In-Car Dashcams, a must-have for Chinese drivers - or: how to protect yourself from Pèngcí


Have you ever heard about the Chinese word “Pèngcí”?

Pèngcí literally means touching a piece of porcelain, thus describing the way an antique seller displays a fragile item, such as a porcelain piece, at a place where it can be easily knocked over when someone is passing by, so that the owner can charge money for this damage from the visitor. At least, this is how it was during the Qing dynasty (1644-1912).

However, in modern China, Pèngcí still exists! The term describes now how a pedestrian lets himself fall into a car and pretending to be injured in order to extort money. People with this intention will act in a very dramatic way, laying on the street, crying very loudly, telling everyone who`s watching how he has been hurt by the rude driver. Some driver might be in a hurry, some might feel embarrassed by this drama, some might want to avoid a police intervention (e.g. because the annual vehicle inspection hasn’t been done, etc.). So even if the driver knows that this is a typical Pèngcí situation, he will try to handle this “accident” privately through a financial compensation. Giving money to the ”injured” pedestrian and then leaving is allowed in China.

As there are more and more Pèngcí professionals on the road, drivers started to search for a way to protect themselves. This is where a dashcam starts to show its value and becomes desirable for drivers.

Product options on the market and mounting:

In the beginning, there were only external dashcams on the market. The costs for an external dashcam are between 150 RMB (about 20 Euro) and 400 RMB (about 45 Euro). It normally looks like a small camera and should be stuck on the windshield close to the interior rear-view mirror. A power cable needs to be connected with the cigarette lighter of the car. But the disadvantage of an external dashcam is that the cable interferes and is not easy to hide.

Later, an updated version of external dashcams has been developed. The new dashcam looks exactly like a rear-view mirror and is meant to replace it. This new version costs between 700 RMB (100 Euro) and 1500 RMB (200 Euro). The advantage of this updated version is the idea of having “one-piece” in the car, the disadvantage is the complicated installation. For this reason a lot of sellers offer a professional installation and charge less than 50 RMB (7 Euro).

For some years now, several local car manufacturers in China have started to integrate dashcams in their models as a standard feature. The dashcam is integrated seamlessly into the interior rear-view mirror.


All dashcams have basic functions such as:

  1. Video recording: normally comes on automatically when the vehicle is running
  2. Emergency recording: comes on automatically when the dashcam perceives a car crash or sudden break
  3. Photos: can be turned on by the user manually when needed

The main purpose of the dashcam is protecting oneself in case of an accident caused by others, so it can be regarded as a black box.

More advanced features can be found in the updated version:

  1. Wider view: up to 170-degree wide angle
  2. Voice control
  3. Remote control via APP with warning notifications
  4. Camera-based ADAS: collision avoidance system (warning), lane departure warning system, radar detector, park assistant (Camera with moving guidelines and audio warning), notification of the movement of the front car in a traffic jam, etc.
  5. Driving protocol with information on GPS, altitude, acceleration, etc. Users can take the footage for further editing, making cool videos

Data protection?

Well, the Chinese do not have many concerns about data protection when it comes to driving, or to be more precisely, when it comes to “other people doing bad things”. Among the Chinese, it is a common view, that the act should be exposed to the public, when someone has done a bad thing. For example: Photos of men who harass females in public transportation are widely shared. Videos of drivers with a bad driving behavior will be posted online. Or, if you run over a red light while biking and get caught by the policeman, you need to take a selfie holding a sign: “I run over a red light and that is wrong” and post it on social media. You are only allowed to leave after you have gathered 10 likes.

This kind of exposure is meant to (1) make the offender feel ashamed for his behavior, (2) intimidate and warn potential offenders, (3) remind others to do self-protection if they run into similar situations.

The deeper reason for not rejecting, and sometimes even encouraging this kind of exposures, is partly because of the lack of law enforcement. For example, if a man harasses a woman and gets caught, the policeman only tells him “Don`t do this next time” and then lets him go. If the authority does not act, the citizens will take their actions. Another deeper reason is the mindset of collectivism: being despised by the majority is one kind of punishment.

What does that mean for business?

  1. Encountering Pèngcí and bad driving behavior from other drivers belongs to the normal daily traffic situation in China, so people want to protect themselves in case of an accident. Not to mention in an autonomous driving car that doesn‘t understand that there are people who don’t follow the rule.
  2. Camera-based ADAS are already integrated into the dashcam. There is no need for the car owners to purchase these features if they have to pay extra money.
  3. There are no strict rules about data protection in China. For Chinese consumers the self-protection of money and personal safety goes first, data protection later. Data protection for others is not relevant at all.


If you want to get more insights about this topic or you are interested in conducting a market research study, please feel free to contact Spiegel Institut.


Author: Yue Liu, Spiegel Institut Mannheim

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