Alberta tests “Heads-Up”, Acusensus’ driving phone detection solution

The use of the telephone while driving, although reprimanded by law, is one of the main causes of driver distraction. Despite all the awareness campaigns, it is becoming commonplace: according to road safety figures, around 69% of French people admit to using their smartphone while driving. Researchers at the University of Alberta are testing an AI solution from Acusensus to measure the extent of the problem of distracted driving in Canada and test whether this technology is a reliable detection system for authorities.

Founded in 2018 by Melbourne-based Alexander Jannink, tech company Acusensus is on a mission to improve road safety by providing smart solutions to drive behavior change on the roads.

Its “Heads-Up” solution, developed to give authorities an effective tool to combat distracted driving, won the Intertraffic Inspiration Award 2022.

This technology can be provided in the form of fixed surveillance cameras, mobile cameras mounted on trailers or vehicles. It includes a high definition 3D radar that measures the speed, range and angle of all targets in multiple lanes. The data can also be used to provide information on traffic and speed patterns, while drivers’ personal data is protected.

When the AI, after automatically detecting the driver, determines the likelihood of using the phone, it generates an encrypted and digitally signed potential incident file which remains on the camera system itself and exports an encrypted and signed image numerically of the incriminated behavior to the pre-arbitration system.

For real-time operations, images of offending drivers can be sent to a waiting interception vehicle in seconds.

The company launched a program combining mobile phone and seatbelt detection in Queensland in 2021, with a 10% drop in fatalities in the first six months, and a program combining speed, mobile phone and seatbelt detection. seat belt in Washington State. After New South Wales, where more than 95,000 offenses for illegal use of the telephone were detected in 90 days, Australia and the United Kingdom, among others, it is the turn of Alberta, in Canada , to experiment with the solution to detect the use of smartphones while driving.

The pilot project in Canada

The University of Alberta is located in Edmonton, the fixed cameras of Acusensus will be deployed at various locations in the city for three weeks before being installed in Montreal, Quebec.

The aim of the research is to determine how well AI is able to detect drivers who use their cell phones while behind the wheel, according to Karim El-Basyouny, Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and City of Edmonton Research Chair in Urban Road Safety, University of Alberta.

Dr. El-Basyouny is an expert in matters of road accident prevention, accident modeling and analysis of safety interventions. He was the principal investigator for the evaluation of the Residential Speed ​​Limit Reduction Pilot Project in Edmonton, as well as several other research and evaluation projects in Alberta and British Columbia.

Measuring the extent of phone use while driving

According to Karim El-Basyouny, in Canada, the average of people who use their phone while driving is 7% and in Alberta, this average would be 5.3%. However, he points out that these figures come solely from the tickets given by the police to offenders, so they do not correspond to reality.
These distracted driving violations are picked up by police looking to see if the driver is using a phone through the windshield of a car or while driving near a vehicle.

“It takes a lot of work, a lot of sneaky looks, in difficult conditions. This is the only viable solution currently and it is not ideal. […] The goal [de cette étude] is to try to understand the real extent of the problem. »

Alberta drivers can be fined $287 for distracted driving and three demerit points. But as part of this pilot project, no fine will be given.

This pilot project is funded by the University of Alberta and the Edmonton City Police Service. The final report will be released in October 2023.

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