Australia rolling out AI cameras to catch and fine smartphone-distracted drivers
Everyone knows it's dangerous to text and drive, and yet smartphones seem an irresistible temptation in traffic for too many people. As a motorcyclist filtering through traffic, I reckon I'd spot somebody on their phone at least once a minute on the road, despite living in a place where getting caught touching your phone while driving automatically results in fines over US$300, and enough demerit points to eat a third of your license.
If the enforcement hasn't been sufficient to change this behavior, that's about to change. Melbourne-based Acusensus says its distracted driver detection system operates 24/7, in good or bad weather, impervious to sun glare and perfectly capable in darkness. It automatically detects violations using artificial intelligence algorithms, then creates encrypted, traceable, evidence-grade packages that can be used by law enforcement to issue tickets, or take the matter all the way through the court system.
A six-month pilot test by the New South Wales Department of Transport checked 8.5 million drivers and found more than 100,000 prosecutable offenses (which seems surprisingly low to us), and now the system is going into full deployment, with an expectation of checking 135 million drivers by 2023. "Camera cameras" will be running by the end of the year, both on mobile trailers with tall poles on them, and in fixed locations throughout NSW. The cameras will be set to "warning letter" mode for the first three months, sending guilty drivers a "get your hand off it" message, and then after that, fines of AU$344 (approx. US$230) and five demerit points will begin to kick in for each offense.
Acusensus says it's already rolling the technology out in India as well, through a partnership with Ador that has begin monitoring arterial roads in Mumbai and Hyderabad, up to four lanes at a time. The company has also been having meetings in Canada. Given that it's both a safety-focused system and one that can reliably haul in revenue for governments, it's reasonable to expect this technology will spread quickly.