Australia Deploys AI Cameras to Catch Texting Drivers

26 September 2019 - autoevolution

Australia Deploys AI Cameras to Catch Texting Drivers

Australia is much stricter about texting and driving than other countries, including the U.S. Apparently, it’s also more bent on curbing instances of distracted driving, by employing AI cameras that will catch texting drivers in the act.

In doing so, New South Wales, the state with the largest population in Australia, will become the first to use AI to catch and track down distracted drivers, New South Wales roads minister Andrew Constance tells Australian Broadcasting Corp in an interview.

According to Time, a trial run was deemed a success, after screening over 8.5 million vehicles and catching 100,000 drivers using their cellphones at the wheel. These results were obtained with just 2 camera units, so authorities are planning to extend the program to include 45 units spread out across the state by the end of the year. Most of these units will be mobile.

Each AI camera unit actually includes 2 cameras, but the decision to hand out a ticket is deferred to a human agent. One camera zooms on the license plate, while the other locks in on the driver, through the windshield. If the AI determines that the driver is not with both hands on the wheel, the camera snaps a photo, but the decision to issue and mail a fine is made by a human agent.

Constance says that many accidents could be prevented through better traffic monitoring, as they are caused by distracted driving. "There is no doubt drink-driving, as far as I'm concerned, is on a par with mobile phone use, and that's why we want everyone to be aware that you're going to get busted doing this anytime, anywhere," Constance explains.

Australian law prohibits the use of a cellphone when driving, including when you're stuck in traffic, at the red light or at the drive-through. As current laws stand, you can't even pay with your phone at the drive-through, unless you put the car in park first and kill the engine. Authorities are now looking to relax the law to allow drivers to make phone payments while in the car at such establishments.

Otherwise, if you get caught in NSW with a phone in your hand, whether by an actual traffic officer or one of these AI cameras, you will receive a fine of AUD344 (US$234) and 4 points on your license.

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