Australian AI road safety firm Acusensus has won the Prince Michael International Road Safety Award for its “heads-up” technology which can spot drivers using mobile phones at the wheel or identify vehicle occupants not wearing a seat belt.
The Prince Michael International Road Safety Award is an annual award presented by Prince Michael of Kent since 1987 for outstanding achievement and innovation in improving road safety globally and is considering the top international road safety award.
The Heads Up winning solution, which was pioneered in Australia and is now being utilised in the UK and the US, uses bespoke roadside cameras and AI-based image analysis to flag up likely violations involving people holding a phone or not wearing a seat belt. Anonymised images of possible rule-breakers are sent for human review, to decide if a potential offence has occurred.
Heads-Up was created to initially prove that distracted driving could be detected by technology, and this concept has subsequently been demonstrated, developed and now applied to the world’s first distracted driving enforcement programmes, operational across three Australian jurisdictions.
The award judges said they were “especially impressed by the effectiveness of the technology and that it is now fully operational across several states in Australia”.
The first state-wide scheme rolled out in New South Wales in 2019 has had a significant impact on driver behaviour as people discovered that the technology existed and that they face the real prospect of being caught if they break the rules. The number of mobile phone detections have dropped by a factor of six, from one in 82 drivers spotted holding a phone in 2019 to one in 478 drivers in 2021 and one in every 534 in 2023.
The system has been further developed to detect drivers and front seat passengers who are not wearing seat belts, using the same configuration and image capture system. This uniquely addresses two of the “fatal four” road safety risks – distracted driving and seatbelt wearing, with the other two being speeding and drink/drug driving.
The judges also noted the international pilots running in another four continents, including the UK. The same technology has been evaluated in the USA, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, India, South Africa, Canada, and New Zealand. Acusensus noted that, where fine revenues can be reinvested into road safety, the system pays for itself entirely, ensuring long term sustainability.
Acusensus managing director Alexander Jannink (pictured) said, “Our mission is to make roads as safe as possible. Despite improved vehicle design and other road safety improvements, road casualties have been increasing since 2013, largely attributed to poor driver behaviours including distracted driving. Our technology is designed to prevent hundreds of thousands of deaths and road injuries worldwide.
“It’s gratifying for our technology to be recognised by the industry for its ability to efficiently change behaviours of drivers on a larger scale, and we hope this recognition will pave the way for more jurisdictions to follow in adopting this proven solution,” Jannink concluded.