NEWS Even as accidents abound, Kerala’s 726 AI-powered cameras remain idle

Even as accidents abound, Kerala's 726 AI-powered cameras remain idle

About 700 of the MVD’s AI-enabled surveillance cameras have yet to start functioning due to delays in obtaining state approval. | Image credit: H. Vibhu

An ambitious Rs 2.35 crore project to detect traffic violations in real-time using a network of 726 artificial intelligence (AI)-powered cameras, although installed earlier this year, is Project is still pending.

The initiative of the Ministry of Motor Vehicles (MVD) is part of the Safe Kerala project, funded by the Kerala Road Safety Authority (KRSA). Keltron installed the cameras and shall maintain them for five years in build-own-operate-transfer (BOOT) mode. Automatic number plate recognition cameras will detect speed limits, running red lights and other traffic violations on Kerala highways and other arterial roads.

Official sources attribute the undue delay in launching the project to the government’s quest to clarify many aspects mentioned in the detailed project report. Some technical issues must also be resolved, they said, such as the need to obtain higher-resolution images of faulty vehicle license plates, for which trials are underway.

According to the plan, the artificial intelligence-driven camera network will be launched in August. Kerala has been under fire as the state’s annual road death toll hovers above 4,000, despite claims by the MVD and police of increased enforcement.

Of the 240 surveillance cameras installed on the state’s highways and arterial roads more than a decade ago, not even 50 percent are functional, largely because MVD does not have an Annual Maintenance Contract (AMC) with Keltron. Other reasons include lax maintenance, broken cables, battery issues, network issues, 2018 floods and damaged components from highway widening works. Concerns have also been raised over the years about suppliers of different components of CCTV networks, leading to a demand to invite global bids to install surveillance cameras at competitive prices.

Nevertheless, fines of Rs 1.22 crore were collected from motorists whose violations were caught on camera, and Rs 1.35 crore is expected to be collected from drivers whose vehicles were blacklisted for non-payment of fines. The rollout of an additional 726 cameras is expected to generate substantial revenue for the state’s coffers through fines.

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