Automatic number plate recognition is a mass surveillance method that uses optical character recognition on images to read the licence plates on vehicles. As of 2006, systems can scan number plates at around one per second on cars travelling up to 100 mph (160 km/h). They can use existing closed-circuit television or road-rule enforcement cameras, or ones specifically designed for the task. They are used by various police forces and as a method of electronic toll collection on pay-per-use roads, and monitoring traffic activity such as red light adherence in an intersection.
The ANPR was invented in 1976 at the Police Scientific Development Branch in the UK. Prototype systems were working by 1979 and contracts were let to produce industrial systems, first at EMI Electronics then at Computer Recognition Systems (CRS) in Wokingham, UK. Early trial systems were deployed on the A1 road and at the Dartford Tunnel. The first arrest due to a detected stolen car was made in 1981.