Highway drones toronto

Toronto to use drones to check passenger numbers in HOV lanes

First they came for our delivery jobs. Then they started cultivating crops, filming movies, forecasting weather and performing various other formerly human roles.

Now, the drones want to be cops, too – but can they tell the difference between a real person and a hoodie stuffed with wood? Or a mannequin decked out for the Pan Am Games?

We'll soon find out, I suppose, when Ontario sics its new fleet of AI-enabled traffic drones on local drivers.

Our province's Ministry of Transportation has reportedly teamed up with IBM, The University of Toronto, Oakville's The Sky Guys and Silicon Valley tech firm Nvidia to better enforce high-occupancy vehicle (i.e. carpool lane) rules on 400-series highways.

Ontario currently uses manned aircraft to measure speeding on certain stretches of road, according to Techvibes, but the process is clunky and inefficient.

To monitor HOV lanes for cars that don't have the requisite number of passengers, the province had been looking for something automated, secure, convenient and safe that could integrate with already existing government technologies.

This is what the teams mentioned above hope to deliver over the next two years in the form of an unmanned aerial drone system.

"The idea is that the drone is flying just off the side of the highway. It has an onboard camera and snaps pictures from the front, side and back views of each car," Sky Guys CTO Jeremy Wang told the Sun on Thursday. 

"Basically we have our own proprietary software that can count the number of people inside and then a report gets sent to police if there’s less people than there should be," he explained. "A ticket is linked to your licence plate."

So there you have it. In two years, intelligent robots will be watching us all from the sky and – hopefully, for the sake of tax money well spent – they won't be fooled by our unmoving plastic friends.

Lead photo by

George Socka


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