China wants to track every driver by putting RFID chips on car windshields

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  • China is rolling out a program to have RFID chips in all new cars to help with congestion, pollution, and public security.
  • By forcing car owners to have chips installed on their windshields, the government will also help bolster the domestic chip industry.
  • The plan will initially be voluntary until it is implemented in full in 2019, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal.
  • China has been creating an environment described as a “surveillance state,” prompting concerns that car and face-recognition technology will be used for more than just finding criminals.

China will soon begin tracking the movements of all new cars.

Beginning next year, China will require all new registered cars to have an RFID chip installed on windshields which will help study and manage traffic, pollution, and public security, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal.

Under the program, both a car’s license plate and its paint color will be recorded. Card readers placed along roads will detect the RFID chips and pass information back to the Ministry of Public Security.

China’s congestion is almost incomparable, with 5 million cars on the road in Beijing. China is also one of the most dangerous countries in the world for drivers, with the World Health Organization putting traffic deaths at more than 260,000 in 2013.

But the RFID plan, which will initially be voluntary from July 1 2018, will also help another focus of President Xi Jinping’s: China’s domestic chip industry.

Despite being the world’s factory, 90% of the chips China uses are imported or produced locally by foreign-owned firms, according to International Business Strategies Inc. Tens of billions of dollars are reportedly set to be poured into a new investment fund to finance local chip R&D.

But when Chinese smartphone maker ZTE was banned from buying parts, including chips, from US companies, the company essentially shut down. After the ban, Chinese officials reportedly held a number of meetings about speeding up the local industry.

While China won’t be the first country to use such computer chips in cars – California has begun testing chip-enabled license plates that would allow drivers to automatically update their vehicle registrations and let police track stolen vehicles.

Amid punishing repeat jaywalkers and honking drivers, Beijing police have already started using facial-recognition glasses that can identify passengers and car number plates within milliseconds. Powered by artificial intelligence, the eyewear compares faces and cars to a “blacklist” in real time and display a red box and warning sign when a match is made.

With China wanting to roll out a nation-wide social credit program, it’s unlikely to be long until all cars are tracked and compared to various legal and social blacklists.