AUSTIN (KXAN) — Could artificial intelligence play a role in improving how we get around Austin?
KXAN Traffic Anchor Erica Brennes met up with a startup company during the MOVE Mobility Conference this week that is developing AI software that would help move emergency vehicles, buses and cars around cities more efficiently.
Below is a transcription of the interview, edited for grammar and clarity.
Brennes: Joining me today is Tim Menard. He is the CEO and founder of LYT. He’s in town for the MOVE America transportation conference at the Austin Convention Center. Tim, let’s discuss Austin traffic. It’s one of the top issues for our community. You deal with artificial intelligence when it comes to traffic solutions. How do you think AI could help improve Austin traffic?
Menard: Well, in a very growing community that we have here it is going to be very important that we’re going to be able to use artificial intelligence because it can understand things that we as people just can’t really see from the street and observe.
Brennes: How is AI today being incorporated into communities and big cities with improving the flow of traffic?
Menard: So it’s being used in a couple of different ways. There’s right at the intersection where it’s detecting people, detecting cars, and making rapid changes right then and there. Then it’s also being used in a much larger level where it’s watching how public transit is driving through how people getting on the bus, when it’s going to arrive to intersections so that it can prioritize bus flow, so more people can get on and get to work on time. But without having all of us have to wait out lights much longer.
Brennes: So in Austin, we have a lot of construction underway, big highway projects, too. In fact, I-35 is under construction right now. But from your perspective, when it comes to artificial intelligence, that’s not really what you would recommend, is that what I understand?
Menard: So we do have a lot of roads to read, of course, we always have to maintain them. And building new ones visually, isn’t always the answer. Right now we have a lot of infrastructure, especially here and in downtown, you see a lot of arterioles, lots of traffic lights. And if everything was just working a little bit better, we’d be in a totally different world. That’s where AI comes into play is being able to see everybody’s movement and seeing where the construction is, I think AI plus connectivity is can be the driving factor to how we can all find out in real time, how we’re going to be able to get to work today, in the least amount of time with the least amount of frustration, so we can do more.
Brennes: Construction is also very expensive. How does it stack up against technology like artificial intelligence? Can you save money going the AI route and putting more resources into AI?
Menard: You know, it’s an excellent observation because of AI being so software based, and it can be a part of lots of different technologies. Yes, we still are gonna have to pave the roads. But now when we put in new lighting, new infrastructure that AI can resign or be centralized, to a point where he can make his decisions without having to put a whole bunch of new sensors on the road or put proprietary things that only do one specific thing. It actually can go out and use maybe talking to your phone talking to Google talking to ways and that’s a huge cost down because now it’s all a part of the things we do every day and are in a constant maintenance program. So it saves tons of money, plus our fuel and our emissions. We get cleaner air because we’re all moving again and not just waiting for your friend’s lights.
Brennes: All right, Tim, thank you so much for your time and enjoy your time in Austin. Thank you.