It is either a threat to our species or one of humanity’s most useful inventions.

The advent of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has prompted wildly diverse reactions. But, however we feel about it, its adoption across all sectors looks to be increasing. In 2019 for example, the Bank of England and Financial Conduct Authority published a report which found that two thirds of the 300 firms surveyed were using AI in some form. This included anti-money laundering, credit risk management and anti-fraud work.

The 2020 McKinsey survey, The State of AI in 2020, reported that half of respondents said their organisations had adopted AI in at least one function.

AI in the spotlight

AI in the UK took another step forward earlier this month, when the Government announced plans for a national AI strategy. The Digital Secretary, Oliver Dowden, said that “unleashing the power of AI is a top priority in our plan to be the most pro-tech government ever.”

The strategy, which will be published later this year, would “help us seize its full potential – from creating new jobs and improving productivity to tackling climate change and delivering better public services.”

The proposals were welcomed by a raft of senior technology individuals and organisations including Sir Adrian Smith, Institute Director and Chief Executive, The Alan Turing Institute, and the Chartered Institute for IT, BCS.

The Alan Turing Institute noted that “creating AI for public good, that brings societal benefit to all and harnesses the UK’s considerable legacy, expertise and innovation in this space requires collaboration and a shared vision.”

Roads and revolutionary tech

At Gaist, we also welcomed the announcement of a structured and collaborative approach to how, as a nation, we should proceed with our adoption of AI.

We are passionate about the power of AI and machine learning to help us build the deepest, most sophisticated understanding possible of the roadscape environment.

We have developed AI and machine-learning tools to enable us to automate the analysis of some parts of our continually updated databank – the 1.9 billion images we have captured (and continually update) of our road and roadside environment in our unique approach to Roads as a Service. This approach fuses annual forensic detail with monthly safety, high level instant data and insights to deliver better services.

So how do we apply this? A great example is the work we conducted for the Department for Transport into the condition of road markings across the country.

The project involved our use of AI to analyse data, some of it from within our vast existing data bank, some additional, imagery. Using ‘training data’ we taught our AI model how to recognise road markings, lines and symbols. Through ‘inference’, the AI model then provided condition data analysis itself.

To help develop our understanding of AI and machine learning and to enable the technology to provide further value to our clients, we work in close partnership with the University of York and other world-leading experts.  And in April 2019, we launched our own AI Innovation Hub – the first in the UK with a focus on roads and roadscape.

AI and an ethical approach

As written by Dr Stephen Remde, our Chief Technology Officer, along with Steve Birdsall in a recent blog post, we understand the concerns that exist around this powerful technology – and we are highly  conscious at an ethical level, of the data we hold and the information that could be extracted.

We will be registering our interest in the Government’s proposed strategy – and hope that as many diverse voices as possible, from within the technology sector and outside it, will do the same.

For more information on Gaist’s work providing the most authoritative intelligence available into the road and roadscape, please contact us via JAKE.LAWSON@GAIST.CO.UK. Follow us @Gaistsolutions