China is obsessed with stopping jaywalkers — and is now spraying them with water

Water fight China

  • One city in China has built bollards that spray jaywalkers with water, and tell pedestrians that “Crossing is dangerous.”
  • The system also uses facial recognition technology to capture and shame wayward walkers.
  • Facial recognition technology is being used more frequently to target jaywalkers because of a high number of road fatalities and traffic jams.
  • But in an increasingly strict China, police may want to clamp down on overt law breakers.
  • Jaywalkers may soon lose points on their social credit score.

China is so desperate to stop jaywalkers it’s turned to spraying them with water.

In Daye, in the central Hubei province, one pedestrian crossing has had a number of bright yellow bollards installed that spray wayward pedestrians’ feet with water mist.

The pilot system works by using a laser sensor that identifies movement off the curb when the pedestrian light is still red. The bollard then emits its water spray, set to 26 degrees Celcius, and announces, “Please do not cross the street, crossing is dangerous.”

Unsurprisingly, the bollards are also equipped with facial recognition technology and photographs of jaywalkers are displayed on a giant LED screen next to the crossing.

The use of facial-recognition technology is soaring in China where it is being used to increase efficiencies and improve policing. AI is being used to find fugitivestrack people’s regular hangouts, predict crime before it happens, but, most commonly, to stop jaywalkers.

While many Chinese cities are displaying jaywalkers’ photos, names, and identification numbers on giant public screens, and even government websites, some cities are becoming more creative.

Shenzen has begun immediately texting jaywalkers after they commit their traffic infringement, while other cities only allow pedestrians to have their photos removed from public screens after helping a traffic officer for 20 minutes.

But why, of all crimes, does China focus so heavily on stopping jaywalkers?

Crossing roads in China can be very dangerous, and local governments are likely trying to minimize traffic jams and change pedestrians’ behaviours for their own safety.

According to the World Health Organisation, China had more than 260,000 road traffic deaths in 2013.

An anecdotal contributor to this number appears to be the country’s compensation system. In China, drivers who injure someone customarily pay expenses, but paying up to $50,000 for a funeral or burial is far cheaper than what may be life-long medical bills. So for some drivers its more frugal to ensure a victim is deceased. 

There could also be less altruistic reasons for the clamp-down.

When one city built pedestrian gates at a busy intersection it was linked to attempts to strengthen “public morals.” In a country where the government attempts to — and largely succeeds in — censoring its citizens behaviour in accordance with morality and socialist values, the constant flood of jaywalkers flaunting the law and creating havoc is hardly an ideal scenario.

And while the new water spray system seems like a light-hearted solution to these problems, the consequences could be severe.

If Daye’s system is rolled out across the city, Global Times reported that the behaviour of repeat jaywalkers may lower offenders’ social credit scores. People with low social credit scores can be blocked from travelling, applying for certain jobs, sending their kids to certain schools, and even throttling internet speeds.

SEE ALSO: China’s largest trade fair is the size of 71 Walmart Supercenters, where buyers go to stock the world’s shelves with toys, TVs, and toilets — here’s what it’s like

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