Police use AI camera van to catch drivers using mobile phones

Police patrol van parked on side of road

Will artificial intelligence help make our roads safer?

Hampshire and Thames Valley police forces identified almost 500 driving offences in a week using the Sensor test spy camera van – a vehicle that uses AI technology to detect if a driver is using their phone at the wheel or not wearing their seatbelt.

Simon Gomer, manager of the police forces’ Safer Roads Unit, said: “These are very exciting times and this has been a great opportunity for both forces to utilise the latest in AI technology.”

Traffic patrol gets an AI upgrade

In an operation targeting commercial vehicles, the Hampshire and Thames Valley police forces used a Sensor test camera van on the A34 and the A303.

Infrastructure consultancy AECOM equipped the van with the Acusensus ‘Heads-up’ solution, an AI system that uses two cameras to detect if drivers are committing an offence on the road.

The first camera is set at a shallow angle to identify a mobile phone close to the driver’s ear as well as spot whether a seat belt is being worn. The second has a steep view to see if a mobile phone is being held down in front for texting.

Once the offences are identified by the AI system, the results are double-checked by at least two people before prosecution is considered.

The outcome of one week of AI surveillance

The Heads-up van identified 86 drivers suspected of using a phone and 273 motorists or passengers suspected of not wearing a seat belt, with a further 132 mechanical offences identified.

Five arrests were also made for offences such as drug-driving and disqualified driving.

Dr Jamie Uff, of AECOM, said: “Despite the often-reported dangers of distracted driving and failing to wear seat belts, the numbers of people killed or seriously injured as a result of these behaviours remain high.”

“The technology AECOM is deploying makes detection straightforward and is providing valuable insight to the police and policymakers on the current level of road user behaviour. We are really keen for the use of this technology to be expanded to raise awareness and improve road safety for everyone.”

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