Monday, October 10, 2005

Missouri: State Spies on Drivers Through Cell Phones

The state of Missouri has begun a program to track individual movements on highways through cell phones:
The Missouri Department of Transportation will spend $3 million annually on a program to monitor the movements of individuals on highways via their cell phones -- without their knowledge or consent.

Delcan NET, a Canadian company, developed the system which triangulates the location of each driver by monitoring the signal sent from the cell phone as it is handed off from one cell tower to the next. Each phone is uniquely identified and the information is compared with a highway map to record on what road each motorist is traveling at any given time. The system also records the speed of each vehicle, opening up another potential ticketing technology.

Missouri rejected the simpler solution used by other states of embedding sensors in the pavement that record how many vehicles pass over a stretch of pavement without uniquely identifying them. Missouri wanted a program that required less equipment.

"The traffic community has been really excited for quite some time about the possibility of being able to use cell phones to track vehicles," Valerie Briggs, program manager for transportation operations at the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials told the Associated Press. "Almost everyone has a cell phone, so you have a lot of potential data points, and you can track data almost anywhere on the whole (road) system."

A pilot program in Baltimore only tracks Cingular cell phones on 1,000 miles of road. AirSage Inc. has contracted with Sprint to spy on motorists in Norfolk, Virginia and Atlanta and Macon, Georgia.

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