Australia Aims to Curb Cell Phone Use with Automated Cameras

Steve Plumb

The Australian state of New South Wales is deploying a network of high-definition cameras along roadways to catch drivers using their cell phones.

Described as a world-first technology, the cameras will use artificial intelligence to review and flag images of suspected illegal cell phone use—anything other than hands-free operation. Such photos will be forwarded to human inspectors for verification.

The initial network will include 45 fixed cameras at unspecified locations, plus additional units mounted on mobile trailers.

During the first three months of the program, violators will be issued warnings. Thereafter, cell phone-using drivers will be ticketed $344—and as much as $457 in school zones—and receive penalty points on their license.

A pilot program earlier this year scanned 8.5 million vehicles, in which 100,000 drivers were deemed to be improperly using their phones. At this rate, New South Wales could collect more than $540 million in 2023, when it aims to scan 135 million vehicles annually.

New South Wales hopes to reduce traffic fatalities by 30% over the next two years. Last year, 350 people were killed on the state’s roadways.