Pilot project tests artificial intelligence to detect distracted drivers

Pilot project cameras are installed at various locations in Edmonton, Alberta for three weeks. They will then be installed in Montreal, Quebec, for a few weeks.

The aim of the research is to determine how well artificial intelligence is able to detect drivers who use their cell phones while behind the wheel, according to Professor Karim El-Basyouny of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering from the University of Alberta.

[Le système intelligent] will detect the presence of a cell phone through the windshieldexplains the professor, who also sits on the city traffic safety committee for the City of Edmonton. If there is a phone detected and it moves, that’s what the system is looking for.

L’AI would notably be able to differentiate a phone from a wallet, according to the professor. The system would also be able to detect whether the phone is in the driver’s hands or not.

He is trained to understand and differentiate between different objects,” says Karim El-Basyouny. “The program is in two phases, the automatic algorithm then a manual intervention to ensure that the algorithm has indeed detected a traffic violation.

A technology already used in Australia

The technology is not new. It is already in service in the state of New South Wales, Australia. According to the Acusensus company, this technology detected more than 30,000 distracted drivers during the first three months of operation.

millions de véhicules par an d’ici 2023,”,”text”:”[Le système] pourra inspecter plus de 135millions de véhicules par an d’ici 2023,”}}”>[Le système] will be able to inspect more than 135 million vehicles per year by 2023, can we read on the Acusensus website. According to a study commissioned by the New South Wales government, these cameras could prevent around 100 fatal and serious accidents over five years.

A hard-to-find problem

According to Karim El-Basyouny, the national average of people who use their phone while driving is 7%. In Alberta, this average would be 5.3%, according to him. However, he points out that these figures come solely from the tickets given by the police to offenders.

Currently, traffic violations for distracted driving are detected by police officers looking through car windshields for use of a phone, or while driving near a vehicle.

It takes a lot of work, a lot of peeking, in tough conditionsbelieves Karim El-Basyouny. 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.

With information by Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi

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