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In Australia, cameras and A.I. are identifying drivers using their phones while at the wheel

Authorities in New South Wales, Australia, are to introduce a cell phone detection camera program by the end of this year.

The announcement, made over the weekend, follows a six-month pilot which took place between January and June. During that trial, technology supplied by a firm called Acusensus was able to check 8.5 million vehicles and determined that over 100,000 drivers had been using their phones illegally.

It’s envisioned that after starting this year, the program will expand to carry out 135 million vehicle checks each year by 2023.

According to New South Wales’ Centre for Road Safety, the system uses high-definition cameras to take images of all vehicles’ front rows. Artificial intelligence is used to “automatically review images and detect offending drivers.”

Authorized personnel are used to verify images that the system picks out. The Centre for Road Safety said that “strict controls” were in place to make sure that images taken by the system were managed and stored securely.

For the first three months of the scheme, drivers caught using their phones will be sent warning letters. After this, the penalty will be five demerit points and an AUD 344 ($233) fine, which rises to AUD 457 in school zones.

In an email to CNBC Wednesday Neil Greig, policy and research director at U.K. road safety charity IAM RoadSmart, expressed the organization’s support for the decision by authorities in New South Wales to “use technology to combat the problems created by technology.”

CONTINUE @ CNBC