crime has been committed, the pictures can be downloaded at a remote location using a laptop computer and user-specific Windows-based software. The date, time and car number appear in each image to facilitate identification of perpetrators. Global positioning systems provide the option of indicating the location.

The transportation company selected the Raywood camera for its resolution and picture quality. The system is also less obtrusive than other safety measures, transferable between vehicles and virtually maintenance-free, and it features user-friendly software. The cameras are working well, McCurdy said, and studies done on passengers indicate a positive response to the systems.

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