The Australian AI road safety company Acusensus has won a Prince Michael International Road Safety Award for its ‘Heads-Up’ technology, which spots drivers using mobile phones at the wheel, or vehicle occupants not wearing a seat belt.
The prestigious awards, which have run for more than 30 years, are designed to give public recognition to those who have improved road safety.
Pioneered in Australia, the Heads Up technology is now being deployed in the UK and the United States.
It uses bespoke roadside cameras and Artificial Intelligence-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.
The Prince Michael 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.
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.
The judges also noted the international pilots running in another four continents, including the UK.
Acusensus managing director Alexander Jannink says he is honoured that his company has been acknowledged for its contribution to reducing road trauma and fatalities.
He said: “Our mission is to make roads as safe as possible. Despite improved vehicle design and other road safety improvements, road casualties have actually 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.”