A six-month pilot programme in Australia has seen a whopping 8.5 million drivers checked by new AI-powered cameras to see if they are using mobiles behind the wheel.
The cameras take a picture of the driver and the front passenger seat with artificial intelligence (AI) then reviewing the image to analyse whether the driver is using their phone. If it finds someone who is, the pic is forwarded to human officials to confirm the motorist has been caught red-handed.
With 100,000 motorists caught using their mobiles during the pilot, Aussie authorities in New South Wales are now planning to roll out the camera across the state. The plan is to conduct 135 million checks by 2023 and prevent 100 fatalities/serious accidents every year.
And there’s no reason why this ambitious target can’t be hit: the cameras are robust, able to operate in any weather conditions, and work 24 hours a day. Controversially though, the cameras will be deployed in fixed positions as well as on trailer-mounted mobile units – but with no warning signs so motorists won’t have time to stash their phones.
We have to unfortunately use the element of surprise to get people to think ‘well, I could get caught at any time’. I want behaviour to change and I want it changed immediately. It’s not about revenue – it’s about saving lives.”
– Andrew Constance, Road Minister, New South Wales, Australia in an interview with ABC.
Too close, too personal?
There have been concerns raised about privacy and where any images are actually stored once taken. Transport for New South Wales has said though that nearly all the images are erased within 48 hours.
Critically, while the AI itself might see what’s going on in the front seats, human personnel will only ever view images that contain incidents of law breaking as identified by the computer.
Because the cameras are proving so successful in Australia, UK drivers should expect to see similar technology being piloted here at some point in the future.
After all, there are still too many motorists using their mobiles in Britain – with those aged between 17-29 twice as likely to use their phones when driving than any other age group.