(MENAFN- Khaleej Times) Using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to reduce human decision-making while driving can lead to a dramatic reduction in road accidents. This was the emphasis given by former US transportation secretary Anthony Foxx, during his keynote speech at the inaugural International Road Federation (IRF) Congress- Middle East and North Africa, hosted by the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) in Dubai on Sunday.
"This is the first generation that I believe will see a dramatic decrease in road fatalities as a result of technology," Foxx noted.
According to the IRF, road accidents are the 10th largest cause of mortality worldwide while it is the second major cause of death after cardiovascular diseases in the UAE, according to Road SafetyUAE.
Majority of traffic incidents worldwide are both predictable and preventable, according to a UN General Secretariat report last year. Therefore, the use of AI or any smart device that perceives its environment and takes actions to achieve a goal - from smart apps and integrated transport and traffic light system to self-driving or autonomous cars - can dramatically reduce the number of road deaths, Foxx said.
"About 90 per cent of accidents occur due to human error. Technology like automated emergency braking, lane departure prevention and ultimately autonomous driving will be important ingredients in vehicle safety," Thomas Edelmann, founder and managing director of RoadSafetyUAE told Khaleej Times.
"Intelligent traffic systems or AI can play a vital role in predicting traffic flows and even misbehaviour of individual traffic participants at key traffic locations," Edelmann underlined.
During his speech at the IRF, Mattar Al Tayer, RTA director-general and chairman of the board of executive directors, said that there has been a dramatic fall in the number of road fatalities in Dubai because of innovative road projects.
Al Tayer noted that at present road fatalities in Dubai are 3.5 deaths per 100,000 people, down from as high as 21.9 per 100,000 a decade ago. The RTA is also aiming for zero casualty per 100,000 by 2020.
Al Tayer said that over the past 10 years, the RTA has spent Dh70.5 billion to provide Dubai with the best transport infrastructure possible. He added that the RTA is exploring the possibility of operating autonomous vehicles on pavements and crossing side roads guided by hi-tech dedicated light traffic signals.
"An memorandum of understanding (MoU) will be signed during the Congress heralding the first experience of its kind worldwide, in terms of using technology and customising the infrastructure to the crossing of roads by autonomous vehicles," Al Tayer noted.
In terms of AI and big data management, Foxx said the major challenge for cities is to sift through data and check which approach provides a solution to their problems.
"Large pools of data will lead to better solutions for traffic management and it is vital for national governments to incubate new technology first, and then regulate them," Al Tayer stressed.
Foxx explained there should be no hindrance in the development of AI. "We must find a balance between safety regulation and technological innovation to ensure a happier life," he said.
Foxx also praised Dubai for being at the forefront of AI. "We have here (Dubai) what could be a huge example for the world. "It is known around the world that, if you want to innovate, you have to come to Dubai. Organisations like the RTA are leading this change," he underlined.
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Human error is the main cause of accidents, and the RTA is in the forefront to bring in the latest technology to reduce the number of accidents. Come AI and there will be little room for human error. The aim should be to reach a situation where artificial intelligence algorithms begin to behave more like engaged participants in what people do so that they can take over from humans.
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