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Andrew Constance, New South Wales’ Minister for Roads, said the “world-first” technology would use “fixed and mobile trailer-mounted cameras”. According to the Transport for NSW, these cameras would utilise artificial intelligence to scan images for illegal mobile phone usage inside cars.
The images would have to show a driver illegally using his or her mobile phone on the road. Once the camera identified such an image, it is sent to authorised personnel who would then verify it. The authorities also mentioned that the photos taken by the cameras would be “securely stored and managed”.
Illegal mobile phone usage while driving includes making and receiving phone calls without hands-free technology, including using social media, video calling, photography or videography and playing audio. Drivers may only use their phones if their vehicle is parked outside of traffic.
The NSW government plans to install 45 portable cameras across the state, in unknown locations, and without warning signs so as to catch people completely off guard, reported CNN affiliate Sky News Australia.
Transport of NSW released a statement detailing the penalties that will be meted out when the technology captures a driver using a mobile phone illegally.
For the first three months, the government will issue the offending driver a warning letter, after which they will face a fine of up to AU$344 (S$320), or AU$457 (S$426) in a school zone. The offenders will also be given penalty points on their drivers’ licenses.
Minister for Regional Roads Paul Toole said the program will “progressively expand” to perform an estimated 135 million vehicle checks on NSW roads each year by 2023.
“The decision to pick up your phone can have fatal consequences. Whether you’re driving on a major highway or an isolated road in the bush, there’s no excuse for using your phone illegally – and from Sunday, there’s a much greater chance of getting nabbed,” said Toole.
Earlier this year, the technology was road-tested. During the trial period, the cameras had caught more than 100,000 drivers illegally using their phones while at the wheel.
“The NSW Government is serious about reducing our state’s road toll and rolling out mobile phone detection cameras is another way we will do this,” Constance said in a statement.
According to Reuters, the state wants to bring that number down by 30% in 2021.
NSW Police will continue to enforce illegal mobile phone use and issue penalties as part of regular operations during the warning phase of the technology initiative. /TISG