Shanghai’s transportation authorities plan by the end of this year to have all of the city’s cabs outfitted with electronic labels to help traffic police identify unlicensed taxis, the Shanghai Municipal Transport and Port Authority announced on Tuesday.
The agency hopes the labels will help police monitor Shanghai’s fleet of licensed taxis and crack down on the city’s illegal taxis, especially around train stations and airports, Huang Xiaoyong, the agency’s press officer, told the Global Times on Tuesday.
Under the plan, a third party will install a label the size of a business card on each taxi. The label will display a code that police can scan with a mobile point-of-sale (POS) device similar to those used in retail stores.
Scanning the label will allow police to bring up all of the information related to the taxi, including the driver’s name, his or her employment number and the taxi’s license plate number, all of which can be verified by the traffic police.
Huang said the information will also show whether a taxi has been involved in any criminal cases or if its driver has broken any traffic regulations.
Unlicensed taxis are typically outfitted with fare meters and roof lamps that mimic the appearance of licensed cabs from famous taxi companies.
Other taxis, known as “clone taxis,” make use of forged license plates that were copied from other taxis, which is why traffic police have trouble determining whether a taxi is licensed by looking at its plate.
Unlicensed taxi drivers have been known to take advantage of passengers by taking them on long detours on the way to their destinations in order to run up the fare. But unlike licensed taxi drivers, passengers have no way of reporting them.
From January to November 2010, local traffic police caught 307 taxis operating with forged license plates, 103 more than during the same period in 2009, according to the newspaper Shanghai Law Journal.
A senior official from the Shanghai Municipal Transport and Port Authority, who declined to be named, told the Global Times that the labels cannot be forged easily.
Nonetheless, passengers remain skeptical about how effective the labels will be.
“If traffic police start scanning these labels at places where a large number of taxis wait for fares, cloned taxis will stop going to those places and just pick up passengers on the streets,” said Zhao Ling, a Shanghai resident who often takes taxis to work during rush hour.