A Philadelphia Police Department surveillance vehicle bearing a Google Maps logo seen in Center City on Wednesday was not authorized to use the logo, officials said Friday.

"We have been informed that this unmarked vehicle belongs to the Police Department," police spokesman Lt. John Stanford said in an email. "Once this was brought to our attention, it was ordered that the decals be removed immediately."

The officers who used the logo were "trying to be creative," he added.

News of the "Google" surveillance vehicle broke Wednesday morning, when a University of Pennsylvania assistant professor, Matt Blaze, noticed the white SUV on 13th Street near Arch and tweeted about it. He mistakenly called it a Pennsylvania State Police vehicle, but the online magazine Motherboard soon set the record straight.

Motherboard quoted a Kansas man with experience in public-safety technology as saying the van contained gear including "infrared cameras to find plate numbers and letters via temperature differentials between those characters and the surrounding background through optical character recognition."

The cameras are able to read and process "several plates simultaneously" and "in a fraction of a second," the man told the magazine.

A Google spokeswoman said the company was looking into the matter.


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