California’s Department of Transportation has asked technology companies to, by January 25, come up with generative artificial intelligence (AI) tools which could help the state reduce the traffic it is famous for, as well as make its roads safer, especially for users such as scooter riders, cyclists and pedestrians.
The request stems from Governor Gavin Newsom signing an executive order in September 2023 which directed California agencies to examine the risks and benefits of AI which can generate content such as text and images.
California Traffic Issues
California is famous for congested traffic, and for good reason: the state has the most congested urban interstate system in the nation, according to TRIP, a national transportation research nonprofit. The nonprofit found that 87 percent of California’s urban interstates are congested.
The cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco are particularly notorious for traffic issues. INRIX ranked Los Angeles as having the seventh worst traffic in the nation in 2022, and San Francisco eighth.
INRIX stated that the average Los Angeles driver lost 95 hours of time in traffic in 2022, costing them $1,601, and stated that the average downtown speed in Los Angeles was 19 miles per hour.
INRIX stated that the average San Francisco driver lost 97 hours of time in traffic in 2022, costing them $1,642, and stated that the average downtown speed in San Francisco was 12 miles per hour.
How AI Could Ease California Traffic
California plans to possibly use AI to reduce traffic jams and make our roads safer, but how?
State agencies in California can access huge amounts of valuable data, such as data from thousands of cameras and traffic sensors. It can be difficult to quickly analyze this data in order to improve safety and reduce traffic. This data can include text, videos and photos.
California is currently utilizing technology to assist with analyzing traffic data. However, state agencies currently heavily rely on workers to make decisions on how to improve traffic flow in real time. AI may be able to devise superior solutions.
Traffic jams occur for multiple reasons, such as inclement weather, large crowds being drawn by major events, roadway debris, and car accidents. However, roads can also become congested due to recurring issues.
As an example, traffic flow might be hindered by a section of road which is narrowed. Workers may be able to utilize generative AI in order to brainstorm solutions for problems like this.
Without generative AI, workers may simply decide that widening the road would be the proper solution. However, generative AI may be able to help funnel traffic through areas like this in a better way.
Caltrans also wishes to use AI to reduce fatalities and serious injuries on California’s roads. The department says AI, by analyzing roadway users’ behaviors, traffic patterns, lighting conditions and crash sites, may be able to help workers find areas which are at high risk for crashes and suggest safety solutions.
Companies such as Google are already utilizing AI to analyze the movement of people and traffic patterns on roads. Google’s Project Green Light initiative, which cities like Seattle are a part of, is trying to improve traffic flow by using AI to identify when the timing of traffic lights can be adjusted.
In November, INRIX announced a product powered by generative AI which may be able to help cities manage traffic flow better.
Technology has its flaws, and humans will need to remain involved to make sure that AI systems are using data from proper sources and aren’t producing errors. California is also making efforts to limit potential privacy and data security issues – state data used by AI programs will need to be stored in “managed cloud environments” by Caltrans.
When Can We Expect To See These Changes?
Tech companies have been asked to come up with generative AI tools which can help alleviate California’s traffic problems by January 25. Once tech companies submit their ideas for generative AI tools, Governor Newsom could, at any point, issue another executive order to proceed with the implementation of such tools.
AI is already being used in traffic management systems around the globe right now, so it may not be very long at all until they’re being used in California. AI is currently being used in numerous ways in traffic management systems, including:
Automatic Distance Recognition
This is when sensors like cameras, radar and lasers are utilized in order to detect how far vehicles are away from surrounding objects. This concept is utilized in autonomous vehicles.
Automatic distance recognition helps to prevent crashes, as the concept can be used to decide vehicle speed, activate automatic braking and avoid “domino effects” which cause traffic to slow down. This can, in turn, help with the design of better infrastructure and roads.
Better Route Planning
Route planning powered by AI can assist us with identifying and using economically viable, sustainable and efficient traffic routes. This can improve management of the supply chain in the long-term and improve emergency management.
AI can help to identify areas which may become congested in advance, letting drivers avoid congested traffic and save time while events like concerts or sporting events are going on.
Better Law Enforcement
AI-powered systems could automatically fine violators based on videos and snapshots. AI could automatically detect speeding, and detect when multiple road users are riding motorcycles or bicycles without helmets, helping to prevent deadly accidents. AI could be integrated with traffic control systems and CCTV systems.
Traffic could be reduced by AI trained in deep learning. AI-powered systems could keep road authorities and drivers one step ahead by considering every tiny detail regarding the roads.
AI systems can analyze traffic in various lanes and help facilitate movement of traffic. Drivers can use this data to significantly reduce travel time, and this data can help drivers as well as road authorities make superior decisions for avoidance of congested traffic.
AI could provide drivers and road authorities with real-time updates about road conditions such as congestion to traffic accidents.
AI-powered systems may be able to analyze traffic in numerous regions at once, helping users map efficient routes and helping systems alter traffic signals to alleviate congestion.
Minimization Of Fuel
AI systems could identify vehicles which are less efficient, track their speed and route, and change traffic signals in their path in order to eliminate inefficient stop and go traffic, minimizing the consumption of fuel in the process.