Glitches galore: But road accident deaths down after AI camera surveillance, says Kerala minister

The AI cameras also detected violations by 56 government vehicles including VIP cars, and 10 challans were issued till now.

ByGeorge Michael

Published Jun 10, 2023 | 7:03 PMUpdated Jun 10, 2023 | 7:27 PM

Glitches galore: But road accident deaths down after AI camera surveillance, says Kerala minister

A man in Thiruvananthapuram had no answer when his wife confronted him with “solid” evidence in May.

A few days ago, he had sneaked out on his wife’s scooter for a helmetless ride. The Artificial Intelligence (AI) traffic surveillance camera — then on trial — in the capital city captured his image, and a challan was sent to the mobile phone of the vehicle’s registered owner, his wife.

Along with the challan, the Motor Vehicle Department (MVD) also sent the photograph to the registered owner. One look at the photograph and the man got that sinking feeling: The high-end camera had captured him riding with a woman friend on the pillion.

The photograph whipped up a storm in his family. A police case and the man’s arrest followed, reports said. The scooter owner was not penalised since the MVD was then testing the cameras and making motorists aware of traffic rules and penalities for various violations.

The man’s present marital status is not immediately known.

Related: Contract, AI cameras land Safe Kerala Project in controversy

Transport minister is happy

The motorists started feeling the heat of the AI cameras — installed as part of the Safe Kerala drive — from 5 June when the MVD started penalising the erring drivers.

However, the state Transport Minister Antony Raju is a happy man. He said cases of road accidents have drastically come down ever since the AI cameras became operational.

Kerala AI cameraRaju, after holding an evaluation meeting of the AI cameras, addressed the media in Thiruvananthapuram on Friday, 9 June.

He said the cameras detected 3,52,730 violations between 5 and 8 June.

“Kerala reported an average of 12 road accident fatalities daily, but since the AI cameras were installed, it came down to five to eight a day,” he told reporters.

According to the Kerala police records, the state reported 16,528 road accidents till April this year. As many as 1,447 people were killed in the accidents, and 19,015 were injured.

In 2022, 4,317 lives were lost in 43,910 accidents, and 49,307 people suffered injuries. The previous year, Kerala recorded 3,429 fatalities in 33,296 accidents, which left 40,204 people injured.

Related: Government AI ‘scam’ report gives clean chit to Keltron

Glitches galore

Though the cameras detected 3,57,730 violations, the backend employees could cross-check only 80,743 cases. When uploaded to the website, it further shrunk to 19,790, and merely 10,457 challans were issued.

A technical committee overseeing the AI camera network admitted to glitches, and added that efforts were on to fix them.

In one instance, reports said an AI camera caught a motorcycle speeding at an incredible 1,240 kmph. Realising the folly, the officials cancelled the challan.

The speed reportedly recorded by the AI cam would have put Rocky Robinson to shame, who touched the maximum record speed of 605.69 kmph in Utah, US, on 25 September, 2010.

Additionally, the AI cameras seem to have taken a liking for “zero”. Any screw on the registration plates is read as “zero”, since the high-end cameras could clearly read only high-security registration plates.

Instances of motorists wearing attires matching the colour of seatbelts receiving challans for not buckling up, too, have been reported. They were served challans despite wearing seatbelts.

However, the MVD is unperturbed by the glitches. B Shafeeq, Joint RTO in Ernakulam said glitches were expected at the initial stage.

“AI needs to learn and adapt to situations to better detect the offenders,” he said.

The official refuted reports of a motorcycle whizzing past a camera at over 1,200 kmph.

“It is false. Speed is detected by laser cameras (guns), which are not part of the new AI detection cameras. A lot of false claims are being made,” the official asserted.

Related: It is 80% commission govt in Kerala, says Congress’s Chennithala

10,457 challans issued

Incidentally, the AI cameras detected violation involving 56 government-owned vehicles, including those ferrying VIPs. As many as 10 challans were issued.

“Among the violations, 7,896 were by car passengers riding without wearing seatbelts. 6,153 were riding without helmets, and 715 were cases of pillion riders without helmets,” Minister Raju said.

He also said seatbelts will be made mandatory for the drivers and front seat passengers of heavy vehicles from 1 September.

The minister said directions were issued to (the state-owned Kerala State Electronics Development Corporation Limited) Keltron — the implementing agency — to augment the infrastructure necessary to record violations detected into the integrated transport monitoring system.

The agency was also told to increase its manpower.

Also Read: Kerala’s drone surveillance system in all police districts

Safe Kerala Project

In April this year, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan inaugurated the ₹232-crore Safe Kerala Project, which included installation of the AI cameras envisaged to reduce road accidents and traffic violations in the state.

The MVD has procured 726 cameras, of which 675 have AI capabilities.

Public sector undertaking Keltron has been tasked with manufacturing and maintaining the camera network.

The Kerala government had, in 2020, entered into an agreement with Keltron for the project.

Related: Kerala wants MV Act amended to allow child with parents on 2-wheelers

Corruption charges

The Congress has been raising charges of corruption against the government even since the project was launched.

The Opposition party leaders alleged that the Left government had indulged in irregularities in awarding the tender to a private company.

In a letter to Chief Minister Vijayan, Opposition leader VD Satheesan claimed there was no information available in the public domain about the project contracts, the agreement between the Transport Department and Keltron, and the tendering process.

Satheesan alleged that the AI cameras were purchased at prices higher than the market rates and there was no transparency in the selection of the companies.

He further added that while the Transport Department commissioned Keltron to implement the project, the service agreement was not available in the public domain.

In April, Industries Minister P Rajeeve ordered a probe and told reporters: “Even before the Opposition raised the allegations, we had received some complaints regarding the Motor Vehicle Department and issues regarding Keltron.”

“We ordered a vigilance probe in March. We had also sought a report from Keltron,” the minister said.

Terming the controversy “baseless”, he said that the tender process was completely transparent.

(With PTI inputs)