Universiteit Utrecht

11/04/2019 | News release | Distributed by Public on 11/04/2019 09:04

Traffic enforcement cameras for phone use behind the wheel based on Utrecht research

The Dutch police will start using traffic enforcement cameras to automatically recognise drivers who are holding a mobile phone. The technology behind the pilot has been developed with Utrecht University. Computer science researcher Ronald Poppe supervised the project.

After years of decline, the number of traffic accidents in the Netherlands has recently been on the rise again. This trend is partially attributed to the use of mobile phones behind the wheel. Using a phone while driving a car is strictly forbidden, but enforcing this ban is time-consuming. Currently, drivers have to be caught and stopped by police officers. In practice, this means that only a few offenders per hour can be fined. As a result, the chance of being caught is low.

The police wanted to increase this chance, and were interested in the possibilities of computer vision: the automatic analysis of images by computers. In early 2018, Computer Science student Jannes Elings started his graduation project with the Dutch police. The aim was to develop a method for automatically analysing camera images to see whether a driver is operating a mobile phone. 'A challenging task,' says supervisor Ronald Poppe, 'especially because people sit in their cars in very different ways. We saw people holding phones on their laps, and in addition, it turns out that people hold all kinds of objects in their hands or against their ears.'