New Tech to Watch: Automatic Vehicle Occupancy Detection

by News on April 27, 2015, no comments

By Dave Maass

Journalists and transparency activists across the country have done a phenomenal job of shining light on how local law enforcement agencies use emerging technologies to surveil everyday people on a massive scale. It’s often like playing Whac-A-Mole and Go Fish at the same time. One day, the question may be whether police are using drones. The next, automatic license plate readers. After that, facial recognition or IMSI catchers (i.e. Stingrays) or Rapid DNA analyzers.

So many technical terms, so many acronyms. Unfortunately, we need to put yet another one your radar: Automated Vehicle Occupancy Detection, also known as Automatic Vehicle Passenger Detection or Automated Vehicle Occupancy Verification.

For years, government agencies have chased technologies that would make it easier to ensure that vehicles in carpool lanes are actually carrying multiple passengers. Perhaps the only reason these systems haven’t garnered much attention is that they haven’t been particularly effective or accurate, as UC Berkeley researchers noted in a 2011 report.

Now, an agency in San Diego, Calif. believes it may have found the answer: the Automated Vehicle Passenger Detection system developed by Xerox.

The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), a government umbrella group that develops transportation and public safety initiatives across the San Diego County region, estimates that 15% of drivers in High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes aren’t supposed to be there. After coming up short with earlier experimental projects, the agency is now testing a brand new technology to crack down on carpool-lane scofflaws on the I-15 freeway.

Documents obtained by CBS 8 reporter David Gotfredson show that Xerox’s system uses two cameras to capture the front and side views of a car’s interior. Then “video analytics” and “geometric algorithms” are used to detect whether the seats are occupied.

When the detection system’s computer determines a driver is improperly traveling in the carpool lane, the cameras instantly send photos of the car’s interior and its license plate to the California Highway Patrol.

In short: the technology is looking at your image, the image of the people you’re with, your location, and your license plate. (SANDAG told CBS the systems will not be storing license plate data during the trial phase and the system will, at least for now, automatically redact images of drivers and passengers. Xerox’s software, however, allows police the option of using a weaker form of redaction that can be reversed on request.)

Xerox’s Automated Vehicle Passenger Detection systems can be mounted in permanent locations, such as freeway gantries, or attached to mobile trailers that “can be moved around, in order to keep potential violators honest.“

Xerox claims that the systems have a 95-99% accuracy rate, even with vehicles traveling as quickly as 100 mph. That represents a significant leap in capabilities compared to the 14-20% accuracy recorded by similar technology tested by SANDAG four years earlier.

So far, Xerox’s technology has only had one other trial run: a 2013 test on the Mackay Bridge in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where the detection system captured 250,000 images of drivers in just under two weeks. Xerox claims the technology successfully determined front seat passengers 98.9% of the time and rear seat passengers 96.2% of the time.

That success rate may seem impressive, but it still means that, in aggregate, thousands of people could have been affected by machine error. Automated Vehicle Passenger Detection systems also raises the usual questions and concerns about privacy and mass surveillance, particularly without rules yet in place defining the limits of how this technology collects data and how that data will be stored, accessed, and destroyed.

If this trial is successful, it may only be a matter of time before Xerox begins marketing this new technology to other jurisdictions. As Xerox told its investors in November, its Automated Vehicle Passenger Detection system is “aimed at revolutionizing the movement of people and goods worldwide.”

Whether you’re a local journalist or citizen watchdog, add Automated Vehicle Occupancy/Passenger Detection to your vocabulary. In the coming months and years, look for it in procurement documents and committee agendas. Ask for related documents in your routine public records requests. As with all street-level surveillance technology, citizens have more power to influence policy when they discover the tech in its infancy, rather than fighting to dial back its use after it has been integrated into everyday police operations.


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FEATURED — I really wanted to hate the Apple Watch

by News on April 27, 2015, no comments

By Zach Epstein

Apple Watch Review

Anyone who listens to our podcast knows how unbelievably excited BGR founder Jonathan Geller has been leading up to the Apple Watch’s debut. You’ll also recall that I, on the other hand, really haven’t been excited at all on a personal level. Professionally, I’m beyond excited to see the biggest tech company on the planet branch out into an entirely new category that merges wearables with fashion. This could indeed become a massive piece of Apple’s business in the future, as practically everything in our lives becomes connected.

But personally, the Apple Watch initially didn’t pique my interest very much at all. Do I really want a device that’s going to completely replace the watch collection I love so much? Do I really want to add yet another digital device to my life? Worse yet, do I really want a device that can’t even replace any other digital device I own?

Yeah, I guess I do.

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Swap Heroes 2 On Sale for $0.99 USD

by News on April 27, 2015, no comments

By Nadia Oxford Swap Heroes 2 is an engaging and unique puzzle / RPG that gives you a nice mental workout. Also, it has fox archers, so you know it’s A-OK. It usually sells for $2.99 USD, but it’s currently available for the sharp price of $0.99 USD.

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Apple Seeds Second OS X 10.10.4 Yosemite Beta to Developers, First Public Beta Version

by News on April 27, 2015, no comments

By Juli Clover

os_x_yosemite_round_icon

Apple today seeded the second beta of OS X 10.10.4 to developers, approximately a week and a half since releasing the first 10.10.4 beta and nearly three weeks after releasing OS X 10.10.3 with the Photos for OS X app to the public. Alongside the new developer beta, Apple also released the first public beta version of OS X 10.10.4.

Developers can download the new beta through the Software Update mechanism in the Mac App Store or through the Mac Developer Center.

OS X 10.10.3 introduced several consumer-facing changes including the new Photos for OS X app, a redesigned emoji picker, new diversified emoji, and more, but OS X 10.10.4 appears to be an under-the-hood update that brings performance enhancements and bug fixes.

The first two updates to OS X Yosemite, OS X 10.10.1 and OS X 10.10.2 were also minor behind-the-scenes updates that improved performance through bug fixes and enhancements.

Read more here:: MacRumors

      

Boom Dots Updates With New Levels

by News on April 27, 2015, no comments

By Nadia Oxford Boom Dots, the single-touch game of exploding dots and (non-explosive) reflexes, recently updated with 60 new levels. The 1.2.1 update includes other goodies as well, like new themes, new achievements, and a pause button. Whew – now you can finally stop playing long enough to use the washroom. The game is free to download.

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Apple fanboy explains why he’ll buy ‘ANYTHING’ Apple makes even if he doesn’t understand its purpose

by News on April 27, 2015, no comments

By Brad Reed

Why Buy The Apple Watch

Is shutting off your critical thinking skills and simply buying something because it has an Apple logo on it a good idea? It’s very likely not, but that didn’t stop TheNextWeb cofounder Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten from confessing that he’ll buy “ANYTHING” Apple sells him even if he doesn’t understand exactly why he’s buying it.

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