The Golden Gate Bridge now requires a FasTrak vehicle ID device to cross the bridge or you need to go through hoops to avoid a fine. So I got one. Up till now I thought that they were passive RF ID tags, but that's not the case. These are battery powered transponders that contain a micro controller.
These are used not just on the Golden Gate, but on other bridges and toll roads in the Northern California area and other states. They are made by SIRIT.
Electronic toll collection has many names such as: E-ZPass, TollTag, Sunpass, Highway 407 in Canada, etc.
Toll Bridges and Roads
This is the use that gets the publicity. You not only pay the toll, but you also prepay, meaning they get a deposit that's about 10 toll crossings. For me it may take years to get that back.
Diamond Lane use
An experimental program in San Diego where you can pay to use the diamond (High Occupancy Vehicle HOV) lane.
Note: This can only work if the diamond lane is not being fully utilized, otherwise it would just cause congestion.
It may be a precursor to paying for other roads that are now free.
Traffic Monitoring - Vehicle Tracking
Photos taken along CA 101 between Ukiah and Los Altos. There were over 4 dozen of these along the route. In the more rural areas it seems they were on either side
of on/off ramps to other highways. In more populated areas where there were the new elbow swivel type TV cameras the FasTrak monitors were not present.
It may be that the new type cameras are not for traffic but for License Plate Readers (see ACLU web page). This is in addition to the idea of putting a GPS based tracker on a car.
If you can confirm or deny that these roadside devices are Fastrack related please let me know.
Highway roadside Interrogators.
Note: When the Fastrak device goes through the Golden Gate Bridge tool plaza it emits a double beep so you know it's working.
But when driving along the highway it does not beep (I assume that means you are not charged for the traffic monitoring function, but are still being pinged and responding.
For a number of years I've seen poles along CA highway 101 (El Camino Real) that have a small white box at the top and a solar panel lower down the pole and wondered what they were for. The white box is pointed at the lanes, not at some point on the horizon, so it's function is to monitor the roadway, not to send, receive or repeat a signal from a far away location. It's not clear to me that these poles are reading FasTrak ID transponders.
If the poles are on either side of an on or off ramp then it can be determined how many of the people with the ID transponders took the exit or entered from the cross street. Need to pay more attention to how the poles are positioned.
Tracking a Vehicle
It's technically possible that the proper authorities can task the state wide Title 21 system to "be on the lookout" for a specific vehicle ID. It's also possible for anyone who's technically savvy to make a card reader - programmer. That way someone can find out the ID number of your car and or reprogram your ID device to have the same ID as another car. If it's possible to hack into the system that's monitoring traffic or tolls then that person can track when your vehicle passes one of the toll stations or roadside monitoring poles.
License Plate Readers (TV cameras)
License Plate Readers are now (2014) in operation all over the U.S. (and probably the rest of the world) in high traffic areas. They generate a new data record every time they see another license plate and record the date, time, camera location and license plate number (text not an image). That data is stored forever. This allows pretty much anyone who knows how to find out everywhere a given vehicle has been or it's last known location. This can be combined with the location of a person based on smart or cell phone position (either GPS based on cell tower), charge card transactions, facebook photos, twitter posts, etc.
Spying On Cell PhonesReports of the Death of a National License-Plate Tracking Database Have Been Greatly Exaggerated - 2 videos, (1) ad ad (2) a what if
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