Face Recognition, Flying Cars Loom for New South Wales

July 9, 2019Australia
Face Recognition, Flying Cars Loom for New South Wales
People wait at a bus stop in Sydney, Australia, on Feb, 19, 2013. (Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Sydneysiders could soon pay for their travel via facial recognition technology and use drones or flying cars to cart themselves, meals and shopping around, the NSW transport minister says.

In a speech to the Sydney Institute on late July 9, Andrew Constance said he wanted people to “not think about their travel”.

People in NSW have already embraced using credit cards or electronic devices to tap on and off public transport to make journeys easier and faster, he said.

Constance is confident that in the “not too distant future” commuters will be able to use “frictionless transport payments”—similar to Amazon’s “Just Walk Out” technology.

This allows customers to scan their phones at the door of a shop, take the products they want, walk out of the store, and be automatically charged.

“In the transport space we’ll use facial recognition technology to scan customers who’ve ‘opted in’ and linked their Opal account,” Constance said.

“No more gate barriers—just a smooth journey.”

The transport minister reiterated his vision for a transport subscription service similar to Netflix, where commuters sign up for a nominal fee each month, with built-in pricing for different public and private transport modes.

The proposal “may sound like a pipe dream” but is almost a reality in London through a company called Citymapper, Constance said.

“I don’t think it’s unrealistic to see the same kind of service being introduced here in Sydney in the near future.”

Facial recognition, along with advanced data analytics and sensor technology, will also be used to determine the health and wellbeing of people in vehicles—possibly even if they are unwell and in need of urgent medical attention, Constance said.

“Digital identity verification will eventually be integrated with biometric recognition,” he said.

“This will read someone’s face, retina, breath, gait or voice to enable next-level authorisation and access. Think truly contactless payments—entry to buildings, onto planes, at banks and hotels.”

Constance also predicted the use of drones or flying cars to transport “people and things”—mostly consumer goods.

These could include “your dinner, your new shoes or prescription from the chemist,” he said.

The transport minister acknowledged the concepts he raised may sound “far-fetched, futuristic, the stuff of science fiction”.

“But the reality is they are already here and happening now, with the rest just around the corner. Ten years ago, this was the stuff of dreams. Today it’s our reality,” Constance said.

It was impossible to imagine what the next 20 years could bring in the transport space, but the minister said it was making life easier with its “constantly evolving, forever changing” drive of innovation.

By Heather McNab

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