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Digital Transformation in Government Insight #91:
AI catching drivers on phone

Digital transformation in government, and specifically artificial intelligence, is making NSW’s roads safer and saving lives by detecting drivers using their phones while driving.

Salsa Digital 1 October 2019

The pilot

Transport for NSW recently completed a six-month pilot using artificial intelligence (AI) to identify drivers using their phones while driving. The trial checked 8.5 million drivers and found more than 100,000 prosecutable offenses.

Interestingly, the pilot and its success has also been picked up by a US publication we keep an eye on, Government Technology (see the article).

How it works

The technology uses AI algorithms to analyse footage from cameras to see if drivers have their hands on the steering wheel or on their phones. If a violation is detected, the system creates an encrypted, traceable, evidence-grade package that can be used to issue tickets or in court. The system can be used in all weather conditions, day and night.

The AI system was created by Melbourne-based company Acusensus and is called Heads Up. The company was founded by people affected by road safety issues, such as Managing Director Alexander Jannink who lost a friend in an accident.

Future plans

Transport for NSW is now rolling out the system statewide as outlined in a recent media release. For the first three months, drivers caught on their phones by the system will be issued warning letters. After three months, drivers will get a $344 fine and five demerit points. The system is expected to be rolled out and fully operational by the end of this year. By 2023, it’s estimated Heads Up will have checked 135 million drivers.

Salsa Digital’s take

This is a great case study that shows how digital transformation in government can save lives by keeping our roads safer. It’s estimated that the cameras could prevent “around 100 fatal and serious injury crashes over five years” (in the Transport for NSW media release). While this figure could be seen as relatively low (NSW’s road toll as of publication for 2019 alone is 280) it’s important to think not just about the statistical numbers as a percentage, but about the 100 people the system will save.

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