Trial of mobile AI safety camera technology extended to 10 more forces

A trial of new mobile technology that can automatically detect motorists who are not wearing a seatbelt or using a mobile phone is being extended across ten more police forces.

Feb 22, 2024
By Paul Jacques
The new mobile cameras which can detect unsafe driving behaviour

The hi-tech equipment is mounted to a vehicle or trailer and has multiple cameras giving differing views of the driver and their passengers.

The cameras capture footage of passing motorists and the images are then processed using artificial intelligence to analyse whether the motorists could be using a handheld mobile phone or drivers may be without a seatbelt.

National Highways says the images are then passed to police for consideration on any action to be taken. Drivers can be fined up to £500 for not wearing a seatbelt in addition to penalty points. Using a mobile phone while driving can result in a fine of up to £1,000 and six penalty points.

The police forces taking part in the extended trial are Durham, Greater Manchester, Humberside, Staffordshire, West Mercia, Northamptonshire, Wiltshire, Norfolk, Thames Valley and Sussex.

The National Highways trial first launched in 2021 when motorists spotted driving without seatbelts or on the phone by police using the technology were sent warning letters informing them of the dangers of their behaviour.

“Research shows that you are four times more likely to be in a crash if you use your phone while driving and twice as likely to die in a crash if you don’t wear a seatbelt,” said National Highways.

“In partnership with [infrastructure consulting firm] AECOM, the research is now being extended to work with more police forces to help learn more about how the technology could work on National Highways roads and inform a possible future roll-out nationwide.”

The latest trial began on February 19 and will run until March 2025.

There are also plans for the technology to be fixed to gantries for the first time giving an unobscured view of all lanes.

National Highways head of National Road User Safety Delivery, Matt Staton, said: “We know that distracted driving and not wearing seatbelts were key factors in a high number of incidents that resulted in people being killed or seriously injured.

“Working with our police partners we want to reduce such dangerous driving and reduce the risks posed to both the drivers and other people. We believe that using technology like this will make people seriously consider their driving behaviour.

“We will continue to invest in technology that could help make sure everyone using our roads gets home safe and well.”

Dr Jamie Uff, technical director at AECOM and the lead research professional who has been managing the deployment of the technology, added: “AECOM is really pleased to be continuing our work with National Highways, the police and camera suppliers. Our work to date has highlighted the scale of the issue, has shown that technology can play a valuable role, and that there is much still to be understood about driver behaviour given the new insights gained.

“Expanding the deployments and integrating data processing with police systems is an important step towards this technology making a significant contribution to road safety.”

Although the research is funded by National Highways, enforcement of motoring offences will remain a matter for individual police forces.

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