FasTrak Vehicle ID Transponder

© Brooke Clarke 2013 - 2023

FasTrak Vehicle
                  ID Transponder
FasTrak Vehicle
                  ID Transponder
Flock Safety License
                  Plate Reader

    License Plate Readers (TV cameras)


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.

FasTrak Vehicle ID Transponder Highway roadside
FasTrak Vehicle ID Transponder Highway roadside

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 Recognition/Recorder/Readers (camera) LPR

Also see Cars\Vehicle Tracking.

I first saw one of these systems working at HP Santa Rosa.  They have TV cameras aimed at the ring road and a rectangular box fits to the license plate so it can be read.  I don't know if it did Optical Character Recognition to get Automatic number-plate recognition, but expect that's the case. (Wiki: OCR, ANPR).


This is a different technology than the CCTV (Wiki) that shows up in many movies.  CCTV is just a video image that usually needs a human to find anything.  I expect there are analytical enhancements to many of these systems (Wiki: Computer-controlled analytics & ID).  My guess is that the LPNR systems are better at this because they do not have a need to retain a video and so are more specialized.

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.

License Plate Cameras - these can capture a frame containing the license plate, but do not have digital data outputs
ANPR - Automatic Number Plate Recognition - these give you a date-time stamp with the digital data that's the plate number.
NVR - Network Video Recorder
POE - Power Over Internet

TED Talk: Catherine Crump: The small and surprisingly dangerous detail the police track about you?
ACLU: You are being tracked: How license plate readers are being used to record Americans' movements
WaPo 2018 May 15: The surprising return of the repo man - developing a data base of license plates date & time stamped with GPS coordinates which go into a data base. - Digital Recognition Network (DRN), Vigilant Solutions,
Hikvision - DS-2CD4A26FWD-IZHS/P - data sheet - large eBay presence - YouTube: Hikvision DS-2CD4A26FWD-IZHS8/P ANPR setup and review
The Intercept: License Plate Surveillance, Courtesy of Your Homeowner's  Association - "capturing not only license plate numbers, but also the state, vehicle type, make, color, missing and covered plates, bumper stickers, decals, and roof racks. The data is stored on Amazon Web Services servers and is deleted after 30 days, the company says.
Vice: Inside ‘TALON,’ the Nationwide Network of AI-Enabled Surveillance Cameras - "Flock's cameras come in two models: the Sparrow for collecting footage that can be reviewed later and potentially used as evidence, and the Falcon, which can also send automatic alerts to police if the camera detects a vehicle on a hotlist." "...But police can download the data and keep hold of it if it is used as evidence in a criminal case"
Flock Safety

Aug 2022 I'm adding the Flock Crime Solver (License Plate & car type-color) Recorder because in the past month a couple of them have shown up on streets where I drive.  From what I learned making this paragraph the Flock units do more than classic LPRs.  They also do some neural network (Wiki) processing to extract key features.

This LPR is positioned looking down a road that's the only way into or out of my neighborhood.  Note the yellow "No Outlet" sign.  If a crime were to take place in this neighborhood the vehicle used would be captured coming in and going out along with date time stamping.  I'm guessing there's a still photo (maybe video clip) that can be pulled up from the central station.  The key feature is that instead of looking at hours of video the detective can search a database in a couple of seconds to find vehicles that don't belong.  Residents have there vehicles recorded many times.

2022 October 16 - The Black Boxes chained to telephone poles are located 0.4 miles in front of and 0.5 miles behind this Flock camera and I'm guessing are there to capture cell phone IMEI data so that can be associated with the Flock camera data.  That would tie together cell phone data and vehicle ID data.  This is just a guess at this point.

Fig 1 Camera is in shade on
North side of solar panel.
Flock Safety License
                  Plate Reader
Fig 2 Label references AT&T, so cell phone connected
Flock Safety License
                  Plate Reader
Fig 3 Well positioned.
Flock Safety License
                  Plate Reader
Fig 4 IR LEDs surrounding camera.
Flock Safety License
                  Plate Reader

This is a surveillance camera (Wiki: Orwell's Big Brother) that captures license plate numbers and other vehicle metrics like color, make, model & number of occupants and maybe others.  The system learns which cars normally are here so can easily spot low frequency vehicles.  It is not a speed trap camera. 

The key components are: Camera Housing containing a PIR movement sensor (Wiki), IR LEDs for night capture, a wide filed scene camera and a narrow field license plate camera, Solar Panel with an associated power supply and battery, Communication module with Real Time Clock that links to the base station processor by cell phone.

Ukiah Daily Journal: Ukiah police arrest two teens suspected of arson - "With the use of the city of Ukiah’s “FLOCK license plate recognition cameras,” the UPD reports that it was able to obtain photos of the suspect vehicle and its license plate, then ultimately identify the people inside." "On Aug. 25, the UPD was notified by the city’s FLOCK camera system that the suspect vehicle was being driven in the city."

Note in the above newspaper article they mention that the Flock cameras have a Be On the Look Out (BOLO) capability and will notify the requesting authority when any of their cameras sees the wanted vehicle.  This also implies that the factory aggregates all their cameras in a single data base.  That way if the BOLO vehicle shows up in a nearby city the system will still notify the requesting authority.
Pointing Configuration
Perkins St and 101 looking East
2022 Nov 15 - new location
Flock camera Perkins St and 101 looking East,
                  Ukiah, CA

Note in Fig 4 above the solar panel is pointing South (as in all Flock camera installations in the Northern Hemisphere) and in this case the camera is pointing in the opposite direction, North.  This is an ideal configuration.  I tried to use a game camera (Wiki), a functional equivalent to the Flock camera, where the camera was pointing South.  That caused a problem since at some times the camera would be looking into the Sun.  This configuration issue may be why the Flock camera near Perkins St and 101 was removed a week or so ago (end of 2022 Oct) and reappeared today 2022 Nov 6.  The camera is pointed to the East and may have been looking directly at the rising Sun.  Near Winter Solstice (Wiki) the Sun is low in the sky.  This may be a general problem for Flock camera installation and so they need to take the Sun's position into account.

PS After researching game cameras I found one with excellent reviews that had a solar panel option.  BUT . . . the only way the solar panel could be installed was to directly connect it to the camera.  This was a deal breaker.  I need to mount the camera on the Northern side of a tree and have the solar panel on the Southern side of the tree.  A configuration they did NOT support.
10795933 System and method for object based query of video content captured by a dynamic surveillance network, Garrett Langley, Matt Feury, Flock Group,2020-10-06, - Classes: vehicle, person, bike, animal...., Aspects: make/model, color, license plate, clothing type, height/weight...,
11030892 Method and system for capturing and storing significant surveillance images, Garrett Langley, Matt Feury, Flock Group, 2021-06-08, -


Spying On Cell Phones
Orion Electronics Ltd. Cellular Base Station ST616-CBS - fake cell tower
Reports of the Death of a National License-Plate Tracking Database Have Been Greatly Exaggerated - 2 videos, (1) ad and (2) a what if


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