How we use technology to solve the world’s problems is only limited by our imagination. One of the biggest problems the world faces today is the growing congestion in major cities.
Now governments are harnessing the latest technologies to find a solution.
Traffic congestion a global problem
Traffic congestion is not only bad for our quality of life, it’s bad for the environment and it has significant economic costs.
The Chinese city of Hangzhou is now using technology developed by the cloud computing arm of online trading giant, Alibaba, to address the problem of traffic congestion.
Once considered one of China’s most congested cities, Hangzhou is a city of seven million inhabitants and the location of Alibaba’s headquarters.
The ‘City Brain’
The cloud-based system in Hangzhou is known as the ‘City Brain’.
It uses artificial intelligence gathered from 4,500 traffic video cameras across the city, and GPS data on the location of cars and buses.
The City Brain analyses the data in real time and manipulates 1,300 traffic lights around the city to prevent traffic build ups.
The system can also maximise the number of green traffic lights given to emergency vehicles, such as ambulances or fire engines, ensuring a swift arrival.
Hangzhou: Traffic speeds up 15%, travel times lower
The system has been in use since 2017, and since then traffic has eased significantly in the city.
In the Xiaoshan District of Hangzhou, the average travel speed on roads using the ‘City Brain’ have increased by 15 per cent, reducing the average travel time by three minutes.
Emergency vehicle arrival times have almost halved.
The project led by the Hangzhou government, and the technology has also been introduced in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, and is being trialled in the German city of Wolfsburg.
Alibaba predicts the City Brain will be able to cut commute times by up to 20 per cent by 2025.
Despite the promise in the ‘City Brain’, and the undoubted benefits of easing traffic congestion, some are concerned about the rise of surveillance in China.
Use of facial recognition software is already on the rise, with systems such as ‘social credit’ putting the members of China’s general public under unprecedented scrutiny.