Future Tense

New Traffic-Enforcement Tech Peers Into Your Car and Counts Passengers

Can we get a head count over here?

The go-to surveillance tech list includes things like automatic license plate readers and Stingrays (aka IMSI catchers). Now the Electronic Frontier Foundation is reporting that there’s another device to add. The Automated Vehicle Occupancy Detection systems uses two video cameras and some analytics algorithms to surveil cars in carpool lanes and ticket them if they don’t have enough passengers.

These sensor arrays were developed by Xerox and are currently part of a San Diego Association of Governments carpool lane enforcement pilot program on I-15. CBS 8 evaluated SANDAG documents that explain the system, including its 99-percent-accurate passenger counts. If the cameras detect a car that is wrongly driving in a carpool lane, they photograph the vehicle’s interior and license plate and send the data to California Highway Patrol.

CBS 8 reports that the pilot system isn’t storing license plate numbers or identifying information about individuals. In November, Xerox said in a statement that Automated Vehicle Occupancy Detection is part of its “advanced solutions” for “revolutionizing the movement of people and goods worldwide.”

EFF says you’re going to have to “add Automated Vehicle Occupancy/Passenger Detection to your vocabulary.” It’s being used to enforce carpool lanes now, but since it can see and count passengers and then tie them to particular cars at certain times, you can see how it could be used for other things.