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    Smart Meters Installed in 10,000 Beijing Taxis

    All-in-one device in cabs aims to stop scams and verify drivers’ identities.

    Over 10,000 taxis in Beijing now have an “all-in-one smart device” installed to prevent scam charges and illegal subcontracting, Beijing Youth Daily reported Monday. 

    The integrated GPS machine requires each driver to swipe their staff identity card before they can start the meter, and allows the taxi company to monitor each trip live. The device also supports multiple forms of payment, including bank cards and mobile payment platforms like WeChat Wallet and Alipay.

    Following a trial in late 2017, the municipal government rolled out the smart devices through four cab companies earlier this month, according to Beijing Youth Daily, in the hope that the machines will stop drivers from defrauding customers with rigged meters and invoices, or loaning their cars to unlicensed drivers.

    “From the perspective of the consumer, this ensures convenience, security, and safety,” Wang Pengfei, the general manager of Yuyang, one of the participating cab companies, told Beijing Youth Daily.

    Taxi fraud is extremely common in China: In 2013 alone, Beijing saw 4,680 complaints, many of which involved meter fraud.

    Beijing Youth Daily reported that in the past, illegal taxi businesses cloned the cabs of legitimate companies, modifying the meters so that drivers could manipulate fares. As the cars used fake license plates, the drivers could not be traced or reported.

    The municipal government of Beijing has long been aware of meter fraud and issued a proposal in 2015 requiring all taxis to be equipped with devices that could authenticate drivers’ identities — but it took three years for the plan to be implemented. The new meters use encryption to hinder duplication.

    Other Chinese cities have been quicker to introduce such technologies. Zhengzhou, the capital of central China’s Henan province, installed such meters in late 2015 with additional audio and video recording functions. Some passengers complained that the move violated privacy, but the city’s transport department responded that the interior of a taxi is considered a public space.

    Fraud and other crime isn’t the only challenge facing China’s traditional taxi business: With the growth of ride-hailing services, many drivers and customers are shifting to apps like Didi and Dida.

    Editor: Qian Jinghua.

    (Header image: A man adjusts a taxi meter in Xi’an, Shaanxi province, March 1, 2015. VCG)