726 AI-driven cameras in Kerala remain idle even as accidents abound

Around 700 AI-enabled surveillance cameras of MVD are yet to commence functioning due to the delay in getting State government’s nod for operating them.
| Photo Credit: H. Vibhu

An ambitious ₹235-crore project to detect traffic rule violations real time using a network of 726 Artificial Intelligence (AI)-driven cameras is hanging fire, although the cameras were installed earlier this year.

The Motor Vehicles Department’s (MVD) initiative, part of the Safe Kerala Project, is funded by the Kerala Road Safety Authority (KRSA). Keltron installed the cameras and should maintain them for a five-year period under the build-own-operate-transfer (BOOT) model. The automatic number plate recognition cameras will detect, among others, speed limit, red-light jumping, and other traffic violations across Kerala’s highways and other arterial roads.

Official sources attributed the undue delay in launching the project to the government seeking clarity on many aspects mentioned in the detailed project report. A few technical aspects like the need to get better resolution images of number plates of errant vehicles too had to be addressed, for which trials were under way, they said.

As per plan, the AI-driven camera network was to be inaugurated in August. Kerala has been receiving flak for the number of road accident fatalities in the State hovering at over 4,000 each year, despite claims by the MVD and the police of increased rule enforcement.

Not even 50% of the 240 surveillance cameras installed on highways and arterial roads in the State over a decade ago are functioning, mainly because the MVD did not enter into an annual maintenance contract (AMC) with Keltron. The other reasons include slack upkeep, snapping of cables, battery problems, network issues, damage to components due to the 2018 floods and highway-widening works. Over the years, concerns had also been raised about suppliers of different components of the CCTV network, giving rise to the demand that global bids be invited to install surveillance cameras at competitive rates.

Despite all this, ₹122 crore was collected as fine from motorists whose rule violations were caught in the cameras and another ₹135 crore is expected to be collected from those whose vehicles were blacklisted for not remitting fine. The launch of 726 more cameras is expected to bring in substantial revenue to the State’s coffers by way of fines.

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