The Mystery Vans Around Claycord – What Are They Doing?

February 3, 2015 8:00 am · 70 comments

This van (and a few others like it) have been driving around Claycord lately, but every time somebody asks the driver what they’re doing, they refuse to answer.

One Claycordian said “I have seen these vans in the Bay Area, but this is the first time that I have seen them in Claycord. When possible, I try to politely ask them who they are surveying for….but they are always very dismissive. Of course, this makes the conspiracy theorist in us all all a bit more angsty. Anyone know what the vans are for? The Google Street View cars are generally fairly well marked.”

Anybody out there have any inside information about these vans? If so, feel free to post in the comments section below.

1 SMDH February 3, 2015 at 8:16 AM

Spare the air police…

2 Jon February 3, 2015 at 8:18 AM

What are they saying, specifically, when they are asked?

3 73 MONTE CARLO February 3, 2015 at 8:24 AM

They’re obviously up to something. Unless you see them committing crimes, I wouldn’t be too concerned.

4 Peanut Gallery February 3, 2015 at 8:24 AM

Saw one driving around Clayton yesterday several times.

5 Justin February 3, 2015 at 8:29 AM

Given the equipment on the roof, I’m wondering if it’s either a mapping car (could be a service other than Google), or a test vehicle for self driving.

A few clues – there’s an attachment on the wheel so it’s gathering speed/distance data straight from the hub, and the roof, those appear to either be different cameras or laser hubs for scanning the surrounding area.

6 Conspiracy Theorist February 3, 2015 at 8:31 AM

Thinking “Enemy of the State”

7 v February 3, 2015 at 8:31 AM

One drove through the turtle creek neighborhood on Monday

8 Judge Roy Bean February 3, 2015 at 8:36 AM

NSA advanced mapping unit.

9 landana February 3, 2015 at 8:42 AM

They are listening in on your private conversation and taking pictures of you and your family members.

10 Russ February 3, 2015 at 8:43 AM

Olive Garden Site Proposal Team

11 Atticus Thraxx February 3, 2015 at 8:46 AM

Those might be LIDAR units and they appear to be measuring number of rotations on that one wheel. Some kind of surveying rig? I don’t know.

12 Cellophane February 3, 2015 at 8:50 AM

Antenna and cameras. Probably NSA mapping houses where politically incorrect and anti government post are made to social media.

Better keep my shades closed.

13 Anonymous February 3, 2015 at 8:53 AM

Advance guard taking readings for black helicopter landing sites.

Expect blue helmeted UN troops to land anytime and demand reparations for something..

14 J R February 3, 2015 at 8:54 AM

Saw one yesterday in Northgate neighborhood, WC. . .

15 iluvfriedchicken February 3, 2015 at 9:06 AM

Non tinfoil hypothesis: it’s a private company testing a self-driving system. Let me put on my tinfoil…

It’s an air sample and radiation detection unit that is searching for biological and nuclear weapons. It uses the array of sensors on the the top of the vehicle, along with precise area mapping and real-time communications with other like vehicles, to triangulate possible terrorist threats in the bay area.

16 just a concordian February 3, 2015 at 9:07 AM

It’s a Zombie Early Warning System

17 paranoid pablito February 3, 2015 at 9:08 AM

I Scream Trucks

18 I'm just saying February 3, 2015 at 9:10 AM

The air in Concord has a chemical smell. Sometimes, the smell is so bad that it gives me a headache. My guess is that they are from the refineries and they are measuring the chemicals that we are breathing. They don’t want anyone to know how much toxic crap we are inhaling and that’s why they refuse to answer questions.

19 thx4youropinion February 3, 2015 at 9:12 AM

Could be one of those Google Map people. But I don’t understand why they wouldn’t answer.

20 Paranoid rob lowe February 3, 2015 at 9:12 AM

It’s the nsa and they have mind penetrating equipment on there. Don’t get to close to it this is an extension of an old cia mind reading program.

Just kidding it’s probably Google’s self driving car, the equipment is the same they have on the DARPA, I believe, cars that race through the desert. And they won’t tell you because some old fart will stay whining and pouting about how dangerous it is. Have you seen how easy it is to get a licence, that’s who I’m worried about, other people.

21 irishill February 3, 2015 at 9:29 AM

To Cellaphane: Keeping blinds closed won’t help. Police have radar that sees where you are in the house and what you are doing.

22 UH1cve160 February 3, 2015 at 9:33 AM

Maybe a reader who is a cop can run the plate ( which is readable the picture is clicked) and let us know.

23 mohairs February 3, 2015 at 9:33 AM

Corn snake eradicators…

24 jtkatec February 3, 2015 at 9:36 AM


25 Fixit Man February 3, 2015 at 9:39 AM

It’s the government “thought” police cruising the neighborhood.

26 Anon, too February 3, 2015 at 9:42 AM

I think Claycord would actually explode if Olive Garden were ever to open a restaurant here.

27 tired of taxes February 3, 2015 at 9:44 AM

My money is on self-driving test.
The LIDAR roof mount would be different for a van because of the vehicle dimensions. That mount would be better configuration than a vary tall single LIDAR unit in the middle like in the article.
And it would be better to have an unmarked vehicle so other vehicles on the road would not change their driving habit around that car (not unlike how some drivers would overtake a car marked with “student driver”).

28 Justin February 3, 2015 at 9:47 AM

Solved it!

It’s a self-driving vehicle.

29 Salalei February 3, 2015 at 9:50 AM

Google map updates? They do updates every few years.

30 Bro C February 3, 2015 at 9:53 AM

Can anyone run the plate?

31 The Mamba February 3, 2015 at 9:54 AM

That’s pretty strange, and even stranger that they won’t tell you what they are doing. It could be measuring something in the air, it could also be Uber trying to develop their own map system since they are having a blow up with the Googlies.

32 California Nightmare February 3, 2015 at 9:58 AM

I know it is wishful thinking, but maybe it is a contractor hired by the city to examine the condition of the streets so they can prioritize pot hole repair?

Our roads are really in sad shape. Back in the 1980’s Concord had fantastic roads and street maintenance. What has changed in the last 30 years? Answer: Democrats have been in charge of the local and state budgets for the last 30 years. Good roads and good schools have been replaced with big welfare handouts, anti-business regulations, and small expectations.

33 ConcordMike February 3, 2015 at 9:58 AM

Considering the sensors on each corner of the roof mounted unit, I would venture to say it has something to do with driverless vehicles. Or it could be another mapping for either Bing, Yahoo or DuckDuckGo.

34 ConcordMike February 3, 2015 at 10:01 AM

Considering the sensors on each corner of the roof mounted unit, I would venture to say it has something to do with driverless vehicles. Or it could be another mapping for either Bing, Yahoo or DuckDuckGo.
Those aren’t commercial license plates either. I believe anyone can go to DMV and pay $10 to find out the registered owner.

35 DeertaySanchez February 3, 2015 at 10:03 AM

Bangbros inda-houuuse!

36 Use to work them February 3, 2015 at 10:03 AM

What you guys are seeing on the left rear wheel is called a DMI, and it does measure/count rotation of the wheel and compares values from an IMU unit to give the geographical location of the collection. The units on the top are then used (Lidar) to capture the surrounding images/structures which then paint a 3D picture which is similar to this: In short it is used to collect map data, no it’s not Google. There are many data collection companies that use this data for anything from utility planning to underground pipes etc.
The end product will be a 3D map of whatever was collected.

37 .. February 3, 2015 at 10:06 AM

Better yet CALL THE COPS and report a suspicious vehicle casing the neighborhood lets see how many times the cops stop them in a day.
Perhaps we could establish a Claycord record.

38 E.T. February 3, 2015 at 10:14 AM


39 B February 3, 2015 at 10:15 AM

Corn Snake Patrol

40 Survey Vehicle February 3, 2015 at 10:16 AM

Obviously it is a camera mapping, GPS type of vehicle. It may be Google or as mentioned above, some competitor.

The Google car has a single roof mount unit, this vehicle has the cameras at all corners, plus it looks like a GPS in the center. Could be improved technology to map.

I don’t see any conspiracy or NSA, or Black Ops here. They do that from space based satellites, far outside the reach of mere ground vehicles.

41 Reality Slap February 3, 2015 at 10:23 AM

Russ #10

Great answer ! lol

42 Broke in Colony Park February 3, 2015 at 10:36 AM


43 Mik February 3, 2015 at 10:37 AM

If it’s just a mapping or driverless vehicle, why are they so secretive about it?

44 Broke in Colony Park February 3, 2015 at 10:38 AM

If there’s somethin’ strange in your neighborhood
Who ya gonna call (ghostbusters)
If it’s somethin’ weird an it won’t look good
Who ya gonna call (ghostbusters)

I ain’t afraid a no ghost
I ain’t afraid a no ghost
If you’re seein’ things runnin’ thru your head
Who can you call (ghostbusters)
An’ invisible man sleepin’ in your bed
Oh who ya gonna call (ghostbusters)
I ain’t afraid a no ghost
I ain’t afraid a no ghost
Who ya gonna call (ghostbusters)
If you’re all alone pick up the phone
An call (ghostbusters)

I ain’t afraid a no ghost
I hear it likes the girls
I ain’t afraid a no ghost
Who you gonna call (ghostbusters)
Mm… if you’ve had a dose
Of a freaky ghost baby
You better call ghostbusters
Bustin’ makes me feel good
I ain’t afraid a no ghosts

Don’t get caught alone oh no… ghostbuster
When he comes through your door
Unless you’ve just got some more
I think you better call ghostbusters
Ooh… who you gonna call (ghostbusters)
Who you gonna call (ghostbusters)
Ah, I think you better call (ghostbusters)

I can’t hear you… (ghostbusters)
Who you gonna call (ghostbusters)
Louder ghostbusters
Who you gonna call (ghostbusters)
Who you can call ghostbusters… (till fade

45 Computer Crash February 3, 2015 at 10:42 AM

Looks like Justin nailed it. Video shows same setup on top of a van.
Great, some company puts a self driving vehicle into the community with small kids on bikes and out playing.

How does it feel having your kids used as guinea pigs?

46 nytemuvr February 3, 2015 at 10:44 AM

They’re checking for complete coverage of the “chemtrails” left by jets flying overhead.

47 Kirkwood February 3, 2015 at 10:51 AM

Are they systematically driving down every street in a region like Google or are the locations spotted randomly?

On a separate note, I think Google is getting its fingers into too many pies. What will Google be in 10 years?

48 jtkatec February 3, 2015 at 10:54 AM

I’m hiding under my bed. They’ll never find me

49 Original G February 3, 2015 at 11:06 AM

It took 1 hour and 47 minutes for not only the mystery to be solved but for a video of another incident in Brooklyn New York to be posted. Outstanding !

Another example of what’s great about Claycord !!!

50 J. February 3, 2015 at 11:07 AM

In the first photo, the unit appears to be making a turn-about mid-block. There would be no reason for a mapping or GPS unit to make a turnabout midblock.

It’s gotta be a self driving van.

51 teri February 3, 2015 at 11:08 AM

One of those cars came into my court a couple of days ago.

52 GTA VI February 3, 2015 at 11:11 AM

I’m guessing mapping for the next GTA game. I’m juiced it’s gonna be here!

53 Don February 3, 2015 at 11:18 AM

They are mapping fire hydrant locations for a hostile take over.

54 Deborah February 3, 2015 at 11:23 AM

they told me they were surveyers?????

55 TaterSalad February 3, 2015 at 11:33 AM

Obama is surveying in preparation for marshal law and detainment camps. The end is here.

56 Subterfuge February 3, 2015 at 11:58 AM

I’m gonna need a new tin foil hat after reading this story…

57 Psycho Cat February 3, 2015 at 12:02 PM

Probably a self driving vehicle. But my first thought when you all were suggesting Google mapping was Amazon. Amazon wants their hands in every pot. So why not maps? I heard today they are possibly interested in buying Radio Shack which is on the verge of going under. They would use the locations the way Fed Ex did with Kinkos. A place to pick up packages and send packages as well as buy stuff.

Isn’t Tesla using the old Navy property for testing self driving vehicles? This one would be safe in the neighborhood with the human behind the wheel as long as said human is paying attention in order to take over if necessary. Telsa is testing self driving on the roads of the Navy property with supposedly no human behind the wheel.

58 Conspiracy theories February 3, 2015 at 1:50 PM


59 Bob February 3, 2015 at 3:48 PM

The vehicle is registered to a fleet company, and leased to apple. So apple is testing a self driving system.

60 Hailey February 3, 2015 at 4:39 PM

I was walking to my friends house in concord and the drive past me 3 times and followed me down my friends street. Two guys were in the van. And they followed me down her street

61 Anon February 3, 2015 at 5:05 PM

It’s the great cornholio

62 Southern girl February 3, 2015 at 10:55 PM

It’s Publishers Clearing House looking for me!!!

63 Jack Bauer February 3, 2015 at 11:11 PM

Just stay out of the way & let us do our job!

64 AAAsean February 4, 2015 at 5:08 AM

25 nailed it.

65 I'm The Urban Spaceman February 4, 2015 at 8:19 AM

Hey Mayor,

This is the headline story on Drudge report, linking to a CBS story that references Claycord.

66 3girlknip February 4, 2015 at 1:24 PM

I strangely made it here by way of Jalopnik but live in Concord. I too saw one of the vans in Walnut Creek on Treat yesterday. Maroon in color.

67 CEC February 4, 2015 at 9:48 PM

Saw one in the parking lot of the downtown Walnut Creek Ace last week. The drivers were sitting there and it looked like they were recording the store and wearing sunglasses. Just seemed very odd.

68 diana February 4, 2015 at 10:03 PM

Apple self driving car

69 hddoc February 4, 2015 at 11:19 PM

The blue one was in PH at Giant Chef Fri noon.
Might be something to #13 helicopter theory. H-60 Blackhawk came over PH at about 200 ft above the hill at top of Taylor today. Fast n Low

70 Freckles February 5, 2015 at 12:21 PM

Saw “” this morning on FOX NEWS/America’s Newsroom!

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