How did AI and humans get this mobile phone fine so wrong?

A Queensland motorist has shared the hefty fine he was ordered to pay after being “caught” with a mobile phone on his lap while driving – despite images of the event showing otherwise.

Anthony didn’t pay the fine, and after our investigation it has been withdrawn.

On March 1, he was driving his Nissan Patrol on Mains Road on Brisbane’s southside with his mobile phone mounted on the windscreen using a suction cup system.

It’s something the factory worker has done for years, and is compliant with Queensland’s laws about mobile phone usage while driving in the state, which prevent motorists from holding their device or resting it on a part of their body.

However, he soon received a letter in the mail informing him he had broken the law, complete with a $1161 fine and a four demerit point penalty to be paid before March 29.

While the infringement notice alleged Anthony had the phone placed on his lap, the two images on the fine show the iPhone affixed to the windscreen on a Quad Lock mount.

Mobile phone detection cameras in Queensland use artificial intelligence (AI) and analyse images for a potential offence, which are then assessed by an authorised Queensland Revenue Office member to determine if the law has been broken.

Many Queenslanders mightn’t be aware that there is a way to have their fine reviewed, short of going to court.

While there’s no online portal like New South Wales, Queenslanders slugged with a fine can email the state’s revenue office to have the offence re-evaluated – though if they’re unsuccessful, they could still be forced to go to court to have it overturned.

Anthony wasn’t aware of this process, and bristled at the prospect of having to go to court to contest the wrongfully issued fine.

“I’ve now got to [possibly] waste more taxpayer dollars, go on the stand, take time out of work, inconvenience those who have to cover my shift, plus the time out of everyone’s day going to court. The whole thing for nothing,” he told CarExpert.

“Either that, or I lose four points. The money is one thing, but four points is significant. That’s a third of your licence.”

Fortunately, Anthony is no longer on the hook for this penalty. Following our investigation, the Queensland Revenue Office contacted him to advise him the fine had been rescinded.

It’s not the first time there have been issues with Queensland’s automated detection cameras, with two high-profile incidents recorded in the past year.

In July 2023, the Queensland Transport Minister Mark Bailey admitted the state’s new school zone sign-mounted speed cameras had been non-operational for seven months, due to “technical issues”.

After the six cameras finally came online, approximately 100 fines were being issued to drivers every day for the first three weeks – representing thousands of dollars of lost revenue in the time they weren’t working.

In September 2023, the Queensland Government announced its mobile phone and seatbelt detection cameras had wrongly issued double demerits to almost 2000 motorists, resulting in 626 incorrect suspensions.

Though all motorists impacted by the infringements had done the wrong thing, the circa-2000 people affected were not meant to be hit by double demerits. The fault was attributed to a human “input” error in the program’s design.

MORE: Mobile phone detection cameras – How do they work?

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