AI technology is working well at catching dangerous drivers.

New cameras aimed at catching drivers using their mobile phone behind the wheel are proving successful in police trials.

The technology can also detect whether drivers are wearing a seatbelt.

Work in progress

The trial was initially rolled out on selected routes across Devon and Cornwall from October, last year.

During the first couple of weeks, the cameras caught 590 people not wearing seatbelts and 40 people driving while using a mobile phone.

Made by Acusensus, the system is equipped with multiple cameras. These record footage of passing motorists, including number plate details.

Images captured by the cameras are processed using artificial intelligence (AI). This determines if motorists were using a handheld mobile phone or if drivers and passengers were without a seat belt. It can also determine the speed a vehicle was travelling at the time.

Any potential offences are then reviewed. If an offence has been correctly identified, the driver will either be sent a warning letter or a notice of intended prosecution, depending on the severity.

Belt up

Twelve police regions have now trialled the Acusensus technology. Alongside these, three new trailer-based systems have arrived in the UK ahead of the next phase of trials.

Recent trials of the new trailer-based system, by Devon and Cornwall Police, caught almost 300 drivers breaking the law during the first three days of use.

The motorists were found to be using mobile phones or not wearing seatbelts.

Adrian Leisk, head of road safety for Devon and Cornwall Police, says they are “disappointed by the number of drivers detected not wearing seatbelts”.

“The early results from our latest deployment show that there is also a problem with mobile phone use behind the wheel, which is both dangerous and illegal.

Leisk says the new technology is ending a clear message to errant motorists – “you will get caught”.

Spreading the message

The technology has now been deployed by Hampshire Constabulary and Thames Valley Police.

Partners, AECOM, operated the van-based system at locations across the two force areas. It identified hundreds of cases where these dangerous behaviours were taking place.

Geoff Collins, UK general manager for Acusensus, says the system is “a perfect example for how AI technology can be used to improve road safety”.

“Distracted drivers are a significant hazard for everyone, whilst those not wearing a seatbelt are far more likely to be killed in a collision,” continues Collins. “The Acusensus technology can help to change behaviours, reducing the casualty toll on our roads.”

Eyes on

The van is equipped with two cameras which capture suspected offences. One is set at a shallow angle to identify mobile phone use to the ear, and whether seatbelt is going across the body .

A second camera has a steep view, providing visibility of mobile phone use low down. It means behaviour such as texting near the steering wheel or door can be witnessed.

This second camera also provides further evidence of seatbelt use. It checks the presence of the lap portion of the belt, confirming that it is clipped into the buckle.

Joint roads policing operations in Hampshire and Isle of Wight, as well as Thames Valley led to almost 500 suspected driving offences being identified.