AI speed cameras that can see inside cars 'should not be used' as drivers fear 'Big Brother' privacy concerns

AI speed camera

The AI speed cameras are now being used around the country

Felix Reeves

By Felix Reeves

Published: 05/07/2024

- 10:58

One road safety expert said the new cameras would crack down on dangerous and distracted motorists

Experts are warning drivers that they could be more at risk of being hit with fines through the use of new artificial intelligence speed cameras which are being rolled out across the country.

Speed camera technology is constantly being improved, with new devices being able to detect whether drivers are using mobile phones at the wheel or not wearing their seatbelts.

New technology, powered by artificial intelligence, is being trialled by police forces to see whether drivers are "distracted" even if their phone is on their lap when behind the wheel.

A total of 11 police forces around the UK have adopted the new roadside cameras which capture an image of the vehicle from a shallow angle to see a phone at the driver's ear, while another shows a steeper angle.

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AI camera

Drivers face £200 fines if they use their phones at the wheel


The cameras, which have been developed by Acusensus, analyse the images through AI software and detect whether drivers are breaking road rules.

Matt Staton, head of national road user safety at National Highways, said the new cameras would help crack down on motorists who were frequently flouting the rules by not wearing their seatbelts or being distracted.

Data from the Department for Transport shows that 17 people were killed, 114 people were seriously injured, and 385 were slightly injured in road traffic accidents in Great Britain where the driver was using a mobile phone in 2020.

Laws were changed in March 2022 to ensure that drivers would be held to account for using their mobile phones at the wheel, with punishments rising to a £200 fine and six penalty points.

In a bid to minimise privacy issues, a police officer will review an anonymous image of the picture which does not contain any number plates, faces or the make and model of the vehicle.

Despite this, Jake Hurfurt, head of research and investigations at Big Brother Watch, a privacy campaign group, criticised the implementation of these cameras, saying it posed a risk to motorists.

He said: “Unproven AI-powered video analytics should not be used to monitor and potentially criminalise drivers.

“This kind of intrusive and creepy surveillance which treats every passer-by as a potential suspect is excessive and normalising it poses a threat to everyone’s privacy.

"People should be free to go about their lives without being analysed by faceless AI systems,” The Telegraph reported.

Police forces taking part in the new trial include Durham, Greater Manchester Police, Humberside, Staffordshire, West Mercia, Northamptonshire, Wiltshire, Norfolk, Thames Valley Police, Sussex and Warwickshire.

Further data found between 150,000 and 400,000 Britons are still using handheld devices illegally behind the wheel, prompting fears the deterrents are not working as well as was hoped.

Jack Cousens, head of roads policy at the AA, said: “Cameras that can do everything and anything are a good thing from a road safety perspective because it means there is less chance of getting away with dangerous driving.


Drivers caught with phones at the wheel

Two images of the vehicles are taken to see whether drivers are distracted behind the wheel


“However a camera can only record an incident in that moment in time but cannot intervene if that person might be speeding because they have been drink driving,” he told The Telegraph.

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