Volkswagen tests new machine-vision software to optimize city traffic flow

Volkswagen Group of America has partnered with the City of Carmel in Indiana for a project that uses existing city cameras and the auto maker’s machine-vision software to help optimize traffic flows, analyze street usage patterns and support emergency response. Volkswagen believes that its software could have applications in various multi-modal transportation solutions in cities worldwide.

The machine-vision software was first built in-house by Volkswagen to help optimize production at its facilities in Wolfsburg − Europe’s biggest automotive factory − and its EV hub in Zwickau, Germany. The software is used in cameras for quality checks on vehicle assembly and in logistics. Eventually, the developers of the software realized the it could have applications in a city environment. “We see our tool as an opportunity to provide cities with more usable data on mobility to help shape their future transportation needs,” said Johan de Nysschen, chief operating officer at Volkswagen Group of America.

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By using cameras already in place around city intersections in Carmel, the machine-vision software will analyze traffic flow of cars and bicycles, pedestrian movement and other data like parking spot utilization to help city planners identify new trends in mobility and usage.

The software can also provide an automated data snapshot of an intersection or street location to support emergency responses and reaction on natural disasters. Further, the software could help with immediate needs such as the flow of traffic before and after major events. Volkswagen believes that an efficient traffic flow could also help to reduce environmental impact of transportation.

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As a privacy measure, the software does not track individuals or individual vehicles. It automatically pixelates faces and license plates. The software also does not store images, but only the counting data it generates.

Volkswagen in Germany has also been in discussion with other cities around the world about deploying machine vision software in various multi-modal transportation solutions.

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