Artificial Intelligence, Traffic Cameras, Privacy and Trucking...
An AI program, a traffic camera and a truck driver walk into a bar….
Ok, so maybe I don’t know a joke about these things; however, I do know that they are more closely related than most folks are aware. How is that? Well, I am glad you asked.
As we all know, Artificial Intelligence (“AI”) is the new hot topic in the media and everyone is trying to get a handle on what it can do, how it will be used and if it will take my job. In addition, there are concerns by many (ok…just me) that it will rise up and overthrow us!!! Let’s be honest, I have seen the movies Terminator and the Matrix…I know how this story could end!
All joking aside though, AI is a fantastic tool that can accomplish things in a second that would take humans days or weeks or years to complete. It can compile data, draft articles, create artwork and assist police with enforcement of traffic laws. That last part of that sentence is what should grab your attention. In fact, I should probably clarify that this is already happening. If you don’t believe me then read on….
The first example of AI use in traffic citations can be found in the great state of North Carolina. In NC, the highway patrol is using AI equipment to crack down on distracted truck drivers. Here is how it works: a company called Acucensus makes equipment which has been installed along Interstate 40. The equipment looks like it could be part of a construction project, but the equipment has four (4) cameras which take photos of the truck, the license plate and an image (looking down through the windshield) of whatever the driver is doing at the time.
Here is where it gets interesting. Rather than having humans look at each and every image to determine if the driver is talking on the phone, not wearing a seatbelt or any other violation, an AI program is used to review all this information in a fraction of the time. If it determines whether the driver is distracted or not wearing a seat belt it will relay a series of images to enforcement parked just up the road so that the driver can be pulled over. There are no way humans could review and respond in this short of a time frame.
In addition to the folks in North Carolina, the good folks in New York have taken the use of AI up a notch. The story goes like this.
In March of 2022, the Westchester County Police Department arrested Davis Zayas while driving his gray Chevrolet, which was unremarkable, as was his speed. The reason for the stop is a new AI tool had identified Mr. Zayas as a possible criminal. Specifically, the routes he drove were the same as those often used by drug traffickers. How in the world did they know Mr. Zayas traffic pattern. The answer is simple. Artificial Intelligence.
By using AI, the state was able to search through 1.6 BILLION license plate records from across the state that had been gathered over the previous two years. Based on this information, the AI determined that Mr. Zayas travel pattern mimicked that of a drug trafficker. In its filing, the DOJ noted that Mr. Zayas had made nine trips from Massachusetts to parts of New York on routes known to be used by drug traffickers. Based on this information, Mr. Zayas was pulled over, his car searched and 112 grams of crack cocaine, a semiautomatic pistol and $34,000.00 in cash were found. A year later, Mr. Zayas pled guilty to a drug trafficking charge.
In light of the foregoing, it is obvious that the AI program works and will likely continue to be relied upon by police.
Now for full disclosure, Automatic License Plate Recognition (“ALPR”) has been around for a hot minute and is used to search for plates associated with specific crimes. It is the “growth” of AI that causes concern. In Mr. Zayas case, AI was able to use the images gathered over a 2-year period from 480 cameras in Westchester County alone to examine driving patterns and determine that Mr. Zayas was a potential criminal.
Of course, I suspect the use of AI surveillance in cases like this will trigger constitutional issues that will be litigated in the courts. In fact, Mr. Zaya’s lawyer Ben Gold contested the AI gathered evidence against his client. To Mr. Gold the search of every car caught on camera is “the specter of modern surveillance that the Fourth Amendment must guard against.” Mr. Gold also stated that “This is the systematic development and deployment of a vast surveillance network that invades societies reasonable expectation of privacy.”
While this case deals with a driver in a personal vehicle, the question must be asked, could this technology be used against commercial drivers and would it be a violation of a driver’s reasonable expectation of privacy. The answer is: 1) of course; and 2) maybe.
The courts have long held that because the trucking industry is heavily regulated, drivers in that industry have a lower expectation of privacy than others. The reasoning goes like this, because the industry is so heavily regulated and the purpose of the regulations is to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public, devices like ELDs which can monitor a driver’s location, do not violate a driver’s right of privacy. They are necessary to accomplish the overarching goal of making the roads safe. The same argument can be made for the use of AI in this scenario.
The only way that we will know if this type of technology is constitutional is for the issue to be brought before the courts. Which I suspect will be occurring soon. So, with that in mind, stay tuned as this could have far-reaching impacts on our industry.
Brad Klepper, Esq. is President of Interstate Trucker Ltd., a law firm entirely dedicated to legal defense of the nation's commercial drivers. Interstate Trucker represents truck drivers throughout the forty-eight (48) states on both moving and non-moving violations. Brad is also Executive Vice President & General Counsel of Drivers Legal Plan, which allows member drivers access to his firm’s services at greatly discounted rates. Brad spent almost a decade with the largest law firm in Oklahoma where his practice included extensive experience in transactional law, business defense litigation, and intellectual property. In addition, Brad is a licensed architect and serves as General Counsel to the Oklahoma Board of Architects, Landscape Architects and Interior Designers. Brad has dedicated much of his time to DataQs challenges, which are challenges posed to the FMCSA for CSA incidents, to examine data and reports filed by law enforcement.
800-333-DRIVE (3748) or www.interstatetrucker.com
Artificial Intelligence , Privacy , Traffic Cameras , Trucking Industry