Smart speed cameras could be in use within months
Documents from transport agency Waka Kotahi NZ say changes to the law could allow them to be used against more offenses including tailgating and looking inside a car to spot drivers using mobile or untethered phones.
OIA documents show that Waka Kotahi has been working on this problem, and on a new road pricing system that can also be used for congestion pricing, for a few years.
His plans say point-to-point or mid-speed cameras “could be a game-changer by allowing us to manage lane speeds rather than spot speed.”
They would be three times more effective than fixed or mobile speed cameras in reducing road tolls, according to a business case.
Smart cameras “can be used to prove, for example, that a driver is using a mobile phone or not wearing a seatbelt.
“Camera law enforcement can be invasive, as images are deliberately taken of the driver and cabin,” the business case said.
An April board paper said legislative changes brought about by the Transport Stewardship Amendment Bill meant that from the start of 2023 there could be the use of point-and-shoot cameras to the point, the automation of the processing of offenses and notices of fines transmitted to mobile phones.
Already 26 of the new cameras are on order to add to the network of 142 people.
The agency calls them “security cameras” in a Cabinet-ordered attempt “to steer the public away from perceptions that security cameras are a law enforcement and revenue-raising tool.”
Medium and high risk roads will be the target.
A business case for the cameras estimates they could save between 1,500 and 2,400 lives and $1.5 billion over two decades.
The privacy implications are still being worked out with the Privacy Commissioner.
Waka Kotahi refuses to specify the total cost of the camera system and the new toll system, saying it was to protect “ministers, members of organizations, officers and employees from improper pressure or harassment. “.
However, only the first phase – choosing the combination of cameras, where to place them and the design of the system – cost $21.6 million, or $10 million more than expected, although the documents indicate that this did not had no impact on the overall budget.
The Spanish transport company SICE (Sociedad Ibérica de Construcciones Eléctricas) won the contract for the cameras and the toll.
Work is proceeding rapidly alongside a review of traffic penalties with the goal of saving 114 lives a year by 2030.
As it stands, relatively few cameras per capita and the lack of advanced cameras, along with very low penalties for speeding “significantly compromise the effectiveness of the enforcement’s approach”, according to the newspapers. .
In New Zealand, the speeding fine for exceeding the 1-10 km/h limit in an urban area is $30, compared to $370 in Sweden.
Fines are expected to increase and demerit points will most likely be tougher and applied for the first time to camera offences.
Authorities see all of this as crucial to the Road to Zero strategy, with the cameras expected to provide 5% of the 40% reduction in road fatalities and serious injuries, which is the main objective of the strategy.
Currently, there are 142 speed cameras on its road network: 45 red light speed cameras, 54 fixed speed cameras and 43 mobile speed cameras, an increase of 30 since 2019.
Waka Kotahi takes over from the police, adding to its 2,000 traffic management cameras.
He wouldn’t say how many cameras he planned to have.
“ITS and infrastructure will be future-proofed to enable Waka Kotahi to try and adopt…smart cameras” with “integrated intelligent image processing and pattern recognition algorithms” . [that] enable these cameras to detect motion, measure objects, read vehicle license plates, and recognize human behavior,” the camera’s business case states.
Police were already testing prototype trailers to carry point-to-point radars that could be used during roadwork.
The objective with the network of three types of cameras – point-to-point, red light and standard used in fixed and mobile operations – is to create an “anywhere, anytime” deterrent.
Research shows that the public thinks speeding is much safer than it is: 44% of all road deaths over the past decade were due to speeding.
Regarding privacy, the business case states that “the digital data and images captured by cameras, their storage and their use all have privacy implications”.
“New issues will arise with new technologies that can be used for purposes other than those currently related to security, such as average speed and cell phone usage detection.”
The agency expects public support for the cameras to increase slightly by up to 2.5% as people see the safety benefits.
On the toll front, the documents show that the current system used on just three highways is on its last legs.
“As it stands, the current toll system is a very inefficient way to raise money,” the business case said.
One option was to run it to a halt or outsource it entirely.
This is an indication that there will be more tolls: “Over time, expect the cost of an outsourced service to increase as more roads are tolled.”
Waka Kotahi chose the Spanish company SICE to supply and manage all back-office systems.
The business case does not mention congestion pricing, but the council’s document states that the upgrade is aimed at “future toll roads as well as support for new capacity that may be required, for example the congestion pricing”.