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How AI is supporting decarbonisation, technical document production and traffic optimisation

In preparation for the inaugural Transport AI event on 23 January 2024, the event partners organised a webinar to identify what AI is offering now – and could offer in future – for the transport and planning professions

Juliana O'Rourke
24 October 2023


In preparation for the inaugural Transport AI event on 23 January 2024, the event partners have organised a webinar to pin down the definition of AI, and to identify what it might offer now and in future for the transport and planning professions.

View our expert panel outlining how AI can help you 

Much is happening in the AI space as a plethora of chatbots, predictive text and natural language tools become available to the public for the first time. Many of these tools are already used by transport and planning professionals in their daily workflows – and many more efficiency-minded services are in the pipeline.

The technology means that work which would have taken days or weeks in the past can now take as little as 10-15 minutes

Specifically in the transport space, however, many tools and services that are branded AI have been around for years. For example, ANPR has been being used for decades as part of road and speed management and the enforcement of red light running.

Machine vision image processing has also been in existence for years, with smart ITS camera managing image processing with little human input.

For the inaugural Transport AI event, we want to be clear on our interpretation of AI. Our suggestions are that it must include some element of machine learning, such that the more data that is available the more accurate the results, or algorithms that actively change based on specific conditions.  

Potentially, AI could have a huge impact on safety, traffic accident monitoring and prediction. 

How is AI being used now?

In a UK first, AI is already being used to control traffic lights in Manchester. Google has revealed a trial is now underway designed to reduce so-called 'stop-go' emissions and improve the flow of traffic across the city.

Working alongside Transport for Great Manchester (TfGM), Google launched of its 'Project Green Light', a pilot aimed at increasing the capacity of the road network does not improve congestion. But optimising existing traffic control systems can. Tackling congestion isn’t only about keeping traffic moving – it’s about championing sustainable mobility modes.

The initiative uses AI as well as driving trends from Google Maps to model traffic patterns and make recommendations for more efficient traffic light plans. Google said city engineers can implement the plans in as little as five minutes using existing infrastructure.

UrbanTide, a company formed from members of the team that helped bid, plan and deliver the Innovate UK’s £24m smart cities demonstrator for Glasgow, also has an AI platform called uMove. In this case, AI enables organisations to predict future travel patterns so they can plan to meet net-zero targets.

SchemeFlow has just launched an AI platform to help transport planners speed up the writing of technical documents, such as Transport Statements, Transport Assessments and Travel Plans.

The technology works by combining expert input from transport planners and geospatial data about the location of a new development. It then uses large-language models, similar to ChatGPT, to write up draft reports, which can then be checked by human experts. The technology means that work which would have taken days or weeks in the past, can now take as little as 10-15 minutes.

SchemeFlow sells its software to transport planning and engineering consultancies to save their expert consultants time, which they can then spend on more creative or challenging work. At a time where the UK development industry has been criticised for building too slowly, and the costs of schemes such as HS2 are under huge scrutiny, this new AI technology presents the opportunity to bring the time and cost of development back under control.

Andrew Browning, Co-Founder of SchemeFlow, and former Chief of Staff to West Midlands Mayor Andy Street, said: “AI has arrived - and it’s going to make transport planning a lot more fun. At SchemeFlow, we automate the boring bits of the job, so you can focus on the bigger picture."


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