Australia Introduces Phone Detection Cameras for Roads

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Australia put up the first phone-detecting cameras in New South Wales over the weekend. The move is part of a broader plan to reduce roadway fatalities by 30 percent by 2021 — especially as new technologies continue to exacerbate the issue of distracted driving. “It’s a system to change the culture,” NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Michael Corboy told Australian media las week.

There’s nothing incredibly new about the cameras themselves. But they’re networked to an artificial intelligence that determines whether or not someone behind the wheel is using their phone. Suspect images are then forwarded to authorized personnel to be verified as truly criminal.

New South Wales wants to put up 45 portable cameras over the next three years, moving them occasionally to keep people on their toes. For the first three months, starting now, offending drivers will only receive warning letters in the mail. The penalty then becomes a $344 AUD ($233 USD), which gets a bit higher in school zones, and some points on their license (again, more in a school zone). 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.

Critics of the plan are worried that the cameras sacrifice privacy for negligible safety gains. There have also been fears that the courts could become overwhelmed by drivers disputing bogus claims if the system isn’t spot on with its detection.

While numerous outlets are calling this a world’s first, the Netherlands recently put a similar system in place to catch distracted drivers. China also has a system like this (a rather expansive one) and intends on connecting it to its social credit score program early next year.

“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,” explained Minister for Roads Andrew Constance. “As we enter a notoriously dangerous time of the year on our roads I want all drivers to know that if you use your mobile phone while behind the wheel of a vehicle in NSW you will have a greater chance of being caught, anywhere at anytime … Some people have not got the message about using their phones legally and safely. If they think they can continue to put the safety of themselves, their passengers and the community at risk without consequence they are in for a rude shock.”

[Image: pathdoc/Shutterstock]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • Ajla Ajla on Dec 02, 2019

    Reading some of these comments makes me happy to live in a place sparsely populated enough to not have need deal with so much danger on the local roads or when walking around. Even if the idea of "fine dining" is Red Lobster.

    • -Nate -Nate on Dec 04, 2019

      ! _I_ like The Red Lobster..... Once a year they have an all you can eat shrimp fest, right before my son's birthday, I always take him Yes, my old & wrinkly (I assume) neck is red, so what ? . -Nate

  • -Nate -Nate on Dec 03, 2019

    "funny how conservatives are just as eager to invent “rights” which benefit them as the people they complain about." No, only the whacko alt righties do this and then try to hid behind "Conservative" labels . Actual Conservatives understand honesty and following the law . "The red light runners are not incapacitated or driving overloaded trucks. They are, overwhelmingly, just a$sholes who don’t want to wait." Fact . If you don't agree, look in the mirror, the problem is _YOU_ . "Here’s where I remind you that driving a motor vehicle is a privilege and not a right. If you want to keep privileges, use them responsibly." Thank you Cory ; The sad fact is : too many don't give a rat's patoot about anyone but them selves yet they're the very first who scream if the cops & first responders aren't there in a hurry when their wife, kids etc. cause a collision.... Time to GROW UP and act like an adult . -Nate

  • Zipper69 Current radio ads blare "your local Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram dealer" and the facias read the same. Is the honeymoon with FIAT over now the 500 and big 500 have stopped selling?
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  • ToolGuy Personally I have no idea what anyone in this video is talking about, perhaps someone can explain it to me.
  • ToolGuy Friendly reminder of two indisputable facts: A) Winners buy new vehicles (only losers buy used), and B) New vehicle buyers are geniuses (their vehicle choices prove it):
  • Groza George Stellantis live off the back of cheap V8 cars with old technology and suffers from lack of new product development. Now that regulations killed this market, they have to ditch the outdated overhead.They are not ready to face the tsunami of cheap Chinese EVs or ready to even go hybrid and will be left in the dust. I expect most of their US offerings to be made in Mexico in the future for good tariff protection and lower costs of labor instead of overpriced and inflexible union labor.