Automated License Plate Reader Added to Roadside Inspection Equipment

The Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) collects Smog Check Program audit data by performing Smog Check inspections on California roadways. Roadside data collection is required by law and is critical in evaluating the effectiveness of the California Smog Check Program. When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down traditional roadside data collection, BAR researched alternative data sources. BAR identified use of an Automated License Plate Reader (ALPR) as an appropriate option and has updated its Roadside Inspection Program data collection equipment to include an ALPR.

An ALPR system consists of a mobile or fixed camera that photographs a vehicle's license plate and pairs the image with optical character recognition software to convert the image into the alpha-numeric characters of the license plate. Typical ALPR uses include electronic toll collection (e.g., FasTrak toll roads and high-occupancy vehicle lanes), enforcement of traffic laws and traffic control, and automated emissions testing.

ALPR data is merged with Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) records to identify a vehicle's make, model, and model year. The data can also be used to identify a vehicle's Smog Check history. BAR will use the ALPR data to support the evaluation of the effectiveness of the Smog Check Program and complete the annual Smog Check Performance Report. Once roadside emissions data collection resumes, the data will also improve the process used to randomly select vehicles for participation in the Roadside Inspection Program.

For more information, read BAR's Automated License Plate Reader Privacy and Usage Policy at

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