Last week, I was talking to a fellow expat about the car he had just purchased in Mexico and he asked me about the blue sticker in the front windshield. I told him that it was a passive RFID tag that allows the police to verify the vehicle’s information and locate it in the event that it’s ever stolen.
That last part seemed to make him a little uncomfortable. “Are you telling me that the Mexican government has a tracking device on my car?” He asked.
“Yep,” I answered. Then I went back to sipping my Pacífico and staring out at the turquoise waters of the Caribbean. I’m a man of few words when I’m in my happy place.
That brief conversation at a beach bar was the inspiration for today’s article. I promise to go into a little more detail than I did that day at the beach.
National Vehicle Registry
Mexico has a national vehicle registry called Registro Público Vehicular (REPUVE) and every vehicle titled in Mexico is required to be entered into the system. The data entry process is still underway and the majority of the vehicles in the country still haven’t been entered. Newer vehicles are put into the system by the manufacturer or distributor prior to being sold.
Once a vehicle is entered into the REPUVE system, a blue sticker containing an RFID tag is affixed to the windshield. Whenever the vehicle passes near an RFID reader, the vehicle’s information is recorded. In the even that the car is stolen, the police are immediately alerted.
Fixed RFID readers are placed along roadways and some police cars are equipped with portable readers.
RFID is short for Radio Frequency Identification and it shouldn’t be confused with GPS tracking systems. An RFID system only records the item’s location when it’s in the vicinity of the reader.
RFID technology is widely used in passports, driver licenses, toll passes and credit cards. Private companies also use them to track assets and deliveries. Face it, this technology is already all around us.
Let’s Wrap This Up
Once the program is fully implemented, this will give the Mexican police a tremendous investigative tool. Although the reported intended purpose is to combat auto theft, the data gathered could prove invaluable in a wide range of investigations.
Here’s a hypothetical scenario to show how the technology could be used in other investigations:
The police respond to a shooting in progress at a local bar. As the first units arrive, dozens of cars are leaving and the scene is chaotic. One of the responding units is equipped with an RFID reader that has been collecting data from all of the vehicles within range. Once the scene is under control, officers use the data to locate potential witnesses and identify the suspects involved.
A woman is reported missing by her family. A check of the database shows that her vehicle went past a reader north of town a couple of hours before. Police use the information to focus their search on that highway and find her broken down out of cell phone range.
I think you get the idea. Anything that makes the police more effective, makes us all safer.
The process to place RFID stickers on every vehicle in Mexico has been a slow one; however, every vehicle will eventually have one.