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Transportation Planning

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By 2005, cities had started investing in the transportation infrastructure to develop sensing capabilities for vehicle and pedestrian traffic.[41] The sensors currently used include inductive loops, video cameras, remote traffic microwave sensors, radars, and GPS.[42] For example, in 2013 New York started using a combination of microwave sensors, a network of cameras, and pass readers to detect vehicle traffic in the city.[43]

Cities use AI methods to optimize services in several ways, such as bus and subway schedules, and tracking traffic conditions to dynamically adjust speed limits or apply smart pricing on highways, bridges, and HOV lanes.[44] [45] [46] Using sensors and cameras in the road network, they can also optimize traffic light timing for improving traffic flow and to help with automated enforcement.[47] [48] These dynamic strategies are aimed at better utilizing the limited resources in the transportation network, and are made possible by the availability of data and the widespread connectivity of individuals.

Before the 2000s, transportation planners were forced to rely on static pricing strategies tied to particular days or times of day, to manage demand. As dynamic pricing strategies are adopted, this raises new issues concerning the fair distribution of public goods, since market conditions in high-demand situations may make services unavailable to segments of the public.

The availability of large-scale data has also made transportation an ideal domain for machine learning applications. Since 2006, applications such as Mapquest, Google Maps, and Bing Maps have been widely used by the public for routing trips, using public transportation, receiving real-time information and predictions about traffic conditions, [49] [50] and finding services around a location.[51] [52] Optimal search algorithms have been applied to the routing of vehicles and pedestrians to a given destination (i.e.,[53] [54]).

Despite these advances, the widespread application of sensing and optimization techniques to city infrastructure has been slower than the application of these techniques to individual vehicles or people. Although individual cities have implemented sensing and optimization applications, as yet there is no standardization of the sensing infrastructure and AI techniques used. Infrastructure costs, differing priorities among cities, and the high coordination costs among the parties involved have slowed adoption, as have public concerns over privacy related to sensing. Still, AI is likely to have an increasing impact on city infrastructure. Accurate predictive models of individuals’ movements, their preferences, and their goals are likely to emerge with the greater availability of data. The ethical issues regarding such an emergence are discussed in Section III of this report.

The United States Department of Transportation released a call for proposals in 2016 asking medium-size cities to imagine smart city infrastructure for transportation.[55]  This initiative plans to award forty million dollars to a city to demonstrate how technology and data can be used to reimagine the movement of people as well as goods.

One vision is a network of connected vehicles that can reach a high level of safety in driving with car-to-car communication.[56] If this vision becomes reality, we expect advances in multi-agent coordination, collaboration, and planning will have a significant impact on future cars and play a role in making the transportation system more reliable and efficient. Robots are also likely to take part in transportation by carrying individuals and packages (c.f., Segway robot). For transportation of goods, interest in drones has increased, and Amazon is currently testing a delivery system using them,[57] although questions remain about the appropriate safety rules and regulations.

The increased sensing capabilities, adoption of drones, and the connected transportation infrastructure will also raise concerns about the privacy of individuals and the safety of private data. In coming years, these and related transportation issues will need to be addressed either by preemptive action on the part of industry or within the legal framework. As noted in the Section III policy discussion, how well this is done will affect the pace and scope of AI-related advances in the transportation sector.


[41] Steve Lohr, "Bringing Efficiency to the Infrastructure," The New York Times, April 29, 2009, accessed August 1, 2016,

[42] "Intelligent transportation system," Wikipedia, last modified July 28, 2016, accessed August 1, 2016,

[43] Access Science Editors, "Active traffic management: adaptive traffic signal control," Access Science, 2014, accessed August 1, 2016,

[44] Kitae Jang, Koohong Chung, and Hwasoo Yeo, “A Dynamic Pricing Strategy for High Occupancy Toll Lanes,” Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice 67 (2014): 69-80.

[45] "Seattle Variable Tolling Study," City of Seattle Department of Transportation, May 2009, accessed August 1, 2016,

[46] James F. Peltz, "Dynamic Pricing Is Catching On in the Public and Private Sectors," Government Technology, March 21, 2016, accessed August 1, 2016,

[47] Arthur G Sims and Kenneth W. Dobinson. "The Sydney Coordinated Adaptive Traffic (SCAT) System Philosophy and Benefits." IEEE Transactions on Vehicular Technology 29, no. 2 (1980): 130-137.

[48] "New York City Launches Nation’s Most Sophisticated Active Traffic Management System Powered by TransCore’s TransSuite Traffic Management Software and RFID Technology," Business Wire, September 27, 2009, accessed August 1, 2016,

[49] Eric Horvitz, Johnson Apacible, Raman Sarin, and Lin Liao, “Prediction, Expectation, and Surprise: Methods, Designs, and Study of a Deployed Traffic Forecasting Service,” Proceedings of the Twenty-First Conference on Uncertainty and Artificial Intelligence (2005) (Arlington, Virginia: AUAI Press, July 2005), 275-283.

[50] Timothy Hunter, Ryan Herring, Pieter Abbeel, and Alexandre Bayen, “Path and Travel Time Inference from GPS Probe Vehicle Data,” NIPS Analyzing Networks and Learning with Graphs 12, no. 1 (2009).

[51] John Krumm and Eric Horvitz, “Predestination: Inferring Destinations from Partial Trajectories,” UbiComp 2006: Ubiquitous Computing, Proceedings of the 8th International Conference, September 2006, (Springer Berlin, Heidelberg, 2006), 243-260.

[52] Jill Duffy, "Get Organized: Using Location-Based Reminders," PC Magazine, June 30, 2014, accessed August 1, 2016,,2817,2460207,00.asp.

[53] Robert J. Szczerba, Peggy Galkowski, I. S. Glicktein, and Noah Ternullo. "Robust Algorithm for Real-time Route Planning,” IEEE Transactions on Aerospace and Electronic Systems 36, no. 3 (2000): 869-878.

[54] Matt Duckham and Lars Kulik, “Simplest” Paths: Automated Route Selection for Navigation,” Spatial Information Theory. Foundations of Geographic Information Science, Proceedings of the International Conference, COSIT 2003, September 2003 (Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg, 2003), 169-185.

[55] "U.S. Department of Transportation Launches Smart City Challenge to Create a City of the Future,", U.S. Department of Transportation, December 7, 2015, accessed August 1, 2016,

[56] Will Knight, "Car-to-Car Communication: A simple wireless technology promises to make driving much safer.," MIT Technology Review, accessed August 1, 2016,

[57] "Amazon Prime Air," Amazon, accessed August 1, 2016,

Cite This Report

Peter Stone, Rodney Brooks, Erik Brynjolfsson, Ryan Calo, Oren Etzioni, Greg Hager, Julia Hirschberg, Shivaram Kalyanakrishnan, Ece Kamar, Sarit Kraus, Kevin Leyton-Brown, David Parkes, William Press, AnnaLee Saxenian, Julie Shah, Milind Tambe, and Astro Teller.  "Artificial Intelligence and Life in 2030." One Hundred Year Study on Artificial Intelligence: Report of the 2015-2016 Study Panel, Stanford University, Stanford, CA,  September 2016. Doc: Accessed:  September 6, 2016.

Report Authors

AI100 Standing Committee and Study Panel 


© 2016 by Stanford University. Artificial Intelligence and Life in 2030 is made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 License (International):