(TNS) — San Diego's Lytx, the maker of DriveCam video monitoring technology for commercial truck fleets, has expanded its machine vision and artificial intelligence capabilities to detect when drivers are looking at cellphones on the road.

The company's latest update to its in-cab camera technology recognizes when a driver is distracted by a mobile device or other behaviors. That triggers the camera to issue a warning and start recording video, which can be shared with fleet managers through an online portal.

Others video telematics companies also have products that can detect cellphone use in the cab of commercial vehicles. But Lytx says its artificial intelligence technology has been developed using millions of miles of video data from its library collected over many years. The company currently has about 700,000 fleet vehicles equipped with its DriveCam cameras worldwide.

As a result, Lytx believes its technology is very accurate and reduces false positives for fleet operators.

"We have nearly 2 million minutes of video that has been human-verified and annotated," said Lytx Chief Executive Brandon Nixon. "We use that to train the neuro-networks to recognize these situations."

In addition to distracted driving from cellphones, the new driver safety suite also detects when drivers are not wearing seat belts, eating on the road and smoking in the vehicle, which is sometimes against fleet policies in certain industries such fuel hauling, said Nixon.

Founded in 1998, Lytx's subscription video monitoring helps train drivers and provides fleet managers with a window into what happens in accidents or close calls. The systems help reduce insurance premiums and other costs for fleet operators — many of whom are self-insured.

While DriveCam cameras are plugged in all the time — with lenses pointed on the road and in the cab — they typically begin recording when triggered.

For years, DriveCam relied on accelerometers to detect hard braking, swerving or high speed to start recording.

Over the years as technology has improved, the triggering events have expanded. Now lane departure, rolling stops or following too close also set off recording.

"Using machine vision and artificial intelligence, we can actually teach the cameras to see for themselves," said Nixon. "The increased functionality of the camera means it is not just a recording device. It can act as its own sensor."

Distracted driving is the latest target. Nixon said Lytx chose cellphones, food and drink, seat belts and smoking because they were among the most requested things that clients wanted to monitor.

Lytx claims the program can reduce collisions by as much as 50 percent and cut insurance claims by 80 percent. The company is the leader in fleet video telematics. But competition is increasing not only from fast-growing local firms such as SmartDrive but also from Bay Area upstarts including Samsara and KeepTruckin.

The commercial fleet video market remains largely untapped, however. Only 1 percent of the 126 million commercial vehicles operating globally are equipped with in-cab video, according to industry research firm Frost & Sullivan.

Detecting cellphone use and the other distracted driving behaviors is just the beginning for artificial intelligence in video telematics, said Nixon.

"A big one that our clients are asking for is fatigue," he said. "They want know when a driver is sleepy. It doesn't happen very often. It is a difficult one (to detect.) But I am confident we will be able to solve it."

©2020 The San Diego Union-Tribune. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.