AI sensors reveal early Covid-19 advice produced only small reductions in traffic


Government advice to restrict travel to only when necessary led to only small reductions in traffic and an ignoring of coronavirus-related social distancing rules, artificial intelligence (AI) analysis reveals.

Work carried out by transport data firm Vivacity Labs in conjunction with a number of cities and roads across the UK found that car use has reduced by only 15%, while larger motor vehicle traffic has remained unchanged.

It is for these reasons that Prime Minister Boris Johnson introduced the unprecedented measures for the UK that are now in place as of midnight last night, requiring all residents to remain in their homes unless for the exceptional circumstances he laid out.

Able to provide up-to-date data on transport movements, Vivacity Labs sensor network was leveraged for the M32 motorway as well as Oxford, Bournemouth, Christchurch & Poole, Cambridge, Manchester, Bedford, Peterborough, Hereford and London.

The AI-based sensors process video footage to provide anonymous data on road usage, offering an opportunity to monitor compliance with new requests such as the 2m social distancing rule, without impacting civil liberties or requiring an increase in Government access to mobile phone data.

Vivacity Labs, COO, Peter Mildon, said, “Over the last few days we have been analysing the impact that the COVID-19 response is having on the UK’s transport networks.

“Taking anonymous data from over 200 sensors across 10 UK cities, we have seen the following impact.

“Against a baseline week starting on February 3, last week saw a 30% drop in pedestrian traffic, 15% drop in urban car traffic, 13% drop in cyclists and 15% motorcycles. The number of light and heavy goods vehicles on the road was unchanged.

“In Oxford, we carried out an additional analysis to measure the distance between pedestrians within the sensor field of view. This found that by Sunday (March 22), there had been a 45% drop in the total number of pedestrians compared to the previous week, but only a 28% reduction in social interactions where two pedestrians came within 2m of each other.

“This data shows that while a large proportion of the population are following government advice and staying home, those who are still going out are not adopting the social distancing measures being encouraged.”

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James joined the Traffic Technology International team in 2017. Previously he was Assistant Editor on an engineering title for several years and has worked for various other trade magazines before that. James is happily married and has a young daughter and son who keep him busy.