New technology could end misery of flat congestion charges

A roadside camera which can count how many people are in a moving vehicle has been developed by scientists at Loughborough University.

The Dtect infrared imaging system could help maximise vehicle use and reduce carbon emissions and congestion by monitoring car share lanes and allowing for variable pricing on toll roads, bridges, tunnels and car parks.

Dr John Tyrer, Loughborough inventor and director of Vehicle Occupancy Ltd (VOL), the company formed to commercialise the technology, said: "Traffic congestion is costing countries billions of pounds and dtect will provide road planners and toll operators the ability to manage traffic flows."

The system illuminates the moving vehicle's windscreen in a fraction of a second without distracting the driver to detect the number of occupants.

Demand is high for ways to encourage vehicle sharing, especially in major cities.

Just 20% of road capacity is used by vehicles containing more than one person - the other 80% are occupied by only the driver.

Blanket charging schemes such as congestion zones and toll gates in traffic black spots have increased in a bid to tackle the problem but Dr Tyrer says these are not the answer.

"Flat rate charges are not the answer to congestion and the resultant pollution," he said.

"Getting more people to share their journeys can only happen with incentives like variable charging. We have developed the step change technology to make this happen."

The technology could also catch lone motorists who trespass into congestion-easing car-share lanes, designed to give priority to vehicles with at least one passenger.

And it could spell the end of drivers using dummies to give the illusion of passengers at it can distinguish human skin from other surfaces.

Its inventors hope it will be in use before the end of the year.

Roadside camera housing supplier Avingtrans is investing £200,000 in VOL in return for a seven percent share and exclusive supply rights.

Chairman Ken Baker said: "The use of vehicle occupancy detection systems has been widely acknowledged as a major instrument in the future of worldwide traffic management. VOL is at the forefront of this technology."

David Gibbs



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