By on December 2, 2019

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]

 

 

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58 Comments on “Australia Introduces Phone Detection Cameras for Roads...”


  • avatar

    You know what, good. Normally against government interference, but people don’t listen or use common sense with phone usage while *trying* to drive. Thousands of people are victims of distracted driving each year as a result.

    We need this.

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Posky

      I am almost always on my privacy soapbox but this one made me plant one foot on the ground. Abuses seem totally plausible but distracted driving is getting well out of hand. I personally know a few people that have been pulled over for texting while driving and issued a pretty juicy ticket, but they continue to throw caution to the wind so they can instagram on the go. I’m okay with some light experimentation — especially if it’s going down in another country. Let them test the theory.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Phone calls still work just so everyone is aware.

        • 0 avatar

          The texting, photo taking, and web browsing has gotta stop. So many cars swerving around, up and down the speedometer. Meanwhile, the driver looks at their hand or lap at their comfort object.

          • 0 avatar
            Dan

            I agree with you in theory but automated traffic enforcement has long since left the realm of theory and you know as well as I do that the actual practice is a bullchit money grab. Give the people who gave us 3 second yellows and $100 tickets for not stopping twice for a right turn the right to look for phones too and they’re going to do more of exactly the same thing.

            $200 for touching your phone while sitting at a 3 minute red light, here we come.

    • 0 avatar
      Garrett

      No we don’t. Feel free to waive your own rights, but I’ll be keeping mine.

      Infotainment units now require you to devote a stupid amount of attention to things like adjusting climate control. Start by banning those, coming up with better ways to prevent drunk driving, and instituting mandatory safety inspections for vehicles in all 50 states. You can do those things without infringing on my rights.

      • 0 avatar

        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.

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          “Here’s where I remind you that driving a motor vehicle is a privilege and not a right.”

          Thank you.

          funny how conservatives are just as eager to invent “rights” which benefit them as the people they complain about.

        • 0 avatar
          Garrett

          You do not sign away your rights by virtue of driving a car.

          For example, your right against search and seizure does not cease to exist while you are in the process of operating a motor vehicle.

          Likewise, you are not required to forfeit your right to remain silent by virtue of operating a vehicle.

          In this case, these devices infringe upon the rights of not only the driver, but of the passenger in the front seat as well.

          Furthermore, who said I was utilizing a car irresponsibly? The notion of collective presumed guilt, or guilt by association with a class of individuals runs counter to the basic principles of not only American government, but of just about every modern democratic system. The idea that I should be punished, questioned, searched, etc. because of someone else is unbelievable.

          Proponents of this are no better than the people that favor “stop and frisk”.

        • 0 avatar
          stuki

          Well at least someone is naive enough to fall for the drivel they told you to mindlessly and uncritically regurgitate in indoctrination class.

          You have just as much of a right to drive, and fly, and sail, and ride a horse or bicycle or motorcycle, as you have to put on shoes before you walk. Or to avail yourself of any other means of moving about creation as you see fit.

          Proper government can, within very strict and narrow boundaries, _regulate_ exactly how you go about exercising those rights. As long as they don’t materially restrict them. The canonical example being: They can prevent you from driving on the left side of the road, AS LONG AS they provide an equal alternative, like allowing you to drive on the right side. That’s what _regulate_ refers to. Make regular. Not ban. Nor restrict.

          What they can not do, is tell you you can’t drive on either side. Because driving is your God given right. Just as walking is. And horseback riding And sailing……… It is in no way whatsoever, some “privilege” graciously bestowed upon you by some taxfeeding leech at his arbitrary discretion.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            This is made-up law and I hope nobody is paying you for legal advice.

            The Constitution of the United States provides you with a right to travel. That means you can move within and between states and the government cannot stop you.

            It is well established that the constitutional right to travel does not include a right to do so by driving. The state can exercise police powers over drivers, as it should be, given how deadly driving is to the public. If you do not have driving privileges, you are still free to exercise your right to travel by walking, bicycling, riding a horse, or having someone else drive you, in public transportation such as a taxi or bus, or in a private car.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            @stuki

            Amazing. Every word of what you just said was wrong.

            Reddit is not the place to learn about law.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Here is the thing about law, unless you’re a barrister you won’t 100% understand it so its best to predicate with phases such as “as I understand it” and possibly terminate with ones as “but my interpretation may be off, best to seek counsel”.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            you can tell the difference between someone who is trying to explain the law “as they understand it” and someone who just thinks anything that sounds right to him must be the truth because he’s smart and all.

      • 0 avatar
        How_Embarrassing_4You

        OK Zoomer.

  • avatar
    Whatnext

    Automakers should be required to install software that jams any text to or from a vehicle. We survived 100 years without needing to be reachable every second while you’re driving.

  • avatar
    d4rksabre

    Hopefully they never bring this to the US.

    Red light cameras are already a complete waste of time since half the false-positives that are allegedly “reviewed” by someone at some private agency that LE farms this stuff out to end up needing to be disputed anyway. So then we throw verifying that AI has correctly ID’d cell phone use into the mix, FUN!

    Enjoy playing even more phone tag with idiots for tickets erroneously attributed to your license plate on cars that you’ve never owned in places you’ve never been.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      nah, red light running is a big problem too. Everyone is so damn impatient and think nothing of breezing through an intersection 1-3 seconds after the light has turned red. I don’t know if it’s worse now or I’m just noticing it more, but I see it a *hell* of a lot.

      The problem is when you have corrupt deals between municipalities and the companies who make and install these systems which give the companies a cut of the ticket revenue. Then they have perverse incentives to make more people “run red lights” such as shortening the length of the yellow, false positives, etc. Google Redflex to see that in practice.

      I could support something like red light cameras if they were installed and run by the city/county with no revenue sharing to anyone, and no dirty tricks to induce more violations.

      • 0 avatar
        Dan

        “I could support something like red light cameras if they were installed and run by the city/county with no revenue sharing to anyone, and no dirty tricks to induce more violations.”

        Those revenue sharing contracts are indefensible but all of the abusive behaviors to issue more tickets are a problem of the revenue and not of the sharing. Cops hid behind the bushes and pointed their geico guns at the bottom of a hill long before there were traffic cameras at all.

      • 0 avatar
        d4rksabre

        Well, that’s the rub. Maybe in a normal, sane country red light cameras (and other surveillance systems) would be properly used for safety reasons. Here in the US though, it’s all about making money, and as such these systems are abused and mismanaged.

        They had to shut the red light camera program down in the last city I lived in because it was *so bad* it was actually *causing* accidents. They’re selling the whole system off.

        Unless these systems are regulated into actual usability they are nothing more than a nuisance run by grifters and incompetents.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          We have a red-light and school-zone camera program that is actually run by the city; hasn’t resulted in shorter yellow times or other forms of manipulation; and has resulted in a lot less red-light running and school-zone speeding where it’s been implemented. Honestly as long as we can keep the program that honest I’d be happy to have the red light cameras at every intersection. Running reds may be the most egregious violation in cities because the accidents it causes are so likely to be severe.

          • 0 avatar
            SPPPP

            “has resulted in a lot less red-light running and school-zone speeding where it’s been implemented”

            Reduction in school-zone speeding, I believe. I believe there’s a reduction in incidental running of red lights, such as missing the end of the yellow by 1/4 of a second, because more people will slam on their brakes. (Which has the undesirable side effect of increasing rear-end collisions.)

            However, I have a hard time believing the effectiveness of red light cameras in preventing egregious red-light running and fatal crashes. The psychology just doesn’t make sense to me. Incapacitated drivers that don’t even see the red light will not even notice the presence of the cameras. Drivers of overloaded trucks with substandard brakes, if they aren’t swayed by the possibility of a major accident or killing someone, are unlikely to be swayed by the threat of a fine.

            The other benefits are desirable. I just don’t see how it can work *as advertised*, which means as a safety feature.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            The red light runners are not incapacitated or driving overloaded trucks. They are, overwhelmingly, just a$sholes who don’t want to wait. But they will wait if the alternative is to get an annoying ticket in the mail. The city statistics are pretty dramatic.

            An increase in slow-speed rear-end crashes, which tend to be minor and not result in injuries, is a price well worth paying for a reduction in the sorts of catastrophic T-bone and pedestrian crashes that result from running red lights. And, as people slowly realize the red light cameras are there, the rear-end crashes go down too.

            https://www.seattle.gov/Documents/Departments/Police/Publications/Red_Light_Study_07.pdf

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            ”Incapacitated drivers that don’t even see the red light will not even notice the presence of the cameras. Drivers of overloaded trucks with substandard brakes, if they aren’t swayed by the possibility of a major accident or killing someone, are unlikely to be swayed by the threat of a fine.”

            Ok, but I highly doubt those make up a significant fraction of red light runners. The people I see running red lights don’t appear incapacitated nor are they overloaded trucks. They’re just impatient, self centered jerks. Just today I witnessed three people run a red light all at once (two through, one left turn.) and no it wasn’t a “stale yellow,” the light was red prior to them entering the intersection. But according to you, if it won’t solve all possible edge cases we should sit on our hands and do nothing.

            Why must perfect be the enemy of good?

          • 0 avatar

            In many places, the RLC end up enforcing right turn on red without full stop violations, not really a great hazard….

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Right on red without a full stop is a major hazard for pedestrians crossing in the green direction. There is a spot near my office where it actually feels safer to jaywalk than to cross on green because of all the right-on-red people who only look toward oncoming car traffic and never toward the crosswalk they are about to cross. Cameras absolutely should enforce it.

        • 0 avatar
          Arthur Dailey

          Red light cameras would be relatively redundant if all major ‘regular’ intersections were replaced by roundabouts.

          York Region (the areas immediately on the NE of Toronto) has replaced some of their more dangerous intersections (for example Highway 48 and Bloomington) with roundabouts and people are no longer being killed/injured by dumptrucks routinely running red/amber lights. The Humboldt tragedy would also have been prevented if that intersection were a roundabout.

          As to ‘information systems’ in cars. They are assinine and probably designed by ‘trend setters’ who do not own vehicles.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            There is no room for roundabouts in crowded cities. They’re a decent solution for intersections of large roads in wide-open suburbs.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            I’m all for roundabouts (love the damn things) but they take up more room and can’t really be wedged into areas already built up.

          • 0 avatar
            SPPPP

            Dal20402, I read the linked report and I would just echo its own statement,

            “There is little evidence that cameras have decreased the frequency of all auto crashes or of the more dangerous angle collisions; however, it does appear that cameras may have mitigated the severity of crashes.”

            The best they could come up with was a “may have mitigated”.

            It was a relatively small sample size and short time period, so it’s probably not the best indicator either way.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            For additional context, I have been living with this red-light camera program since 2012, and I can tell you from ample personal experience that driver behavior is *very* different at the intersections with the cameras than the intersections without them. Once the camera has been there a while, the difference is that the drivers actually stop when the light is red, instead of pushing it one right after the other until the last one is utterly convinced that if he doesn’t stop then he’ll crash into a car that actually has a green light.

            When you’re on foot or a bicycle, the experience is one of predictable normality, versus expecting that a car might come from any direction at any time at very high “beat the light” speed regardless of what the signal says.

        • 0 avatar

          NYC is an example of changing the laws to make money. They lowered speed limits from 30 to 25, THEN installed cameras….all over the place. Cams click at 36 A part of the West Side Highway, posted 35, is being lowered to 30, to enhance camera enforcement at 40.

          You know that there are engineering surveys showing the violator class its too small with a 40 mph or 45 mph speed cam shutter, so lower the limits = profit.

          Vision Zero provides all the cover they need politically, regardless of traffic engineering, traffic flow, or businesses unable to get deliveries with three of five lanes somehow removed or buggered.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Why would NYC, where a large majority of people don’t drive and street space is at a premium, ever engineer for car drivers?

            They should congestion price the private car drivers out of existence in Manhattan, honestly. That would, at the same time, allow street space to be reclaimed for pedestrians in proportion to their extreme numbers and free up the remaining space for deliveries and construction—that is, the people who actually need to bring trucks into the city.

          • 0 avatar
            SPPPP

            JimZ, some might say that you are letting perfect (“no crashes ever”) be the enemy of good (“few crashes”). You may have overlooked that, at most locations, red light accidents ARE the “edge case”, and you are the one trying to solve it.

            I’m not saying that obeying the law is bad, but constant surveillance and 100% rigid enforcement of technicalities don’t seem good either. The camera program costs money, even if it’s revenue-generating for the city. The money comes from the citizens. Certain citizens, but nonetheless, from the citizens. And if people start obeying the law 100%, then the revenue dries up. Will the city accept that, or will they find new ways to monetize the cameras?

            JimZ, if you like the idea of the red-light cameras, maybe we should also put in speed cameras. Or better yet, mandated GPS in every car, with automatic tickets. Or better yet, speed controls built right in. Or better yet, ban driving, go autonomous only, from state-sanctioned oligopolies, on a subscription basis. And who knows what people will get up to while not in their cars? Good thing they have been trained to carry around cameras and micropohones so we can keep track of them. This is really a brave new world we live in. Long live the Revolution and the Party. /s

            Maybe that’s how one person’s perfect becomes the enemy of everyone else’s good.

            Dal20402, thank you for the additional context. If real-world behavior is better in this case, then maybe *that* group of red light cameras makes sense. It’s possible that the driving culture in your state is different than the culture in mine, so maybe my analysis is limited in scope.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            wow, you went from strawman to slippery slope in record time there.

          • 0 avatar
            SPPPP

            You built the strawman, I just kicked it down the slope.

  • avatar
    thejohnnycanuck

    Maybe they could use the additional revenue to revive their automobile industry.

    Too soon?

  • avatar
    SPPPP

    I sort of doubt that the “artificial intelligence” does much substantial. Probably, it just checks if there are two light-colored “hand” objects contrasting against a dark arc of a “wheel” object. If not, it automatically gets sent to the “authorized personnel”, who probably work in a data center in India for little money. So it probably boils down to a private police force, paid with public money, handing out tickets based on camera surveillance.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    If dummies can’t figure out how to BlueTooth, speaker or Talk2Text, yeah maybe they’re too inept to walk and chew bubblegum at the same time.

  • avatar
    retrocrank

    Coming soon to the bathrooms near you, surveillance cameras installed to lower the incidence of acquired blindness.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Yes, we can all agree that texting, etc. while driving sucks. But I am deeply skeptical that this will detect handheld use with any degree of reliability. The problem is, once this becomes a significant revenue source, the government won’t be able to let go of it. In my own hometown of Washington, there are automated speed cameras. One is strategically positioned at the bottom of a steep down grade just before a signal-controlled intersection. This is in a less affluent part of town. When the city council member who represents that ward complained that the $100 fine was more than chump change for his constituents, the member who represents the wealthy northwest quadrant of the city piped up and said the government couldn’t do without that money.

    Fact is there are a lot of distractions while driving. As others have pointed out new cars’ GUIs often require looking away at a screen to adjust the climate control. Then there’s eating while driving. On more than one occasion, a ketchup-covered piece of my Big Mac has fallen out of the bun on to my lap. When I was a little kid, I remember when the ash from my Dad’s cigarette fellow on his lap and lit off the nylon pants he was wearing. This was while he was negotiating some narrow mountain road is Spain in the late 1950s.

    • 0 avatar
      ToolGuy

      Theory (open to refutation by contradicting evidence):

      Tobacco and Big Macs serve as signals to the Universe that you are not interested in a long healthy life. Food spillage and ash drops while driving are mere catalysts to the process you have already set in motion.

  • avatar
    How_Embarrassing_4You

    It’s too bad we have to have these kinds of laws because we have so many people who only think about themselves and how important they are and put themselves before anyone’s safety. Having said that, it’s about time it happened.

  • avatar

    Today, I honked at two people, who, from observation in the mirror, were texting. The light turned green. I gave each a full ten seconds. They only looked up after the honk. Amazing.

    I don’t want any more automated nonsense (UK and AU are just a hotbed of bad ideas) but staring at a tiny box in your car destroys any situational awareness you may have…and for a lot of these folks, there isn’t much to start with….

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      10 seconds??? Of doing nothing? You have the patience of a saint. I would have gone around them long before then. 10 seconds where I live is enough to miss the light in many instances.

  • avatar
    ajla

    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.

    • 0 avatar
      -Nate

      ! _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

  • avatar
    -Nate

    “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

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