Toronto Sun: Drones to monitor some Ontario highway carpool lanes

TORONTO, Nov. 10, 2017 (Toronto Sun)

Remember those reports of single drivers using mannequins to drive in carpool lanes during the Pan Am Games in Toronto?

Well, the province thinks they’ve come up with a hi-tech solution to combat the problem.

The Ministry of Transportation is going to work with Toronto-based The Sky Guys over the next two years to develop and test artificially intelligent-enabled drones to enforce the rule of two or more passengers for cars using High-Occupancy Vehicle/High-Occupancy Toll (HOV-HOT) lanes on Ontario’s 400-series highways.

“Our solution is a long range drone,” said Jeremy Wang, the CTO of The Sky Guys.

“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. Basically we have our own proprietory software that can count the number of people inside and then a report gets sent to police if there’s less people than they’re should be. (A ticket) is linked to your licence plate.”

The $750,000 contract was awarded to The Sky Guys, in partnership with American technology company NVIDIA, IBM and the University of Toronto, by Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) as part of the Small Business Innovation Challenge (SBIC).

Wang says for the pilot project they are looking at using just one drone, with a four-metre wingspan, to fly between 100-to-200 metres overhead during rush hour along the QEW between Oakville and Burlington later in 2018.

Economic Development and Growth Minister Brad DuGuid said in a statement that “all solutions developed will need to adhere to the relevant regulations, including privacy regulations.”

Still, Dr. Ann Cavoukian at Ryerson University, one of the world’s leading privacy experts, has some concerns about the use of drones in this way.

“I can see a number of privacy concerns arising from this,” said Cavoukian. “So I’m not going to say it’s a good idea. They’ve got to do a very careful privacy impact assessment with the privacy commissioner. Are they breaching any law? I mean we do have privacy laws in Ontario. You can’t just jump into this stuff.”

Wang admits they still have to go with several regulatory approvals including that all-important privacy impact assessment.

But he said the drone technology in this case, “in terms of protecting people’s identities, before any data is stored anywhere, it’s already automatically censored by our software. For example, the eyes are already blacked out and any information that’s not relevant is censored.”

 

Become acquainted with the latest news and all of our relevant facts.