A vehicle tracking system combines the use of automatic vehicle location in individual vehicles with software that collects these fleet data for a comprehensive picture of vehicle locations. Modern vehicle tracking systems commonly use GPS or GLONASS technology for locating the vehicle, but other types of automatic vehicle location technology can also be used. Vehicle information can be viewed on electronic maps via the Internet or specialized software. Urban public transit authorities are an increasingly common user of vehicle tracking systems, particularly in large cities.
Passive and Active Tracking:
Several types of vehicle tracking devices exist. Typically they are classified as "passive" and "active". "Passive" devices store GPS location, speed, heading and sometimes a trigger event such as key on/off, door open/closed. Once the vehicle returns to a predetermined point, the device is removed and the data downloaded to a computer for evaluation.
Passive systems include auto download type that transfer data via wireless download. "Active" devices also collect the same information but usually transmit the data in near-real-time via cellular or satellite networks to a computer or data center for evaluation.
Many modern vehicle tracking devices combine both active and passive tracking abilities: when a cellular network is available and a tracking device is connected it transmits data to a server; when a network is not available the device stores data in internal memory and will transmit stored data to the server later when the network becomes available again.
Historically, vehicle tracking has been accomplished by installing a box into the vehicle, either self-powered with a battery or wired into the vehicle's power system.
For detailed vehicle locating and tracking this is still the predominant method; however, many companies are increasingly interested in the emerging cell phone technologies that provide tracking of multiple entities, such as both a salesperson and their vehicle. These systems also offer tracking of calls, texts, web use and generally provide a wider range of options.