The City of Tampere in Finland and Tieto, a leading Nordic IT services and software company based in Espoo, have developed a solution that uses artificial intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT) technology to improve the safety of pedestrians in urban traffic.
Global urbanisation increases the number of people on the move in metropolitan areas, but as road traffic increases, so does the risk of accidents, especially at intersections, with the risk of injury and death being especially high for pedestrians. To increase the safety of urban traffic and prevent accidents, the City of Tampere and Tieto have built a pilot system that uses AI and IoT technology to automatically detect when a pedestrian is planning to cross the street at an intersection. Then an alert can be relayed to automatic traffic signs, and in the future directly to vehicles themselves, providing a key building block for connected and autonomous transport. Developed as a part of the Smart Tampere development program’s 6Aika CityIoT project, the pilot system has been built in such a way that prevents the identification of individuals or vehicles to comply with the country’s strict privacy laws.
An intersection traffic camera feed in Tampere was connected to a cloud-based AI system that monitors vehicles and pedestrians. When the system’s algorithms detect that a pedestrian is beginning to cross the street, it gives an alert, which can be relayed to other connected systems, such as automatic traffic signs, and in the future, directly to an in-vehicle system to alert drivers. So far, the results from the AI-IoT system have been promising: under ideal conditions, the system achieves 99% accuracy, and even at night, recognition accuracy was high at 75%.
“We had identified the most common types of accidents between vehicles and pedestrians. Using them, we built an algorithm that can predict the movement of vehicles and pedestrians on the street,” explained Pekka Stenman, traffic engineer for the City of Tampere. “The new solution has many potential uses in addition to boosting traffic safety. We already receive information about vehicle traffic, but not very much about pedestrian traffic. We want to see how people move, and perhaps construct heat maps of Tampere’s pedestrian flows to assist with traffic planning. Another interesting opportunity is introducing more intelligence to traffic lights by identifying and predicting people flows.”
Jari Torkkola, program director at Tieto’s product development services division, commented, “By enhancing existing traffic monitoring technology with artificial intelligence, we can better identify traffic accident risks. The system monitors the movements of vehicles and pedestrians, and recognizes when a pedestrian intends to cross the street. Especially in areas of limited visibility, the system can help prevent accidents. This implementation also provided one piece in the puzzle of autonomous vehicle systems. A critical question is how self-driving vehicles are able to recognize and avoid obstacles. This type of pedestrian recognition system could be an important element in the safety of autonomous vehicles in urban areas.”