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Trials of technology to enforce use of a high occupancy vehicle route into Leeds will start next month.

Leeds City Council has agreed to trials of the latest version of technology which will automatically count the number of people travelling in cars on a high occupancy vehicle lane into the city centre. The trials are expected to start in March.

The new infra-red camera system combines optical technology with a bespoke image recognition system which can distinguish human faces.

It was developed by Laser Optical Engineering, a spin out company from Loughborough University. Funding for the project has come from the Department for Transport and Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

"We have developed a unique mathematical formula for instant image recognition to enable an automatic and accurate count of faces in a moving car for the very first time," said Professor John Tyrer, director of Laser Optical Engineering. "We can even apply a size filter to the camera to make sure a hand held up where a passenger's face should be is not counted."

Cars travelling on the Leeds high occupancy vehicle lane, the first of its type in the UK, are permitted two or more occupants.

A spokesperson for Leeds City Council told GC News that the scheme, on a 1.5km stretch of the A647, has resulted in a 13 minute drop in journey times. The council is planning another similar scheme on Round Hay Road, a key route into Leeds.

Lone motorists who flout the rule face a £30 fixed penalty. However, the system currently relies on manual enforcement.

Professor Tyrer said manual enforcement does not work because it is costly and is only 55 to 65 per cent accurate. "There is especially a problem when vehicles are travelling at speed. So at the moment there is no alternative to using technology for enforcement of high occupancy vehicle lanes."

The Leeds spokesperson said: "We are keen that this trial takes place as soon as possible. Now we have to have people out there to monitor the lane, or the police can spot people. But if this new automated technology works it will allow us to enforce the system properly."

Preliminary versions of the system have been trialled on roads in Leeds and around the university, as well as at Mallory Park race track in Leicestershire.

"We have used the race track where we can set up road conditions and test vehicles at varying speeds and with different levels of occupancy," said Professor Tyrer.

"Twenty per cent of the public uses 80 per cent of the road space, so if more people share their cars, there is a massive amplification in terms of tackling congestion and emissions."

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

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