The Highways Agency hopes the new technology, which is already being used in Germany and the Netherlands, could help reduce accidents caused by drivers tailgating.
The cameras will be installed on the A34 near Abingdon later this year. Initially, they will only collect data for analysis but, if they prove successful, they could then be linked to Variable Message System (VMS) boards. These will warn drivers to increase the gap.
Highways Agency research suggests that tailgating contributes to 29% of all injury accidents in the UK.
Gary Crockford, senior policy manager at the Highways Agency, said: ‘There are video cameras on bridges and marks on the road surface itself which allows software to pick out particular areas..
‘It gives the system spatial awareness. The software detects vehicles and maps them moving down a particular sector of road.
‘It can analyse a stream of traffic and pick out certain criteria – a certain speed, a certain distance between vehicles – and so pick out vehicles that exceed that criteria.’
Crockford said the technology could (if proven reliable) be eventually linked to a system that would fine drivers for tailgating in a similar way to speed cameras.
But he stressed there were no firm plans for that to happen at the moment, saying: ‘There are no current plans to use it as an enforcement system but it would be wrong to say the Association of Chief Police Officers isn’t interested in it. At the moment it’s nowhere near that stage.’
There are also theories that the new technology could, in the future, be linked to distance sensors used by some cars as part of adaptive cruise control systems.