Sydney Trains applies artificial intelligence to CCTV network

Sydney Trains has unleashed artificial intelligence technology on its CCTV network, already using it to catch seven trespassers attempting to access tunnels from station platforms.

It comes as the NSW state government also pilots the use of artificial intelligence (AI) on its road network to better understand why crashes occur in particular spots.

A trespasser is detected at Central Station. Image: Supplied

NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance said even with more than 13,000 security cameras and a security team, it has until now been “impossible” to catch every trespasser in train tunnels.

“Do not enter our tunnels under any circumstances,” Mr Constance said on Tuesday. “If you do, you will be caught by artificial intelligence software that is trained to identify people entering tunnel areas on CCTV and immediately notifies the Sydney Trains security team.

“This technology is already working, with seven trespassers caught attempting to access tunnels from the platforms. In each case, security staff were able to respond quickly without anyone being injured.

“Our trains weigh around 400 tonnes and travel at speeds of up to 100km/h, taking significant distances to stop in an emergency. There are no shortcuts or selfie opportunities worth risking your life for in train tunnels.”

In a March blog post, Lee Hickin, Microsoft’s national chief technology officer, described how Transport for NSW was also using AI on its road network.

“By feeding a combination of local data, camera footage and vehicle telematics into Microsoft AI, the transport authority is working on a pilot that will deepen its understanding of why crashes occur in particular spots,” he wrote.

“Is there a school zone down the road after which motorists tend to speed up? Are there environmental or socioeconomic factors compelling people to drive erratically?

“Armed with these sorts of insights, Transport for NSW can swap remedial action for proactive intervention – a shift that has the potential to save thousands of Australian lives every year.”

Sydney Trains chief executive Matthew Longland said tunnels are one of the most dangerous places for trespassers on the Sydney Trains network.

“Across the network, there were 2,370 incidents of trespassing on the Sydney Trains network in the last financial year, which sadly resulted in four deaths,” Mr Longford said.

“Trespassers cause extensive disruption for customers, with delays of up to four hours and an average of 6.5 incidents a day.

“This AI video analytics technology is a first for New South Wales – we’re utilising our existing CCTV infrastructure to make it an incredibly savvy solution to a deadly and costly problem.”

Out of more than 170 nations measured in the 2020 Oxford Insights AI Readiness Index, Australia ranks 12th overall and first in the region – coming in ahead of Japan, Canada, Israel and China.

In the 2021-22 federal budget, the government announced more than $124.2 million in AI initiatives, which includes $53.8 million over four years to create the National Artificial Intelligence Centre; $33.7m over four years to support Australian businesses to partner with government to pilot projects for AI‑based solutions to national challenges; $24.7m over six years in the Next Generation AI Graduates Program; and $12m over five years to co-fund up to 36 competitive grants to develop AI solutions that address local or regional problems.

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