New camera spies carpool cheaters on Interstate 15 - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

New camera spies carpool cheaters on Interstate 15

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SAN DIEGO, Calif. (CBS 8) -- The next time you drive on Interstate 15 your image could be captured and stored by newly-installed carpool lane cameras.

The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) has been testing the cameras in recent weeks to see if they can pick out carpool lane violators by automatically counting the number of passengers inside vehicles.

The roadside cameras take photographs and count the number of passengers inside every car that drives past in one carpool lane on northbound I-15 at Miramar Way.

Xerox makes the system and claimed in paperwork filed with SANDAG that the system can automatically count passengers with 99 percent accuracy.

The system is in the early testing stages, according to SANDAG Director of Operations Ray Traynor.

“As they (Xerox) begin to evaluate the images, then we're going to be looking to see how effective it is at capturing the number of occupants, so I'm anxiously awaiting the results,” said Traynor.

The purpose of the test is to develop a camera system that automatically identifies carpool lane violators and passes that information on to California Highway Patrol officers on the road.

Currently, CHP officers have to physically spot carpool lane violators to issue a citation.

“It's really relying on a good pair of eyes and when you've got thousands of vehicles per day traveling the express lanes, it become really difficult,” said Traynor.

CBS News 8 spoke to several drivers who supported the idea, despite privacy concerns.

“I wouldn't be opposed to it just because I think we're being watched all the time anyway and we just don't know it,” said one unidentified female driver.

Other drivers wondered if the technology would actually work on fast-moving vehicles in the carpool lane.

“I don't know if they'd be able to see because I use it with my son in the car and he sits in the back. I don't think the camera would be able to notice that,” said an unidentified male driver.

SANDAG obtained federal grant money to test a similar camera system in 2010 but the system failed miserably. Test result showed the 2010 system was only able to detect about 20 percent of carpool violators.

The agency says this new system uses different technology. As for privacy concerns, SANDAG says the current test system is not storing license plate numbers and can remove personally identifying information.

“In the event that any of these images are going to be shared with SANDAG, we'd have to request to see them,” said Traynor. “They would be completely redacted of any identifying information and so they would only be able to show us an image that allows us to validate that they're accurate in counting the passengers.”

The Xerox records say its camera system has the ability to identify vehicles through a license plate recognition system.

SANDAG claims it currently has no plans to install a fully-automatic camera enforcement system.

“At least from our perspective, we don't envision that we would ever have a fully automated system. What we envision would be a complimentary system,” said Traynor.

SANDAG estimates up to 15 percent of vehicles in the carpool lanes are driving there illegally.
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