The Machines are Learning


The Machines are Learning

September, 2023
Melissa Bean Sterzick


Everyone’s talking about AI these days. Some of us are worried about our jobs. Some of us are worried about the reality of “slaughterbots.” Some of us are oblivious to or just entertained by the progress of this field of study. 


AI is a machine’s ability to carry out human functions such as learning, interacting with an environment, and problem solving. It’s a broad swathe of highly specific skills – and it’s coming to parking.


In March of this year, Hayden AI announced a new feature in its transit platform: automated bus stop enforcement. The company builds and implements artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies – including parking surveillance. 


Hayden AI’s “mobile perception” technology helps transit agencies detect and ticket illegally parked cars at bus stops. It is designed to improve service, reduce risk, and support accessibility for disabled passengers. The company is also working on systems for regulating moving violations.


Hayden AI’s system is in place in New York City, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. In California, the City of Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus line conducted a 45-day pilot ending in July. It recorded 511 parking violations blocking transit service. Each fine is nearly $300 dollars – however, the city didn’t issue tickets or fines during the pilot. The pilot was carried out at no cost to Big Blue Bus.


Big Blue Bus is a division of Santa Monica’s Department of Transportation and is overseen by Santa Monica’s City Council. The bus line operates 195 vehicles running daily across a 58-square-mile service area. It has been moving passengers in Santa Monica and the Los Angeles area since 1928. Big Blue Bus plans to convert its entire fleet from natural gas to zero emissions by 2030.


“Improving public transportation is one of the best things we can do to improve sustainability,” said Chris Carson, CEO and co-founder of Hayden AI. “Our goal is to provide Big Blue Bus with the data they need to better understand the true impact that parking in bus lanes and at bus stops has on the thousands of riders who rely on public transit every day.”


Though Santa Monica officials have not announced further plans for AI parking enforcement, the technology is moving forward. Another pilot program was recently conducted in Philadelphia with the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority. Hayden AI reported that bus speeds in Philadelphia average at 8 mph, slower than national averages of 13-14 mph. Every year, congestion there causes 1.7 million hours of passenger delay and adds $15.4 million to SEPTA’s operating costs. Vehicles illegally parked at bus and trolley stops prevent accessible boarding for disabled patrons, and cause delays by increasing boarding and exiting time.


In San Francisco, Hayden AI is contracting with AC Transit to install automated bus lane and bus stop enforcement technology. Around the country, it has put in place 650 AI-powered, interior bus-mounted camera systems to increase compliance with bus lane stopping, riding and bus stop parking rules.


MIT Professor Max Tegmark is a Swedish-American physicist, cosmologist, and machine learning researcher. He is recognized for his work on the mathematical universe hypothesis and the development of multiverse theory. I have absolutely no idea what that means and I’m not ready to have it explained to me, either. However, Tegmark’s comments about AI, shared on a popular podcast called Smartless, are clarifying.


“AI is going to be the most powerful technology ever. If we make machines that are smarter than us, which is possible, then it’s going to be the best thing ever or the worst thing ever,” he says. “Despite a lot of hype, AI is still pretty dumb today compared to humans or even cats and dogs, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to remain that way. Hollywood and the media often make us worry about the wrong things. People ask me if they should fear AI or be excited about it. The answer is both, but AI is like any tech – it’s not evil or good.”


Tegmark drew an analogy between AI and human children explaining that AI is a baby now and doesn’t understand much about the world. It’s our job to teach AI how to behave before it becomes a teenager and no longer listens to us.


I’m open the positive ways AI can change the world. We already use search engines, voice recognition systems and other mainstream AI-powered technology. There’s no question parking will always require human participation and intervention. Nobody wants artificial intelligence to take over the world, but it could make improvements to transportation, health care, and agriculture that would change our lives for the better.

Article contributed by:
Melissa Bean Sterzick, Parking Today Contributor
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