The opening of the new Elizabeth Line has been met with great excitement in London. The culmination of a 15-year project costing almost £20 billion. It is one of the biggest railway infrastructure projects in Europe and is one of the largest single investments ever undertaken in the UK. It will transform travel in the capital and improve the accessibility of areas currently lacking transport. This has already led to more investment in housing and the creation of new places to work and socialize. Critical for a City with a growing population.
Big ticket items like new tube lines are undoubtedly vital and transformational for metropolises like London. However, artificial intelligence (AI) is also transforming cities, making them smarter, helping the authorities predict opportunities for improvement.
56.2% of the world’s population lives in cities. The issues that impact cities are felt everywhere. From commuting and congestion to supply chains, increased efficiencies in urban areas are a net positive for communities around the country.
Myriad fresh-off-the-R&D stage AI tools now proliferate in urban environments. Because of the dense populations, and a concentration of equipment and devices, AI’s ideal testing ground arguably is a city.
Overhauling a city’s infrastructure is often associated with large capital expenditure and timelines spanning decades, as with the Elizabeth line. Those barriers are being addressed through innovative solutions: AI and machine learning can help improve the urban infrastructure faster, and at a fraction of the cost.
Innovators in the space are leveraging new technology—aided by AI & machine learning—to transform, for example, urban transit infrastructure and deliver more reliable, sustainable, and equitable public transportation.
Our own portfolio company, AppyWay is using technology to help improve transport. Sensors in the kerbside help drivers quickly find parking spaces, reducing congestion, but it can also provide vital real-time data for City planners to better manage the kerbside.
The growth of ride-hailing apps like Uber, ever-rising home deliveries and the popularity of PAYG services has driven up congestion, pollution, and created safety issues. Among other benefits, AppyWay can help local councils by automating compliance with the kerbside rules, fining people automatically if they park illegally, or in the future, use tools like AI to adjust parking rules in real time when congestion arises. No more traffic wardens.
Services like AppyWay can provide data and insights to be shared across different city agencies. This can be used to make buses run on time by clearing bus lanes of parked vehicles or help with city planning by better understanding traffic flows.
AI unlocks the capacity for data to be used in transformational ways, but it still requires guidelines. A growing body of specialists sees AI's powerful potential to play a role in both politics and society if the proper standards are in place. The AI World Society (AIWS) aims to build “A Better World With AI.” Composed of leaders from around the world, AIWS is attracting leaders from technology, world governments, and innovators who recognize AI’s key role in building a better tomorrow.
With representation at the UN, the G7 Summit, the AI International Accord Conference—and with a growing body of sponsored research and thought leadership—AIWS may provide much-needed guardrails to the ever-increasing supply of AI-powered tools, including smart cities.
AI has the potential to optimize lifesaving, life-sustaining resources, including water, electricity, traffic, housing, and education. As the prevalence of AI tools increases, politicians and citizens alike must be educated to understand and use the technology. Emergency services, community improvements, infrastructure, and the roads that convey vital goods could all be enhanced by AI-fuelled technologies. In the future, it won’t take 15 years for city residents to see transport improvements.