Traveling by airplane these days requires an X-ray scan of your luggage and laptop, but driving in and out of the country by car still requires a manual search. According to CNN, that's about to change. American Science and Engineering has created a device called the Z Portal, which is essentially a mammoth X-ray machine--about the size of an automated car wash--that can scan whole vehicles at a time.
Using a low radiation form of X-rays called backscatter, the Z Portal is able to peer through the vehicle to reveal hidden immigrants, weapons, circus animals, or whatever else someone might be trying to smuggle into the country.
Authorities are bringing the $2,000,000 Z Portal online Thursday at the San Ysidro port of entry on the U.S.-Mexico border south of San Diego. Vehicles that are flagged for secondary inspection will be directed through the Z Portal where the vehicle will be scanned. Drivers can drive themselves through or have a Customs and Border Protection agent do so for them. Although American Science and Engineering states that the amount of radiation emitted by the Z Portal scan is about 1/2000th of a single medical X-ray scan, still, we'd hate to be the guy whose job it is to drive vehicles through the scanner all day!
Agents will monitor the system in real-time as it takes multiple images of each passing vehicle. Even if nothing suspicious comes up in the scan, border agents will still do a manual search, but the idea is that they'll at least know what to expect.
Now all we have to do is persuade Gov. Schwarzenegger to reprise his role in Total Recall and run through the Z Portal.