Event Round-Up: Key insights from Transport AI 2024
Centred on the application of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the transportation sector, the gathering brought together experts and industry leaders to share valuable insights into the challenges and opportunities that will shape the future of intelligent transport systems.
Here are some key themes that emerged from the discussions:
1. Scaling-up Demands New Skills and Collaborations:
While AI holds significant potential for transformative advances in the transportation sector, with various use cases being actively explored, it was emphasised that its adoption remains relatively limited beyond trial or proof-of-concept (POC) stages. Despite recognising AI as an established technology, the day's discussions underscored the need for a more ambitious approach to overcome the scale-up challenge hindering widespread progress in the sector.
The scale-up challenge is a pervasive issue within the technology sector, as businesses encounter numerous barriers when attempting to commercialise innovative technologies. techUK, within our UK Tech Plan has advocated for the crucial role of Government intervention to address these issues.
This is why we were pleased to hear the Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan recently set out her aims to tackle this with a suite of support options including a new Forum to bring scale-ups into the heart of Government, a trial of a new support service for promising scale-ups, opening up Government data to help UK scale-ups better plan their growth strategies and improving access to investors.
The transport industry is also keenly awaiting the publication of the Department for Transport's AI Strategy that aims to specifically drive responsible adoption in the sector. In September 2023, techUK published nine key recommendations to be included within that stategy following a workshop held with 40+ technology companies, with the support of our member Capita.
2. Data Partnerships and Collaboration:
As the ‘lifeblood of AI systems’ it was unsurprising to hear much discussion on the importance of data. Participants highlighted the potential for improved consumer experiences and overall industry advancements by leveraging data collaboratively. This includes matching challenges in the transport sector to those who own the data and capitalising on the exchange of data between organisations.
The quality of data was also raised as a critical factor in supporting automated learning and reasoning. Participants raised concerns about the poor quality of transport data undermining the ability of AI models to make accurate intepretations. In addition, as the industry endeavors to foster greater inclusivity, the conversation highlighted how inherent biases within transport data cause concern given the potential of solidifying the exclusion of certain groups within AI models. techUK continues to play an active role in leading discussions around the fair and ethical adoption of AI through our ethics programme.
3. Conversations Over Technology as the Key Enabler:
The event emphasised the importance of ‘outcomes-based’ thinking around technology. By clearly defining desired outcomes and performance metrics upfront, transport organisations can ensure that technology investments align with strategic goals. This method enhances accountability, encourages vendor partnerships based on shared success, and ultimately leads to more effective and sustainable technology implementations. In addition, while technology itself is not a blocker, the event emphasised the importance of having meaningful conversations. Addressing issues like procurement, trust, and collaboration requires open and informed dialogue among stakeholders.
Brokering interactions between public sector buyers and member organisations to have such conversations is a core element of techUK’s work. We aim to foster early market engagement opportunities across our market-facing programmes including Smart Infrastructure & Systems, Local Public Services and Central Government and encourage members to engage with us to find out more.
In conclusion, the event highlighted the multifaceted nature of AI implementation in transportation, recognising that success hinges on a combination of skilled human capital, ethical considerations, collaborative data practices, and informed decision-making.
As the industry steers towards an AI-driven future, ongoing conversations and collaborative efforts will be key to overcoming challenges and unlocking the full potential of intelligent transport systems.
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Ashley Feldman is the programme manager for transport and smart cities at techUK. Through working closely with the technology industry, his role is to promote the contribution of digital technology in driving positive outcomes for cities and transport. Through maintaining close ties to government, he also works to ensure the policy and regulatory conditions are optimised for businesses to scale innovation in the UK.
He is fascinated by cities and the built environment, having worked as a consultant on major regeneration projects across the country before joining techUK in 2022.
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