The police have some great car tech. It’s time for the rest of us to catch up


I’M SURE I’ll read this in 2027 and be acutely embarrassed but I’ll say it anyway; today’s technology is amazing. I’ve no doubt Champion readers of the future will look back at right now and sneer at our primitive Trump Age inventions, but I’ll happily defend them.

Last Sunday I was at a car show at Brooklands, more than four hours’ drive away in deepest Surrey. Yet by the powers vested in my smartphone I was able to snap an Austin Seven being driven in anger, and a few seconds later you could see it in all its hi-res, technicolour glory on Facebook. A few hours later my pocket-sized miracle worker was able to harness the might of 31 satellites in space to seamlessly guide me around the M25’s traffic jams. Oh, and you can ring people on it on as well.

Yet in this seemingly enlightened age you can still be asked to produce good old-fashioned bits of paper if you’re pulled over by the police and need to prove you have insurance or an MoT. Yet – and you probably won’t be the slightest bit surprised to learn this – record numbers of drivers simply don’t carry them around with them. 

The police have their own system to check on this – it’s called Automatic Number Plate Recognition, or ANPR for short. I’ve seen it in action and it’s brilliant. Even when they’re driving past another car at 50mph it can read your plate and in an instant deduce whether you’re a wrong ‘un or not, and whether you’re likely to appear in an upcoming episode of Traffic Cops.

But I reckon it’s time we, the ordinary motorists, caught up. We’ve already worked out how to do away with paper tax discs and paper driving licences, but surely it’s time to look at how we can do away with the other bits of paper that inevitably end up clogging up a box file in your study too? If we can manage paperless bank statements and paperless gas bills then doing the same – and securely – for registration documents, insurance documents and MoT certificates can’t be that tricky.

Surely giving your friendly constable chum a single card to swipe through on their system – or even a smartphone with a bit of electronically-generated code – would save plenty of trees and avoid the need to pop to a police station with said documents within seven days. Certainly it’d avoid the situation of record numbers of drivers not having their details to hand, for sure.

I can only hope in some sort of Skunk Works in deepest Swansea that the DVLA’s brightest minds are already working on just such a thing. Then they – like my future self of 2027 – can look back on this primitive age of paper-dependent motoring and wonder what all the fuss was about.