Traffic jams just a math problem, says Israeli AI firm

AFP

4 min read
Traffic jams on the Ayalon highway in Tel Aviv, December 2, 2021.
Tomer Neuberg/Flash90Traffic jams on the Ayalon highway in Tel Aviv, December 2, 2021.

Israeli high-tech and AI firms aim to make transport more efficient and cleaner

Israel's traffic congestion ranks near the worst among developed economies but an algorithm can help, says one of the country's IT firms engaged in the auto and mobility sector.

ITC, or Intelligent Traffic Control, was one of the artificial intelligence (AI) players at Tel Aviv's recent EcoMotion showcase where high-tech and AI firms hope to make transport more efficient and cleaner.

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Its AI software collects real-time data from road cameras and then sends instructions to manipulate traffic lights based on vehicle flows.

"ITC managed to prove mathematically that many traffic jams can be prevented – if you intervene early enough," said its co-founder and chief technology officer Dvir Kenig, citing a 30 percent drop in traffic at the two junctions using their system.

The company says road congestion is a global scourge, calculating that the average driver spends three days a year stuck in traffic, also pumping out greenhouse gas emissions. 

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The problem is acute in Israel where, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) says, "transportation infrastructure lags significantly behind" most member countries and "road congestion is one of the worst in the OECD."

EcoMotion's founder Meir Arnon told AFP that surging global interest in smart mobility had made Israel an auto industry player, even though it doesn't manufacture any cars. 

"Cars changed," said the industrialist turned investor. "Cars were metal and wheels and a radio. Today these things don't matter, they're all mass produced by the same companies for everyone. 

"What differentiates car manufacturers today is the driving experience... the vehicle's ability to adapt itself to the driver," he said. 

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Systems developed by Israel's army and private defense industry - notably surveillance, communication and sensory technology - have become central to automakers, Arnon said.  

With over 600 start-ups in the field - "second only to Silicon Valley" - Israel has become a "center of mobility," Arnon said, noting that 35 global auto companies have operations in the country, including General Motors.  

"The future of vehicles lies outside vehicles - in the cloud, our phones, in the cars to some extent, and all these elements create an open platform," said Gil Golan, head of GM's local technical center.

"This open platform is a place for innovation and creativity, which Israelis are good at."

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