A ring of seven cameras will be set up around Birmingham city centre to record the number of high polluting vehicles on the roads ahead of a clean air zone being set up.
The ANPR (automatic number plate recognition) cameras are to be set up on major commuter routes into the city centre for a 12-month trial period.
Council officials stressed that only registration numbers would be recorded and these would be compared to DVLA records to see how many high-polluting commercial vehicles, such as HGVs, vans and buses, moved in and around the city centre.
It has also been stressed private cars will not face fines in future and the cameras are not a precursor to a full congestion charge.
The council has been ordered by the Government to set up a clean air zone to cut the levels of poisonous nitrogen dioxide in the city.
Not only are the costs of poor air to the health service huge, the Government faces a fine from the European Union if clean air targets are not met.
The camera locations are:
• A456 Broad Street
• A457 Summer Hill Road
• A38(M) Aston Expressway (two cameras)
• B4100 Digbeth
• A38 Bristol Street
• A34 Newtown Row
The information gathered over the next 12 months will be used to shape the development of the full clean air zone, through which lorries and other high-polluting commercial vehilces will be charged to travel.
Labour councillor Lisa Tricket, who is overseeing the project, said: “Successive governments pushed the use of diesel technology as a way of reducing environmentally harmful carbon emissions - but the knock-on effect has been an increase in levels of pollutants that are harmful to human health, such as nitrogen dioxide in towns and cities across the country.
"Road transport emissions are reported to account for around 600 premature deaths each year in Birmingham alone - meaning this is a 21st century public health scandal and there is no escape from the need to look at how we can reduce these emissions."
She said the council had been concerned about air quality for some time and was looking to improve public and private transport alternatives in the city.
"The Government's announcement of clean air zones for a number of towns and cities entirely justifies the efforts we have been making for some time on this front.
"However, I want it to be made absolutely clear we are not talking about issuing fines or charges at this stage - we are simply gathering data that is essential to informing our clean air plans going forward."
The project is being funded through a £50,000 grant from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and £20,000 from Birmingham's transport department budget.