Future Vision: 4 Ways AI Powers Transportation in Smart Cities

Published on
July 1, 2021
Rachel Melisa
Marketing & Brand Manager
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Transportation plays a fundamental role in the economy and society, but is often taken for granted.

Reflect on how much transport is a part of the fabric of our daily lives — access to work, friends, family, shopping, recreation and worship. Then, visualize the role of transportation in the movement of goods everyday, to satisfy both commercial and personal demands. 

A civilization simply cannot function without adequate modes of transportation. This is why the transportation sector is one industry that never stops evolving. 

When the steamboat was introduced during the Industrial Revolution in 1787, humans and commodities have generally moved around via animal-drawn carts or oared ships. Since then, multiple breakthroughs have emerged, from bicycles and motor cars, to trains and aircrafts. 

What’s next?

Challenges of Modern Transportation 

As of the 2000s millennia, the conversations surrounding modern transportation have been around...

  1. Energy and sustainability. Making drastic cuts in greenhouse gas emissions
  2. Serving a growing and shifting population. Supporting fast-developing urban areas, while providing access and connections for rural populations to adequate jobs and services
  3. Preparing for threats such as extreme weather and natural disasters
  4. Safeguarding the public from deaths, injuries, and diseases caused by modes of modern transportation

Technological advancements, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and computer vision (CV), can breathe innovation into the transportation industry and provide solutions to challenges above.

AI can be defined as technology that powers machines to think like humans. It doesn’t strive to replace humans, but to take over manual, repetitive and time-consuming tasks.

Once the AI machine is trained, it would be able to exhibit critical problem-solving skills and make decisions, providing a unique potential for the transportation sector.

What are some existing AI applications in the transportation industry? 

Autonomous Public Transportation

In 2016, IBM and Local Motors unveiled Olli, an electric shuttle that requires no human drivers, transporting passengers to requested locations. Other functions include the ability to verbally answer directions and provide sight-seeing suggestions.

Not only is it environmentally friendly, the design of Olli also takes accessibility into consideration, providing Speech to Text, Natural Language Classifier, Conversation, Entity Extraction, and Text to Speech support.

Autonomous Trucks

Across the pond, San Francisco startup Otto (now called Uber Advanced Technologies Group — yes, it has been bought by Uber) has successfully made its first delivery: 50,000 bottles of beer, in a 2-hour, 2 kilometer journey. 

Don’t worry, this technology isn’t created to oust the role of truck drivers, but to solve the issue of fatigued, overworked drivers, that often leads to accidents on the highway.

Otto trucks can only run on autopilot in the highway, requiring human drivers to drive when reaching towns. This way, drivers can catch up on some sleep, only waking up to drive the trucks safely to truck depots. 

"You can imagine a future where those trucks are essentially a virtual train on a software rail, on the highway," says Otto co-founder Lior Ron.

Traffic Management

As urban cities become more populated, there needs to be a better way to manage traffic congestion and reduce road accidents.

Viana™ by meldCX offers a Traffic Management module that can gather real-time insights such as traffic conditions, traffic density, average speed of vehicles, and types of vehicles. Local authorities can then use this data to better plan and manage traffic flow.

Set up is easy, simply requiring smart AI sensors to be installed in and around streets, not unlike regular traffic cameras.

The state of Nevada in the USA has successfully trialled an intelligent traffic system, with the goal to improve safety in their high-risk highways. Using historic traffic data gathered from smart cameras, operators display dynamic messaging via digital road signs. In a year, the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) reported an 18% reduction in crashes and a 43% decrease in speeding cases.

Vehicle Recognition

In December 2020, a student was killed in an unfortunate hit-and-run accident. After weeks gone by with no promising leads, the police announced they finally have a suspect. How did they locate this suspect, you may ask? Through a license plate recognition camera.

Viana takes this feature a step further, equipping smart cameras with optical character recognition AND image processing functions. This allows for not only recognition of characters in license plates, but also visual details such as vehicle color, printed brands logos, hazardous transport plaques and type. 

In unfortunate cases such as these, having AI-powered cameras installed becomes crucial in safeguarding public safety — ensuring roads are safe and any accidents that occur can be investigated thoroughly. 


The future is now. Learn more about AI and CV solutions for the transportation sector by booking a demo with our Vision AI expert!

This article is an installment of our Future Vision series, where we tackle insights on Vision AI disruption across industries.

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