Chinese Motor Vehicle Department Adopting Face Recognition

Anyone who has spent hours waiting in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has probably thought, “There HAS to be a better way to do this.” The Chinese may have come up with just such a way, with a DMV office/police station that uses face recognition and other artificial intelligence technologies to automatically identify citizens and guide them through administrative processes.

The office, located in the provincial capital city of Wuhan, will provide registration services and administer driver’s examinations using a simulator, according to a Chinese language publication. The facility will allow citizens to address 130 separate traffic issues, including renewing driver’s licenses, registering motor vehicles and reporting accidents and other incidents.

The station is designed to operate on a 24/7/365 basis and is completely unmanned. The Chinese publication was vague regarding when the station will open but suggested it will begin operations soon.

“Citizens handling traffic control matters no longer have to line up, do not take pictures, do not have to submit a variety of proof of printing material (and) do not need to run errands back and forth to take the documents,” the publication stated via an interpretation from Google Translate.

The unmanned office will use face recognition technology from Shenzhen-based Tencent for the admission process, eliminating the need to present and manually verify ID cards.

Tencent in April announced its face recognition technology set a world record by achieving an 83.29 percent accuracy rate in a demanding test called the MegaFace Challenge. MegaFace involves training data consisting of 2 million Western faces and 4 million Asian faces.

The DMV office represents just one aspect of Tencent’s cooperation with the Chinese government. The company in 2015 entered into an agreement with the China’s Ministry of Public Security to develop face recognition technology for banking services.

China’s government is engaging in widespread deployment of face recognition systems for identification and security purposes. For example, police are using the technology to identify and detain train passengers who aren’t permitted to travel.

Face recognition technologies could help the country manage its vast database of national identification photos. This database contains more than 1 billion photos, compared to about 400 million in the United States, according to the Financial Times.

While automated DMV offices someday may become common in China, long-suffering motorists in other countries may not enjoy the benefits of AI-based services anytime soon. Chinese citizens are accustomed to having their identities authenticated with face recognition systems that sometimes operate surreptitiously.

In Western countries, the use of such technologies frequently spurs concerns about violations of privacy and civil rights.

Nirel Marofsky is project analyst for the cognitive engine and application ecosystem at Veritone. She acts as a liaison to strategic partners, integrating developers and their capabilities into the Veritone aiWARE platform. Learn more about our platform and join the Veritone developer ecosystem today.