Can AI help governments tackle traffic?

No city has shared data after implementing AI to improve traffic, but hopefully, America's newest addition to the list will shed some light on how it goes.
30 October 2018

Can AI help reduce traffic? Source: Shutterstock

Traffic is like a puzzle, and who better to solve a puzzle than a smart computer?

Several businesses are now thinking about how artificial intelligence (AI) can solve the city’s traffic woes and it seems like many governments are interested.

Whether far away in India and Malaysia or right here in the States, data from traffic cameras and sensors on streets is helping understand how traffic can be better managed.

In fact, many developers also believe that AI-powered traffic solutions can help avoid accidents and make traffic violations easier to prevent.

Most recently, Dubuque in Iowa has decided to try out such a solution to control the traffic signals in the city using a program called STREETS.

“It’ll be our existing signals, they’ll just be smarter than they are right now. Our goal with this is to make it completely autonomous, so we want it to take care of itself,” said Dubuque City Engineer Dave Ness.

The Engineer, who has been studying traffic patterns in the city for a while now, told local media that the complex system will be programmed to decide on its own how to adjust traffic signals based on a variety of patterns they’ve identified.

While the system will capture information from cameras and sensors in the city and regulate traffic to prevent jams, STREETS is also expected to make the necessary adjustments to keep traffic moving even in the event of an accident or a sudden rise in traffic volume.

Unfortunately, it seems that the city’s residents might not be able to enjoy all the benefits of the new investment via existing navigation tools. Instead, they’ll need to download a separate app to help tap into intelligent insights from the city.

“Drivers may have to download a special app to show them the best route. We try to eliminate driver distractions such as phones, and calls, and texting, but when its giving you directions on improving your driving habit its not necessarily a bad thing to have something there to communicate with you,” explained Ness.

Dubuque’s council is confident that the project will reap significant benefits for its residents, and hence, is investing several millions to bring STREETS to life.

While Malaysia’s AI-based traffic control system has been implemented by tech-giant Alibaba, results haven’t been disclosed as yet.

Hopefully, Iowa will be able to share the results of their experiment with AI — which will help convert other cities in the country.