As a driver, have you ever worried that the guy coming towards your car could be driving distracted and smash right into you and your loved ones?
What if artificial intelligence could be used to catch drivers like that guy?
In a September 2022 pilot project at specific locations in Edmonton, Alberta, AI technology used sensors to capture high-resolution images through vehicles’ windshields. Researchers from the University of Alberta were looking for drivers with a phone in their hands, pocket or lap in the study. If there was a cellphone there and it moved, the sensors would catch it.
Sound too creepy? Like Big Brother watching?
Consider this though: distracted driving can be deadly.
According to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, the likelihood of an automobile collision increases 3.6 times with the use of an electronic device. The Traffic Injury Research Foundation in Canada said fatalities from distracted driving surpassed those caused by impaired driving in 2019. In the United States, nine people are killed every day in crashes involving distracted drivers, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The pilot project, which also involves the City of Edmonton and Edmonton Police Service, is just being used for research right now, to give a picture of the size of the problem. The alternative is manned enforcement where police have to detect if there is a distraction and then pull the driver over and issue a ticket.
So while Edmonton drivers aren’t being ticketed right now, Jessica Lamarre, director of Safe Mobility for the City of Edmonton, said, “This project provides an opportunity to gain a better understanding of the prevalence and safety impacts of distracted driving on our streets through the creative use of new technology alongside our talented research partners at the University of Alberta.”
AI technology in catching distracted drivers isn’t new. In 2019, Australia, Melbourne-based company Acusensus — whose technology is being used in the Edmonton pilot — developed devices on roads in New South Wales to look for distracted drivers and those not wearing seatbelts. Since then, there has been a 22 per cent decline in fatalities.
Reports show multiple cameras using AI technology can catch distracted drivers in individual automobiles even if they’re travelling at speeds of 300 kilometres per hour. In Australia, they’re charging those distracted drivers and that technology is also being used in the Netherlands and Germany.
Acusensus isn’t the only Australian company doing groundbreaking work in AI. In 2017, I’ve noted the work of Lingo International’s Translate One2One, an earpiece powered by IBM Watson to efficiently translate spoken conversations within seconds.
The first of its kind, Translate One2One was an absolute game-changer for the global translation market, offering significant potential for commercial and social benefit.
And distracted-driving AI programs in Australia, Canada and elsewhere may also change the game on our city streets, keeping us feeling safe and secure behind the wheel of our own cars.