License plate tracker puts new eyes on the road

Sounds like public transportation is the way to go.

New technology will enable law enforcement officials to track the license plates of conceivably every car on the road. The equipment has the uninspired yet functional name of License Plate Reading, or LPR. At its most basic, it’s a camera about the size of a 10-ounce pop can that can be mounted on the dash of a police car and runs on power from the car’s cigarette lighter.

The camera bounces infrared light off the license plates of other cars and trucks, with the result being real-time data streams to a laptop containing most-wanted-list information. According to the manufacturers, the most advanced cameras can read up to 60 license numbers a second, even at highway speeds.

The systems, which cost upwards of US$25,000, have been sold primarily to law enforcement, but insurance companies have bought them too. It’s probably only a matter of time before the price comes down enough for the garden-variety private detective to afford.


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