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DOT Plans To Start Tracking Local Drivers

WFTV/July 21, 2004

SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. -- Is Big Brother watching Central Florida drivers? The Department of Transportation is planning a new way to track hundreds of thousands of drivers, and traffic. But some people say tracking their every move is going too far.

We see traffic studies all the time using those little ropes that count cars and cameras that watch for accidents. But this device is different. It can actually track your specific car as you drive around town and you give them the tool to do it.

You drive along minding your own business. But just who else is minding your business?

You might not notice it at first. But if you look a little closer, you'll see it, and it can see you.

Mike Patient doesn't like that.

"You're actually tracking a single individual in a vehicle going from point to point to point," he says.

The Department of Transportation is placing 120 electronic readers, just like the ones that read your E-PASS, at intersections to track drivers from the Turnpike and I-4 and through surface streets like 436, 17-92 and Highway 50.

Some of the readers even blend right in with existing signs and lights and they read the E-PASS transponder that's already in your car.

"Basically, it's just another tool so you can determine travel times," explains Steve Homan Department of Transportation.

A computer will assign your E-PASS a number to keep someone from tracking a person by name and the data is erased within minutes of being stored. There's just enough time to calculate the travel time for a traffic hotline and a website you'll be able to access next year.

"Our goal in this equipment is to tell how long it's gonna take to get from point A to point B. That's the intent. We intend to serve the public, not track 'em down," Homan says.

But the DOT admits, the technology could be used to do that.

The Expressway Authority says, when you sign the contract for an E-PASS it's actually in there that you agree to be a part of traffic studies.

By the end of the year, all 120 of the readers should be installed so the system can be up and running next spring. The state will begin by tracking cars in Orange, Seminole, Osceola and Brevard counties.

Because some cars will turn off or use other roads, only about five percent will end up being tracked.
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