Drivers in China will soon have an easy way to communicate with other drivers on the road — but is it a good idea?
Instead of yelling at the guy who cut you off or getting stuck in a blocked-in parking spot, General Motors China says it has a solution: It’s called DiDi Plate, and it lets Android users text any car owner by scanning their licence plate with their phone’s camera and sending it to a cloud ID service. From there, the driver who scanned the plate can start texting the other driver.
John Du, GM China’s research and development director, showed off the app at the Telematics Detroit conference earlier this month. DiDi Plate is only a prototype for now, according to ComputerWorld, but GM China is looking to have DiDi Plate’s technology integrated into its in-car infotainment systems soon.
Unnecessary and unsafe
In a video demonstrating DiDi Plate, a male driver uses DiDi Plate to scan and then message a woman driving in front of him. He asks her on a date, which she accepts.
“Even if the other driver didn’t register this app, you can still give them greetings and comments,” Du said at the conference, which raises some questions about privacy.
But what if China’s female drivers aren’t exactly like the girl in DiDi Plate’s promotional video, eager to accept texts and date requests from strange men at a moment’s notice? Will there be a way for car owners to opt-out?
GM will have to acknowledge the fact that many car users probably don’t want strangers to have the ability to text them, even in a country like China where governmental surveillance is the norm.
It’s almost too obvious to mention, but the premise of DiDi Plate centres around car owners taking pictures of people’s licence plates and texting them while they’re driving. If it seems like a dangerous idea, that’s because it is. Of the more than 600,000 global road traffic deaths that occur each year, China’s comprise more than a third, with 220,000, according to Bloomberg’s Global Road Safety Program.
In an effort to reduce texting and driving fatalities in the country, VW released a public service announcement earlier in June specifically for Chinese audiences called “Eyes On The Road,” which now has more than 22 million views.
“In China we have a huge challenge with this topic,” VW spokesman Carsten Krebs said. “A lot of people are texting and driving.” VW
was prompted to produce the video after VW’s China representatives brought the prevalence of distracted driving within the country to their attention, according to AutoBlog.
How GM will reconcile DiDi Plate’s inherently unsafe features is anyone’s guess. Fortunately, the app isn’t available yet — it’s still just a prototype. This gives GM some time to reconsider making it available to its Chinese audience, or any audience at all.
We’ve reached out to GM for comment on this story.