Redspeed International's new '4D camera' can look inside cars and catch people using their phones – potentially saving lives. But campaigners say it poses a threat to everyone's privacy.
According to UK government figures, 17 people were killed and 499 injured in 2020 – the last year for which figures are available – when using a mobile phone. It is estimated that far more instances of failure of the driver to pay attention are caused by phone use, but it is difficult to collect evidence.
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The new Redspeed Sentio speed camera has higher-resolution cameras, solar power topping up their energy to keep them running overnight, and the option to connect to DVLA insurance databases. The first test devices are on the London to Brighton A23, in Lambeth.
It's fair to say that drivers don't love the 7,000 speed and traffic cameras (safety cameras) already on the UK's roads, seeing them as sinister. The technology is virtually unknown in many US states. It is often stated that 80% of drivers think they are better than others (an Allstate survey is cited). Certainly in the UK an AA survey found 100% of drivers thought they were safe even though 1 in 20 used handheld phones.
UK Civil Liberties campaigner Jake Hurfurt, of Big Brother Watch, told the tabloid newspaper The Sun, "This kind of intrusive and creepy surveillance which treats every passer-by as a potential suspect is excessive and normalizing. It poses a threat to everyone’s privacy."
“People should be free to go about their lives without being analyzed by faceless AI systems."
No fines are being issued while the cameras are being trialed, but if successful the fine for using a device while driving is £200 (around $250 or AU$380) and up to 6 penalty points on the license (upon receiving 12 points, a driving ban is issued). If the diver disputes the evidence and loses in court, they might lose their license completely.
UK drivers reading this might like to note that the rule applies while stopped at lights, queuing, supervising a learner, and while offline or in flight mode. Full details are on the government's Highway Code page.
Simon Williams, a spokesperson for the RAC commented, “Drivers who stick to the speed limit and obey the law have nothing to worry about regardless of what cameras are in place. It’s also worth remembering that – unlike in other countries – all cameras have to be painted yellow, so they’re plainly visible to drivers.”
Approximately 1% of drivers (and 2% of van drivers) have admitted privately to using a phone in their hand. Around half use systems like Bluetooth or Apple Car Play, which is not illegal.