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Mystery camera van spied on U.S. streets

Curious photographers from New York to California have snapped intriguing photos and videos of a mysterious van cruising the streets. It is described as an unmarked Dodge Caravan, with an array of cameras and perhaps other electronic sensors mounted on the roof. Is it the NSA spying on cars in traffic? Or some other intrusive tracking?

The concept of a camera-equipped vehicle cruising around is not exactly new. Google's fleet of StreetView cars have become a common sight in communities across the country, both big and small.

But Google's vehicles are prominently marked as such as you can see in this snapshot taken on the streets of my home base city, Phoenix, Arizona.

Google StreetView Car

But the appearance of the mystery camera van has fueled rumors about who is operating it and for what purpose.

Here is video captured on the streets of Brooklyn, New York of the mystery van.

A check of the van's registration connected it to Apple. Why would the iPad and iPhone maker be running a camera van across America?

Now the rumors are really flying! Some believe this is an example of Apple's research into self-driving cars. Because some of the cameras point down at the ground around the van, there are theories that they help the van navigate and avoid obstructions.

But remember that Google StreetView car I showed you above? Others believe that these vans are proof of Apple's work to go head-to-head with Google by adding street-level photography to Apple's beleaguered map product.

When Google Maps helps you navigate to a place, you can use pictures taken by its camera-equipped cars to see a street-level view of your destination. It's a tool that has probably saved more than a couple of drivers from having to make a U-turn.

Then again, all of this might just be a test for something completely different. According to Mail Online,  Apple declined to comment on the car in question or what its purpose was.

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