Reminder: Phone Detecting Cameras Are Now Live In NSW

Reminder: Phone Detecting Cameras Are Now Live In NSW
Image: Getty Images

The NSW Government announced earlier this year it was introducing mobile phone detection cameras, due to be switched on in late 2019 across the state. It’s part of a plan to reduce fatalities by 30 per cent in two years and its trial earlier in 2019 was deemed quite effective. Here’s what drivers in NSW – and other states – need to know.

Other States Are Now Keen On NSW's Phone Detecting Cameras

The NSW Government recently announced it was introducing phone-detection cameras around the state after a successful trial earlier in 2019. The new technology uses AI to detect drivers using their phones or other touch-enabled devices illegally. Unlike speed cameras, signs won't warn you if one is in the area. Lifehacker Australia decided to see if any other states were considering similar measures and it turns out they might be.

Read more

What’s happening again?

The NSW Government announced on 22 September its mobile phone detection trial had been successful and it was looking to implement it state-wide by late 2019. It’s now confirmed that go-live date is Sunday 1 December 2019.

The trial came into effect in early 2019 after the relevant legislation was passed approving authorities to photograph drivers using their mobile phones while in moving vehicles. The trial ran between January and June 2019 and, according to Transport for NSW, checked 8.5 million vehicles during its time and detected more than 100,000 drivers illegally using their mobile phones.

Those caught were found to be browsing Facebook, text messaging and one driver was even caught allowing his passenger to steer the wheel. Wow.

Given the trial’s success, fixed and portable phone detection cameras will now be positioned in 45 spots across the state. While there won’t be any warning signs like we’re used to with existing speed cameras, it’s understood some fixed and Variable Message Signage (digital signs) will be installed to remind drivers it’s illegal to use their mobile devices while driving.

“We have to unfortunately use the element of surprise to get people to think ‘well, I could get caught at any time’,” Andrew Constance, NSW Minister for Transport and Roads, told 9News.

“I want behaviour to change and I want it changed immediately.

“It’s not about revenue — it’s about saving lives.”

You can watch the eerily silent announcement video from NSW for Transport below for a glimpse of what the technology will look like.

So, how does mobile phone detection work?

Using artificial intelligence, the cameras can detect mobile phone use in even the worst of conditions. Whether it’s raining or cloudy, night or day, the camera will be able automatically review images of the front-seats of a vehicle. If the camera detects an offending driver, it will supposedly exclude the passenger from the image if they’re not doing anything wrong. Images are then reviewed by an authorised human worker to verify an offence was made.

Reminder: Phone Detecting Cameras Are Now Live In NSWImage: YouTube/Transport For NSW

If you get nabbed by the camera within the first three months of its rollout, you’ll get sent a warning letter, but once that’s up all bets are off. An offence captured by the phone detection camera will cost you five demerit points and a $344 fine ($457 if it’s in a school zone) for a first-time incident. During double demerit point periods, it will go up to 10 demerits.

If the rules of mobile phone use while driving still confuse you a bit, check out Transport for NSW’s website. Below are the dos and donts for fully-licensed drivers.

Reminder: Phone Detecting Cameras Are Now Live In NSWImage: Transport for NSW

Just a friendly PSA there’s a zero tolerance approach for learners and P-platers in NSW using phones while driving. A big old N-O.

NSW Texting And Driving Laws Are About To Get Much Tougher

From September 2018, just touching your phone while you're driving could be enough for NSW drivers to lose their license. The number of demerit points for using a phone while driving is set to increase from four to five this year, so drivers should probably brush up on the rules around phone use while driving now.

Read more

Will other states get it?

You really shouldn’t be using your phone while driving ever unless it’s for hands-free navigation, or anything else in the ‘legal basket’, but still, the lack of signs or warning does feel unfair. While drivers living outside of NSW might feel a sense of relief for now, you shouldn’t just yet. Visiting the state means you’ll also be affected by the laws once the technology is rolled out and if it’s successful, other states will likely look to introduce it as well.

Lifehacker Australia has reached out to the relevant road authorities in Queensland, Victoria and South Australia to confirm whether they have similar plans on the way and they suggested they would be closely watching how the new technology unfolds in the state.

Your Digital Driver Licence: What Aussies Need To Know

After successful trials in selected suburbs, New South Wales is looking to launch the digital driver licence statewide by the end of this year, which means you won't need to carry around a physical licence any longer. The option is already available in South Australia and other states and territories are set to follow. Here's how it all works.

Read more

[Via 9News]

This article was originally published on 24 September 2019. It’s been updated to include the new launch date.


  • Anything to help prevent road incidents is very good. I applaud our government for adding this detection equipment.

    With the advent of smart phone voice recognition “hey Google, send text to Mum or read to me last message” I am shocked over 100,000 were still found using their silly fingers to text. Maybe be they were just unfortunates using Apple Inc devices which do have such functionality yet.

    Hopefully, people will wise up, knowing they are being watched.

    • I completely agree with your sentiment. Just to be clear though, what you’ve cited as an example is illegal. It is in fact the very first example of things you can’t do with your phone in the diagram above. Admittedly, I doubt you can get caught by this camera speaking to your phone to text somebody, but if you were to have an accident shortly after a text message was sent from your phone, or was received by your phone, you may have some explaining to do.

    • Siri doesn’t include punctuation by default, so my partner can tell when I’m sending her text messages by yelling in the car. Except now I’ve learned that you can punctuate pretty well by saying the punctuation as well.


      Seriously, there’s no excuse for texting and driving. None. I’m glad the demerits are high enough to take someone’s licence pretty quickly. They’re endangering everyone else’s lives with their ignorant, selfish, arrogant stupidity.

    • I agree ‘hey Google, send a message to ..’ is pretty handy but the question it raises is what is “audio texting” which is apparently not allowed. I Googled it and came up blank, only finding voice texting which sounds rather what used to be called voice messaging. I searched the NSW road transport website and found only one other reference to it which is basically the same as the one above. Without a definition, its a bit hard to be compliant.

      • Yes, and what precisely do they mean by “cradle fixed to the vehicle”? Fixed in what fashion? Can it be clamped on? Glued? Does it need to be bolted onto the chassis?

        • Ah, now that I’ve actually followed the link, I see it says
          The cradle (also known as a mounting) must be fixed to the vehicle in a manner intended by the manufacturer.
          So, as long the mounting is fixed the way the manufacturer says it should be, it’s okay, even if they’re a dodgy manufacturer and the driver might be distracted when the mounting or device falls off?

  • First, it’s not AI, it’s an algorithm.
    Second, how does the camera know if you not just holding your garage door transmitter, or a pack of smokes or gum?
    The law of unintended consequences says crashes will go up because drivers will now hide/hold their phones further down to avoid detection.

  • What do NSW drivers need to know?

    Don’t use your phone while driving and you won’t be caught.


    Government cant raise revenue if you dont break the law.

  • So I’ve got a car with Android Auto support, and when you plug in via USB, the phone screen goes off and the car screen takes over (which you can then use for navigation etc). Does this still mean the phone needs to be in a cradle? Based on the intent of the law I would think not, but I don’t trust over zealous human enforcement. I guess I could always bury the phone in the center console.

  • Camera detection on personal spaces such as car interiors should not be allowed as this is an invasion of privacy. They are just starting with hand held mobile phones, but as time progresses, it is very likely they will keep adding new prohibitions like accessing mobile phone on a fixed holder, keeping both hand on steering wheel all the time, no snaking or drinking, no smoking with one hand off the steering wheel, no resting one hand on the door while driving etc. Also if you scratch your dick, this maybe recorded and interpreted as an obscene gesture. There is something called “PRIVACY”. When the cameras make an error, drivers will need to spend thousands of dollars to defend themselves in court. The public need to take a stand against this nonsense and wastage of tax payers’ money. If people keep silent on this issue, they are going to take total control of our freedom.

    • I know right! And then those cameras will fly into your home and catch you wanking! And then they’ll deem that to be illegal and you’ll go to jail! Then the cameras will fly into the jail and catch you wanking there too and you’ll get more jail time!

    • I don’t mind them banning mobile phone use while driving and I’m not upset about using cameras to detect that (as long as the false positive rate is low). But the guy does have a point. We’re seeing more and more cameras introduced to monitor us. Used to just be a few security cameras at banks and similar, now they’re everywhere. Same with speed cameras, red light cameras and now mobile detecting cameras.

      It is a slippery slope and I do worry that we’ll wind up with legislators pushing to detect and fine every little thing they can find. Like the scenarios cln mentioned.

    • As William Wallace cried out as he drove down the Kwinana Freeway on the day these cameras were proposed for Perth: You can take away my right to snaking and dick scratching, but you’ll never take away my right to nose picking!!

Show more comments

Log in to comment on this story!