The government of China has launched a test program to track vehicles in real time, starting with several hundred thousand electronic IDs that have been issued to trucks and buses in the city of Shenzhen, according to a report in Reuters.
The trial includes vehicles that carry hazardous materials, as well as vehicles like school buses. If the pilot goes well, the local authorities said they will extend the real time tracking to all private cars in the city.
The program uses RFID markers and traffic monitoring systems, and might help the government clamp down on fake license plates and locate stolen vehicles.
It is also said to help implementing transport policies, such as the one proposed by Great Wall Motor, which would mean heavy gasoline users pay more for their fuel. Their fuel economy could be tracked and stored on the vehicle IDs.
However, many have expressed concern that the idea of the government being able to track car locations at any time is a huge issue. Expanding the system to private citizens in China could lead to an Orwellian style invasion of privacy.
Without strict controls in place to prevent unauthorised access and abuse of the data, people in China could be set to lose one of their basic human rights. If the government knew exactly where you went eery day and for how long, it’s a pretty significant intrusion as far as most people are concerned.
The tracking system would likely also be a target for hackers. If anyone could get the data in question about who owns the vehicles and where they are parked, the city might in fact see a rise in auto theft.
There are of course many benefits to the whole concept, but it certainly raises some questions that the government should consider before rolling out the program to a wider user base.
Larry Banks is a keen follower of technology and finance. He has worked for a variety of online publications, writing about a diverse range of topics including mobile networks, patents, and Internet video delivery technologies.