LED displays used to protect Chinese taxi drivers
Taxi driver in the Chinese city of Wuhu, which has a population of 2.3 million, are having surveillance equipment, LED displays, to broadcast emergency messages and panic buttons installed in their vehicles by the local authorities in order to improve their safety and reduce the number of robberies.
The increase in surveillance has not been met with total support by those citizens who use the taxis, as many domestic and international commentators have criticised the move as an invasion of the traveller's privacy. However, the installation in over 3000 taxis is going ahead as planned.
When the driver feels under threat or if a robbery is taking place, the press of a panic button in the cab of the taxi will cause an alert to be sent out to the operators. An LED display in the rear will scroll across a message, asking passersby to contact the police, as a robbery is in progress.
The LED displays will not just remain dormant until they are required in an emergency. The authorities have said that they will be able to cover the costs of installing the surveillance kit by using the displays to broadcast advertising when they are not used for security purposes.
The roll-out of this surveillance technology will be completed at some point in October and the systems will be activated every time a new fare is picked up by the taxi driver. This has led to many complaints as the use of video technology seems particularly invasive to many passengers, although it seems that the installation cannot be halted at this stage.
Using the LED displays to advertise and raise funds in cabs is an enterprising idea and their dual function to raise the alarm if the driver is in danger is hardly a reprehensible one, but many fear that the passenger is not being considered in this instance.