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ANPR Software, Product

ALPR for Vehicles Without License Plates

At Plate Recognizer, we’re always asking ourselves how we can make our automatic license plate recognition (ALPR) software even better.  It already works in nearly all environments, decodes plates from images or live cameras, handles plates that are blurry, dark, angled or otherwise difficult and much more. 

Recently we’ve added an update that clients are already reporting is a game changer: the ability to detect vehicles without license plates. 

Parked Vehicle without License Plate

Vehicles parked without visible license plates.  Source: Pexels.

Support for Vehicles Without License Plates

Users turn to Stream, our extremely accurate ALPR software for live camera or video feeds when they need to know the plate, vehicle type, make and model of drivers using their roadway or property with a high level of confidence.  Now they can also get ALPR for vehicles without license plates (and the update is coming soon for Snapshot, our still image decoding software.)

ANPR for vehicles without license plate

Car without a real license plate.  Source: Unsplash.

Who Needs ALPR for Vehicles Without License Plates?

Our clients use Stream to keep their properties and roadways safer, to protect their businesses and to gather traffic data to plan for the future.  Here are a few examples:

  • Law Enforcement – Police departments use ALPR as a force multiplier, where cameras act as additional sets of eyes to catch criminals, monitor traffic, promote public and officer safety and reduce auto theft.
  • Retail Establishments and RestaurantsPlate Recognizer’s ALPR streamlines curbside pickup and drive thru processes because it allows retailers and restaurants to receive notifications when a consumer arrives.  The consumer has a good experience and goes home happy with their curbside product delivery or hot food.
  • Paid Parking Lots – No one gets away with parking for free when there’s around the clock video monitoring, and you don’t have to employ a lot attendant to enforce parking lot policy.
  • Gated Communities – Stop non-residents from sneaking in behind authorized drivers who go through the gate and receive alerts when a denied vehicle is present.
  • Car Wash – ALPR keeps subscribers from sharing their key card or wash code with other family members, friends and neighbors.  It’s a great alternative to RFID for car washes.

The problem is, ALPR is mostly used to decode license plate data.  If many types of ALPR cameras or software can’t find the plate, or can’t make sense of it, no usable data results.  That means criminals might get away, consumers might get neglected, cars without plates park for free and suspicious individuals can cruise through your gated community.  That’s no good for our clients, so we developed a solution that includes ALPR for vehicles without license plates.

Bike rack blocks vehicle so in essence, this vehicle has no visible license plate.  Source: Unsplash.

Why ALPR Might Not Capture License Plate Data

For most people, the situation that immediately comes to mind is when criminals remove plates on purpose.  Greeley Colorado Police Chief Mark Jones recently told govtech.com his area was seeing a spike in stolen plates. “Stolen plates are a much bigger deal than just a stolen plate because people often steal license plates to decoy their movements when committing other crimes…that’s probably a car we should be paying attention to because they’re probably up to something.”  If a car has a missing plate, it might be because someone is trying to drive undetected, or because a criminal stole the driver’s plate and they don’t know it yet.

But criminal activity isn’t the only reason ALPR might be unable to capture license plate data.  Cameras might fail to yield data for a number of other reasons.

REASON #1: POOR CAMERA POSITIONING

In some situations, the camera is not positioned correctly to capture a vehicle’s license plates.  Setting up cameras for LPR can be tricky, which is why many customers turn to our Tips on Camera Setup for Best ALPR. But even if a camera isn’t positioned optimally for plate capture, our ALPR for vehicles without license plates keeps you from missing the vehicle too.

REASON #2: REAR PLATES ONLY

Currently, 19 states only require vehicles to have rear license plates.  If your business is in one of those states or the driver is a resident of one, and they’re approaching the camera, there’s no visible plate to capture.  If some of the drivers on your roadway or property are traveling for business or tourism, their state might not require them to have front license plates.

Or, if you rely on ALPR to monitor your paid parking lot and they back into a space their plate is hidden from view.  Our Vehicles Without License Plates solution will still tell you vehicle type, make, mode, direction of travel and color.

REASON #3: PLATES ARE OBSCURED

Plate Recognizer’s software delivers accurate data even when plates are dirty, the light is dim or the plates have unusual characters or icons.  But not all ALPR cameras and software are as accurate.  A U.S. Government ALPR report found some systems struggle decoding license plates with reddish tones or raised numbers, and that some systems aren’t configured to read plates from other states.

Sometimes when plates are dirty or bent, ALPR systems incorrectly identify characters, or they may not recognize a license plate is there at all.  Or drivers might install physical obstructions like bike racks, wheelchair lifts or trailer hitches.  Sometimes vehicles get so covered in mud or snow, it’s impossible to tell whether the plate is there or not.

Not everyone thinks license plate readers are a good thing, so some people might try to obscure license plate data on purpose.  They might install license plate covers or use LED infrared light to try and hide plates from cameras.  Some people sand or scrape at characters so it’s hard to read plates from a distance.  There’s even a spray that promises to confuse red light cameras and speed cameras for those wanting to dodge speeding tickets and toll road fees. 

Messing with plates to avoid detection can result in a citation, but that’s only if the person is caught.  Meanwhile, you need a solution that gives you information on every vehicle, every time.

Dirty cars tend to have plates that are hard to read. Source: Pixabay.

Benefits of Our ALPR for Vehicles Without License Plates

When you rely on your cameras to do their job and they fail, it causes problems.  For business owners, that might mean lost revenue.  If you manage a gated community, that community might be less safe.  If you’re a law enforcement agency, it gets harder to do your job and criminals might get away.

With Plate Recognizer’s Stream, that doesn’t have to happen.  Our software will still give you useful data that’s important in situations like these:

  • Parking Availability – If you’re using your system to monitor lot occupancy, ALPR for vehicles without license plates allows you to still count the car as having entered the parking lot.
  • Drive Thru or Curbside Monitoring – When you’re analyzing consumer behavior and traffic patterns to learn more about wait times, peak traffic hours or other data and your software only registers easy to read plates, your data isn’t accurate.  Our software still delivers data even when plates are hidden, obstructed or missing.
  • Stolen Vehicle Identification – The International Association of Chiefs of Police says law enforcement agencies rely on ALPR systems to “enhance their enforcement and investigative capabilities, expand their collection of relevant data and compare vehicle license plates with lists of stolen, wanted and other vehicles of interest.” The problem occurs when car thieves simply remove the plate and drive away. Our ALPR for vehicles without license plates can help catch them anyway.
  • Property Monitoring – Let’s say you own an apartment complex where there’s a lot of traffic from residents and guests. If there’s a crime committed, residents are letting their friends stay for free or non-residents frequently use your dumpsters, you identify problem vehicles and address the issue whether they have a visible license plate or not.
  • Campus Security – Sometimes students change vehicles and it’s a while before they bother installing plates. Or they might obscure plates accidentally or on purpose. Either way, our ALPR for vehicles without license plates delivers traffic and parking data. 
ANPR vehicles without number plate

Vehicle theft is real.  And plates get removed too.  Source: Pixabay.

Why Choose Plate Recognizer Over LPR Cameras?

Business owners, property managers and law enforcement agencies have a lot of choices when it comes to how they gather and organize license plate data.  Generally, people are most familiar with the cameras you see at intersections or in parking lots, cameras with built-in software to help them know when a vehicle is in the frame.  So what are the benefits of choosing Stream to process your video feed over buying LPR cameras? 

Plate Recognizer’s Snapshot and Stream work with any IP camera, such as this bullet camera with 240 feet of night-vision, so they’re cost-effective. Our built-from-scratch ALPR is more accurate than many of the other solutions currently available.  We also provide an extensive list of ways you can customize both Stream and Snapshot.  Choose to receive results via JSON Response, CSV File, Webhooks or using our ParkPow dashboard.

Our neural networks aren’t fooled by bumper stickers, vehicle signage or other distractors.  Our software works on tough USA license plates and plates from more than 90 countries across the globe.

And one of the most compelling reasons is, while we’re ahead of the pack when it comes to providing fast, accurate, developer-friendly ALPR, we never stop improving.  Just recently we’ve added upgrades like these:

  • Added ALPR for vehicles without license plates.
  • Improved LPR and region accuracy for multiple USA States, Canada, Sweden, Norway, Belgium, Finland, HK and Russia.
  • Deployed region identification for Canada and launched UAE.
  • Increased accuracy for blurry images, vehicle orientation and color identification.
  • Added Direction of Travel for Stream so you can tell which way vehicles are headed.
  • Deployed Strict Mode, which only accepts exact matches for a specific region.
  • Implemented Health Score to make it easier for clients to deploy Stream.

If you buy an LPR camera, not only do you have a much higher initial investment, but you’ve bought a product that’s as good as it’s going to get.  That’s not the case with Plate Recognizer, our products continue to evolve, update and receive support.  We’re committed to a process of continual improvement, and offering fast, friendly customer service along the way.

The best way to decide if our software is for you, or if ALPR for vehicles without license plates can benefit you is to give it a try.  Click here to get a Free Trial ALPR software that works on any IP camera!

Plate Recognizer works with any IP camera, even the inexpensive ones! Source: Unsplash.

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About Plate Recognizer

Plate Recognizer provides accurate, fast, developer-friendly Automatic License Plate Recognition (ALPR) software that works in all environments, optimized for your location. Sign up for a Free Trial!