The smarter substitute

Tal Kreisler, Co-Founder and CEO of NoTraffic, explains to Alex Kreetzer how important software is to the evolution of infrastructure.   

Established in Israel in 2016, NoTraffic's goal is to bridge the gap between the dynamic growth of the car industry and the outdated road infrastructure that surrounds it. The company is developing a system that will make our cities smart, through computer vision and deep learning algorithms that help to analyse urban environments around the world, communicating with cars in real-time to optimise traffic and reduce accidents. NoTraffic harnesses the latest technology to provide cities with end-to-end solutions, preparing them for the next era of urban mobility and the challenges that come with this shift. I have the opportunity to speak to Tal Kreisler and gain a further understanding of how monitoring, real-time response and optimisation can transform dated cities into hyper-efficient mobility hubs.

When it comes to mobility, you can divide it into two parts; you have the side that belongs to the vehicle itself, which is rapidly developing in the limelight, and then you have the infrastructure, which Kreisler tells me is still stuck in the 19th century. “Everybody wants to talk about how wonderful future mobility and the connected car era is but, if the infrastructure doesn't change, all of this won’t be possible,” he says. “This is something that not a lot of people tend to talk about because it is a very challenging area. Due to this, we want to use the same kind of technology people are using on autonomous cars, but implement it on the infrastructure to enable this mobility revolution.” For now, Kreisler explains, the company is predominantly targeting intersections and traffic lights, which is one of the most problematic conflict points on the road today. “If you look at a regular cross-intersections with four separate light units, we can design software for them that monitors the road 24/7 hours a day through deep learning algorithms which can see, understand and detect everything going on in the area that the human eye isn't capable of.” With this hi-resolution data, NoTraffic can provide solutions through a traffic management system, thanks to advanced algorithms that can monitor congestion in the best way possible.

Flexibility in the software

Everyone is focused on innovative products such as autonomous vehicles, but the most important thing is how you string it all together through monitoring, operating and tracking. Kreisler’s company helps cities manage traffic and congestion by utilising vehicle-to-vehicle connections, among other solutions, however there are still significant problems between the old and new way of thinking. There is a huge gap between the evolving transport industry and city infrastructure because it has been difficult to pinpoint where these players need to collaborate. This isn’t uncommon, as many industries, such as shipping and logistics, haven't changed for decades, so it is important to educate these more traditional mindsets with alternative resolutions. Software is a much better solution to building more physical infrastructure, which is time-consuming and incredibly expensive. By improving cities through cloud-based technologies, there will be a huge improvement that would come into effect quicker and cheaper than it would if urban areas were to build completely new road layouts. This is especially true in built-up areas like London and New York, which are extremely dense and have little space to expand. This isn't necessarily more important than governments and authorities focusing on building the infrastructure, but it has the potential to create a better system in our cities with minimal disruption. “We can also prioritise different types of cars within the system, identifying public transportation and emergency vehicles as they approach intersections,” says Kreisler. “This works well when setting up systems in different cities as one area may want to prioritise public transport, whilst the other wants more casual organisation. Simply, you can choose what you want to do and how you want to do it.”

In order to obtain a balance in cities, there has to be many improvements that older processes may not be able to achieve. As mentioned above, it is very clear that you cannot build more roads in London or New York - but, what you can do, is utilise them better. Kreisler uses Elon Musk's future initiative with the Boring Company as an example, which is taking a completely different approach to NoTraffic. “This is a great idea, but it will cost so much money,” he says. “Before you choose this resolution, why not look at improving the existing system with traffic lights? This is a much cheaper solution than digging underneath an entire city.” Of course, Musk’s futuristic innovation will push the boundaries of infrastructure, but it is important to think about the process, disruption, and cost to the surrounding areas - especially when you have millions of cars passing through cities every day. Kreisler believes that software can instantly improve our cities, through small changes that can revolutionise transport in densely populated areas. “Even if you improve the traffic flow by just 10%, you have the chance to solve the entire issue with rush hour in some countries; we're not talking about huge numbers here,” Kreisler stresses. “If these figures then rise above 20%, there will a hugely positive impact on existing traffic systems. If you have a city like New York, which has a million cars trying to get out of the city at once with only two exits, you will have extreme congestion.” As well as being expensive and disruptive, building new infrastructures such as rail networks will not be a permanent solution as the populations in our cities are rapidly increasing. By utilising software like this, it becomes so much easier to improve transport networks around the world and set the foundations for future mobility. When it comes to efficiency and sustainability, the transportation industry needs to focus on the long-term solutions.

Transforming our cities

Although this solution is readily available, there are still a few obstacles in the way; most noteworthy are the rules and regulations that surround this area of technology. Kreisler explains that the regulations for many of these traffic systems are sensitive topics in cities, as it can take a lot of time to implement new innovations. However, with new mobility solutions such as autonomous cars and other megatrends, it is becoming easier. “The people that are in charge of the cities and the engineering have a more traditional approach; if you spoke to them about these innovations ten years ago, they wouldn't be interested,” he says. “Today, they are starting to look outside of the usual systems and the people with the core technology are starting to get better positioned in this space. Once this happens, it will be much easier to implement these solutions as everyone can understand how the processes will work.” Today, a human can develop software which is smarter than the person developing it. When explaining this to older generations, who have been used to a certain process, it becomes challenging to collaborate. However, through acceptance and harmonisation of the two worlds, industries will come together and become the pillars of future mobility.

Kreisler explains that a lot of the larger corporations operating in other areas are now focusing on smart cities, in order to capitalise on the emerging market. “Take the telecom industry, which has drastically changed over the last ten years. You can see that these companies need to find other resourceful avenues in order to succeed. Many of these giants have to moved into this space as there is a lot of money involved, but they do not necessarily have the experience or know-how to succeed on their own,” he says. “It's not only about the trend of making things autonomous, but creating the appropriate ecosystems together.” Fundamentally, technology is driving us all into an automated world, where advanced software is far superior to out-of-date human-focused systems which have been overwhelmed in recent years. Yes, humans will know what to do if there is a huge accident, but there are a lot of other aspects that are not so clear. Kreisler believes that this is no longer necessary in the modern world: “We can avoid these highly expensive control centres in future transportation by utilising advanced computer programming. The whole world is shifting over to automatic processes, whether it is autonomous cars or the infrastructure surrounding them.” It is evident that our cities, like the vehicles it will be catering for in the future, need to be more autonomous and connected in order to support a safer and smarter ecosystem.

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