Those who still think they can get away with using mobile phones behind the wheel may soon be in for a nasty shock.
The NSW state government has quietly begun testing “smart” detection cameras that not only pick up phone use but also analyse driver behaviour.
Perched above Sydney’s M4 is a cluster of cameras and among them is a world first – a camera that catches drivers on mobile phones.
The cameras use stills, video and artificial intelligence to tell who’s talking, texting, reading or listening.
They can detect if you are texting or Facebooking instead of focusing on the road ahead.
The first of these new cameras is located on the overpass at Clunies Ross Street in Prospect.
Three cameras are being tested by competing companies.
No infringements will be handed out until the technology is proven and all test recordings will be deleted.
It’s expected that real-life trials could start early next year.
“Look, at the end of the day, it keeps people safe, that’s the main thing, isn’t it?” one person told 7 News.
“There are a lot of accidents because of mobile use,” another motorist said.
“This is a good idea.”
Part of the testing process is to see just how accurate the technology is – whether it can tell if the driver or passenger is using the phone, and how will it identify the user if it’s not the registered owner.
In the past five years, New South Wales has recorded 184 crashes blamed on mobile phone use, seven deaths and 47 serious injuries.
“You’re much more likely, more than 20 times more likely, to be involved in a crash if you’re texting and driving,” NSW Centre for Road Safety’s Bernard Carlon said.
The state already takes $14 million a year in phone penalties and the new technology could increase that substantially.
But the government says it hopes people get the message, saving money – and lives.
“We are confident we will get the technology right,” Transport Minister Melinda Pavey said.
“But we’re not going to trick anybody.”