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Dutch Police Now Using AI-Powered Surveillance to Catch Drivers on Their Phone

(Image credit: Nos.nl)

Considered the new drunk driving, the police in the Netherlands recently announced that they are starting to use special ‘AI-Cameras’ to catch drivers using their phones. In doing so, it is the first country in the EU to apply this method.

The cameras themselves don’t actually make the selection of who is and who is not using their phone, however. Rather, every passing car is photographed through the windshield, and these images are sent to a computer that has been trained using machine learning to filter drivers that were and were not on their phones.

After this first pass, the police inspect photos of drivers purportedly on their phones, and if they confirm that it is indeed a phone (not a drink or other object), a fine of 240 Euros (about $265 USD) will be sent to the vehicle owner’s home. Any images taken that do not appear to contain a phone are deleted immediately to abide by Dutch privacy regulations.

To ensure that the system also works at night, the cameras can also capture in infrared. The system cannot yet tell when a user has their phone on their lap, or out of sight from cameras.

(Image credit: Nos.nl)

The fines are sent out based on the license plates of the vehicle in question. As such, if you’ve loaned your car to a friend and he was ticketed on his phone, you’ll have to get that friend to reimburse you or fess up to the authorities so the fine can be rewritten in their name. You would think facial recognition would solve this problem, but this would go against privacy regulations – the images also can't be used for tracking down criminals.

At the time of writing, the Netherlands police will only be using two AI cameras in a trial run, which as mobile units can be placed anywhere desired.