In response to the increasing number of crashes caused by ‘distracted driving’, the world’s first mobile phone detection camera program will be rolled out in the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) by the end of this year.
The announcement from the NSW Government and Transport for NSW (TfNSW) follows a six-month trial of the Heads-Up camera system developed by Australian technology company Acusensus on Sydney’s motorway network. Software from Roadmetric is capable of detecting the same misdemeanours but Acusensus is the first to produce hardware specifically for this purpose.
During the pilot between January and June this year, the cameras checked 8.5 million vehicles and detected more than 100,000 drivers using their phones illegally. The program will start later this year with the deployment of 45 fixed and mobile camera units and the scheme will progressively expand to perform 135 million vehicle checks annually by 2023. The mobile phone detection camera program will be supported by a comprehensive road safety campaign including online information and public education.
During the pilot, both fixed and transportable trailer-mounted versions of the camera system were found to operate reliably in real world conditions. The mobile phone detection camera program will now be rolled out across the state and will include both types of unit, with the transportable cameras moved across a network of locations in NSW, targeting illegal mobile phone use anywhere and at any time. Warning letters will be issued for the first three months of the program. Following this period, the penalty for offending drivers is five demerit points and a A$344 fine (US$233), rising to A$457 (US$310) in a school zone. The Privacy Commissioner has been involved in ongoing consultation during the pilot regarding the privacy protection measures incorporated into the initiative. As with other road safety camera programs in NSW, strict controls are in place to ensure images captured by the system are securely stored and managed.
The Heads-Up detection system, which operates both day and night and in all weather conditions, uses two high-definition cameras to capture images of the license plate and the front-row cabin space of all vehicles to detect illegal mobile phone use. The system uses artificial intelligence (AI) to automatically review images and detect offending drivers, and to exclude images of non-offending drivers from further action. Images that the automated system considers likely to contain a driver illegally using a mobile phone are verified by authorized (human) personnel
“Unfortunately, some people haven’t received the message and think they can continue to put the safety of themselves, their passengers and the community at risk without consequence,” noted NSW’s Minister for Roads, Andrew Constance. “There is strong community support for more enforcement to stop illegal mobile phone use with 80% of people we surveyed supporting use of the mobile phone detection cameras.”
Acusensus managing director, Alexander Jannink, said, “We are committed to supporting the NSW Government’s pioneering initiative to reduce the significant loss and trauma caused by illegal phone use on the road network. We know from the success of the pilot and other enforcement technology programs that the deployment of our Heads-Up solution will drive behavioral change and improve the safety of road users.”
A brief video about the program is available HERE