Australia is upping its remote policing game with a new program that will use a series of cameras to catch distracted drivers. Unlike speed camera traps, these cameras will not be marked. Sneaky, sneaky.
The government of New South Wales, Australia, will spend the equivalent of $60 million on the project, Fast Company reported last week. It will employ a network of 45 cameras systems—some fixed, some mobile—all backed by AI. Each unit actually houses two separate cameras: one aimed at the driver; the other aimed at the car's license plate.
The first camera is the smart one. It can tell whether drivers are using their phones. Those who are not will be ignored. Those who are determined to be distracted will get their mug shots taken and forwarded to a human for a second opinion. If confirmed, drivers will be fined the equivalent of $235.
Officials tested the system for six months. During that time, it observed more than 100,000 instances of distracted driving, including texting, Facebooking, and even one driver who handed off the wheel to a passenger to facilitate their phone use. A total of 8.5 million vehicles were checked in the trial.
The state's transport minister, Andrew Constance, said the point is not to raise revenue, but to spook drivers into believing it's simply not worth texting while driving, as they could be caught at any time. He also said that New South Wales will be the first jurisdiction in the world to use cameras to catch distracted drivers.
This is not the first instance of a government body using cameras for innovative enforcement strategies. A suburb of France is testing a network of "noise radar" cameras to catch and fine motorists with exhausts that are louder than the legal limit. That pilot program is underway in Villeneuve-le-Roi, a southern suburb of the French capital, and is expected to run for two years.