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Artificial intelligence stole the show at this year’s Smart City Expo USA, held in New York City last week. “You can’t swing a dead cat without bumping into someone talking about AI,” Justin Tormey, a director at the tech-focused consulting firm Slalom, said during one panel.

Here are some key takeaways from conference speakers about what city leaders should know about the AI landscape and how to prepare for what’s next.

What are leaders actually referring to when they talk about AI? There’s a difference between machine learning and generative AI, said Jerele Neeld, interim chief information officer for Chattanooga, Tennessee. Put simply, machine learning uses algorithms to learn from data and make informed predictions or decisions; generative AI is a type of artificial intelligence that can create new content, from text to images.

The 2023 National Roadway Safety Awards honored public agencies for safety achievements that are helping move the United States toward zero deaths and serious injuries on the Nation’s roadways. The biennial competition, which is jointly sponsored by FHWA and the Roadway Safety Foundation, also provides an opportunity to share these successes with others so the practices can be replicated nationwide.

Following are examples of winning projects that employed safety innovations championed by FHWA’s Every Day Counts program, including data-driven safety analysis (DDSA), reduced left–turn conflict intersections, high-friction surface treatments (HFST), and the Safe Transportation for Every Pedestrian and Focus on Reducing Rural Roadway Departures initiatives. Visit the Roadway Safety Foundation’s webpage for a full list of winners and honorable mentions…

Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, discussing the turbulence on a Singapore Airlines flight that killed a passenger last week, said that climate change is affecting the transportation industry and that the United States must learn to adapt for safe transportation.

“The reality is, the effects of climate change are already upon us in terms of our transportation,” Buttigieg said.

“We’ve seen that in the form of everything from heat waves that shouldn’t statistically even be possible threatening to melt the cables of transit systems in the Pacific Northwest, to, as you mentioned, hurricane seasons becoming more and more extreme and indications that turbulence is up by about 15 percent. That means assessing anything and everything that we can do about it.”

Jensen Huang spoke candidly on the future of cars, saying that most will have self-driving capabilities.

“Tesla is far ahead in self-driving cars,” he said in an interview with Yahoo Finance.

“One of the things that’s really revolutionary about version 12 of Tesla’s full self-driving is that it’s an end-to-end generative model.

“It learns from watching videos — surround video — and it learns about how to drive end-to-end, and using generative AI, predict the path and how to understand and how to steer the car. So the technology is really revolutionary and the work that [Tesla’s] doing is incredible…”

Tesla reported last month that FSD had more than 1.3 billion cumulative miles driven since it was first revealed in March 2021.

FSD is considered a Level 2 autonomous system, which requires supervised use.

However, it’s been recalled and subjected to government inquiries into what it can do.

Applications are open and money is flowing to cities looking to build safer streets for motorists, bikers, and pedestrians. The U.S. Department of Transportation announced the latest round of grants from the Safe Streets and Roads for All (SS4A) program this month. Grants were awarded to 99 different jurisdictions to fund planning studies and demonstration projects aimed at eliminating danger on the roadways.

The program was created as part of the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act — a $5 billion investment over five years. To date, more than 1,000 communities, containing nearly three-quarters of the U.S. population, have received SS4A grants. Two more rounds of awards are expected this year, in August and November, by which point more than half of the program’s funding will have been distributed.

Transportation officials at a small, dense city near the metropolitan New York area are digitizing their curbs as part of transitioning the streetscape from static, inflexible uses to more dynamic places capable of adjusting quickly.

Hoboken, N.J., is working with transportation tech platform Populus and the urban design firm Kimley-Horn on the project. The end result should be a multidimensional map layered with details relevant to curbside problems like congestion and double parking, and to handling competitors for curb space like deliveries, ride-hailing and micromobility…

Creating a digital map of the city is a first step in the process of putting in place a framework to collect and analyze the voluminous amount of real-time and other data available from modern transportation systems and smart city applications. The project is known as The Curb Reimagined.

A new study by Carnegie Mellon University researchers found that when roboticists and people with disabilities collaborate on robot designs, interesting ideas emerge that could make existing robots more accessible and inspire new uses.

In their research, School of Computer Science faculty members Sarah Fox and Nikolas Martelaro highlight potential issues sidewalk robots encounter during deployment and propose solutions to mitigate them before the robots hit the streets. Their new study, led by Human-Computer Interaction Institute (HCII) Ph.D. student Howard Han, was presented last month at the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2024)…

The new research by Fox and Martelaro, both assistant professors in the HCII, draws on discussions they facilitated between roboticists and people with mobility disabilities to determine the most concerning accessibility problems and how robots can do better.

In the study, they found that one reason accessibility accommodations aren’t considered earlier in the design process is that most companies making sidewalk robots are startups, and things move quickly.

The Texas Department of Transportation and Texas A&M Transportation Institute will be gearing up for a unique project…

TxDOT and the Texas A&M Transportation Institute received a $1.9 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to develop a next-generation intersection that promises to improve safety for the most at-risk road users.

Soon five intersections on the campus of Texas A&M College State will have roadside unit traffic control signal system boxes to alert pedestrians and bicyclists.

The testing also includes a collision warning system to alert a bus driver if a pedestrian or bicyclist is getting too close to the bus…

Turnball went on to say by March of 2025 the Texas A&M Transportation Institute will look at the data and will be able to learn more about the study and if was successful.

The state still bans the testing and deployment of medium- and heavy-duty autonomous vehicles. The issue came into further focus when the DMV held workshops last year that discussed heavy-duty AV testing to help inform potential rulemaking.

The reintroduced bill threatens to delay the removal of drivers from medium- and heavy-duty AVs to well beyond 2030 in the state. Before driverless operations could occur for vehicles weighing 10,001 pounds or more, the state DMV would have to issue a report on the technology, a legislative oversight hearing would have to occur, and the California State Legislature and governor would have to approve the change.

While driverless passenger car operations have been occurring in the California, problems have surfaced, such as crashes that included an autonomous car dragging a pedestrian approximately 20 feet on Oct 2, 2023, as well as the DMV suspending robotaxi company Cruise’s AV permit as of Oct. 24, 2023.

General Motors has applied to patent a technology that takes driver-monitoring to a new level. The automaker outlined a system that analyzes the driver’s behavior by reading data sent by onboard sensors — and can have the car take over if it detects unsafe behavior.

Filed in November 2022, and published in May 2024, the patent describes a “vehicle occupant mental well-being assessment and counter-measure deployment” system. The technology was developed by a General Motors subsidiary named GM Global Technology Operations, and it aims to intervene when it detects that stress — regardless of where it comes from — can affect the driver’s ability to operate the car.

What’s considered unsafe behavior depends at least somewhat on how you drive. The system first records data points to establish a profile of your driving habits. It then uses this information as a baseline to decide when you’re driving erratically. For example, it detects your stop-start frequency, hard braking, hard accelerating, hard cornering, and excessive honking.

More than 1,100 cyclists died in 2023, a 4% increase over the previous year, according to early estimates from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Vulnerable road users, which include pedestrians and bicyclists, account for an increasing share of roadway deaths in the U.S., per the Federal Highway Administration.

“We have information about bikes and pedestrians and scooters which essentially no one else has,” Shapiro said. The two competition winners are among the 480 “Bicycle Friendly Communities” certified by the League of American Bicyclists, but they differ in their needs, Shapiro said.

Bloomington will use data on bike and scooter incidents, trip start and end locations, and whether people are riding in bike lanes, streets or along sidewalks, Shapiro explained.

China will enhance its policy support to accelerate the development of emerging industries such as smart connected vehicles, as the nation has huge potential to become the world’s largest market for self-driving cars, according to an official and experts.

This could create multibillion-dollar opportunities for domestic as well as international companies, they added.

To support the high-quality development of the intelligent vehicle industry, cars in China are expected to get their own “phone numbers”.

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said it plans to allocate a total of 100 million 11-digit mobile network numbers dedicated to facilitating communication among vehicles, and between vehicles and the back-end management systems of carmakers.

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