It turns out that in spite of regular emissions checks that are mandatory to keep a vehicle registered in California, there are still a significant number of vehicles on the road that exceed the standards. When modern engine management systems and emission controls are properly functioning, cars are incredibly clean. But if sensors or other components malfunction, emissions shoot up. Some cars that are found to be out of compliance are given temporary repairs or are re-tested at unscrupulous shops that do the tests on a clean car.
The result is that about ten percent of cars and trucks generate about fifty percent of the noxious gas emissions. In an attempt to get these vehicles cleaned up or off the road the South Coast Air Quality Management District in California launched a pilot project last March to test remote emissions testing equipment. They have set up a van with infrared and ultraviolet sensors and they park it on freeway on-ramps. It scans passing cars and those with excessive emissions get photographed and receive a letter suggesting they get a repair. The letters offer the owner a chance to volunteer for a program that pays $500 towards emissions repairs or $1,000 toward scrapping the vehicle.

[Source: Los Angeles Times]

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