Muni's New Cameras Detect 'Pre-Crime'

New security cameras detect when something is fishy or out of place.

By Chris Roberts
|  Friday, Jun 8, 2012  |  Updated 1:27 PM PDT
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Muni's New Cameras Detect 'Pre-Crime'

Muni is watching you. Sort of.

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Just how smart are Muni's new security cameras? They'll be able to sound an alarm when something is amiss on the tracks -- like a drunken driver driving a car down a subway tunnel.

And this is pure Big Brother -- if not Phillip K. Dick, according to Web sites like Infowars, which described the cameras as "pre-crime surveillance" devices. Erm... not exactly.

The cameras, which will be installed at the entances to tunnels called "portals" by the end of the year, will use "machine learning" to determine what situation on the tracks is "normal," according to the San Francisco Appeal online newspaper. Then, when something is "not normal," such as a truck driving on tracks where trains belong, an alarm is sounded and Muni workers alerted.

At some point, the cameras will also be able to recognize an out-of-ordinary crowd or a suspicious package. There's no plan yet for the cameras to get inside our heads -- and if they did, they're in for a treat: what's "normal" on Muni, anyway?

Muni paid $1.6 million for 400 cameras in February, Muni spokesman Paul Rose said. For the software to run the cameras, the transit agency awarded a $2 million, five-year contract to Houston-based BRS Labs in April, he said.

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