Australia has officially begun using new technology to help combat one of the 21st century’s biggest issues: people using their phones while they’re behind the wheel. Specifically, the state of New South Wales is currently installing multiple high definition cameras that are especially made for capturing images of drivers using their cell phones while driving.
New South Wales (NSW) is the first place in the world to implement this sort of technology throughout its roads. According to NSW’s official statement, the cameras use artificial intelligence to capture and review the images of drivers, and the AI software is able to detect if the driver is using their phone or not. These cameras are mounted in stationary locations, like a standard traffic camera light, and also on mobile trailers for on the go monitoring.
The technology isn’t the only thing that NSW’s transportation department is relying on for catching drivers illegally using their phones. Once an image is captured by a camera, it then needs to be verified by authorized personnel, according to NSW authority. They also stated that all images would be securely stored and managed amongst the transportation department. Individuals behind the technology understand that the cameras could capture drivers while they’re simply moving their phone or checking the GPS, hence the personnel review of the images to ensure appropriate action is taken against individuals actually using their phone illegally.
“The NSW Government is serious about reducing our state’s road toll and rolling out mobile phone detection cameras is another way we will do this,” Andrew Constance, New South Wales’ minister for roads, said in a statement.
Over the next three years NSW plans on mounting a total of 45 portable cameras throughout the state in locations that will be kept classified from the general public. The cameras will also offer no sort of warning sign in regards to where they’re located, as that would defeat the purpose of catching drivers in the act.
Throughout the past year NSW’s government has been recording trial data from the new AI camera technology, and reports state that over 100,000 drivers were captured illegally using their phones while driving from the cameras alone. Obviously none of those caught in the act were punished, as the government didn’t officially announce the use of this new technology by that point, but the data has now been made available to everyone as a sort of warning on how accurate this technology actually is.
In the official announcement for the new technology, NSW’s transportation department stated that for the first three months that the cameras are installed, drivers who are caught will receive a warning letter at first, instead of an actual fine. After the initial three months, or if an individual gets caught more than once within those three months, offenders will receive a fine of up to $345, or $460 if they’re caught in a school zone, and penalty points will be added to their license.
While some individuals think the punishment is aggressive, New South Wales implemented this technology in response to the amount of car fatalities that could have easily been avoided had the driver not been looking at their phone. In NSW alone, 330 individuals have died in 2019 from cell phone driving related incidents. The state is aiming to cut that number down by at least 30% with this new technology, and based on their data projections, they should have no problem in achieving that goal and keeping their streets safe.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.