1143 views | Akanimo Sampson | September 24, 2019
A Rael-Science post says the Handan Public Security Bureau in Northern China has deployed three types of traffic robots to assist human officers in the city. Quoting a report in state-run news agency Xinhua, the post quotes Deputy Head of the Ministry of Public Security’s Traffic Management Research Institute, Zhou Zuoying, as saying the bots’ deployment marks China’s first use of “robot traffic police.”
China has consistently been ahead of the curve in terms of utilizing artificial intelligence (AI) for surveillance. The country’s CCTV system tracked down a BBC reporter in just seven minutes during a demonstration in 2017. But this new technology, developed by LLVision, takes China’s surveillance efforts to a whole new level. Not just in theory, either — reports from the official People’s Daily newspaper seem to indicate that it’s improving police work.
The sunglasses are connected to a handheld device that uses facial recognition software to compare who the wearer sees against a pre-loaded database packed with photos of 10,000 suspects. And it does so in just one tenth of a second.
Skewed results aren’t the only concern that comes with giving law enforcement wearable surveillance: many have also pointed out that the devices could lend themselves to racial profiling, and even more broadly, have the potential to infringe on citizens’ privacy.
Given that Chinese law enforcement is already using technology that’s uncomfortably reminiscent of Mission Impossible, it seems like that ubiquity has already arrived.
Meanwhile, each of the three types of robots looks slightly different from the others and will serve a unique function, which the Global Times — another state-run outlet — detailed in its own report.
Another is an “advice traffic robot.” That one will post up in vehicle management stations where it will answer residents’ questions and guide them where they need to go. It’ll also automatically report any security risks or suspects to police, the Global Times wrote.
The third type is an “accident warning robot” designed to let drivers in passing vehicles know when human police have a traffic accident to deal with.
The robots will be on duty 24/7, Handan Public Security Bureau official Li Huai told Chinese news site hebnews.cn, according to the Global Times’ report, but it isn’t clear whether that applies to just one of each type of robot or several.
What is clear, though, is that China is leaning into the use of technology for law enforcement.
The nation has already deployed facial recognition systems to catch jaywalkers and made RFID tags mandatory in new cars so drivers can’t skip out on paying highway tolls. It has also equipped some police officers with facial recognition glasses to help them spot people wanted in connection with crimes.