Google wants to use AI to time traffic lights more efficiently

Alphabet Inc’s Google has reduced fuel consumption and traffic delays by 10-20% at four locations in Israel using artificial intelligence to optimize traffic lights and plans to test the software in Rio de Janeiro, a the company announced on Wednesday.

The early stage research project is part of new software initiatives within Google to tackle climate change. Some employees as well as advocacy groups have called on the company, the third most valuable company in the world, to use its influence more urgently to fight the crisis.

While Google has not responded to calls from critics to stop selling technology to oil companies or funding lawmakers who deny global warming, it has prioritized sustainability features.

Google plans in the coming weeks to allow its users of Nest thermostats to purchase renewable energy credits for $ 10 per month to offset heating and cooling emissions. The credits will come from projects in Texas, including Bethel Wind Farm and Roseland Solar. A majority of the funds will go towards credit purchases and utility bill payment costs, Google said, without giving details of the rest.

For free in the US, Nest users will soon be able to automatically adjust heating and cooling at times when the energy is cleaner.

New information boards next to the search results show emissions or other environmental assessments from thefts around the world and cars and appliances in the United States. To stem the misinformation, queries in English, Spanish and French mentioning “climate change” starting this month will include explanations from the United Nations.

Based on early results from Haifa and Beersheba in Israel, the Rio de Janeiro municipal traffic authority has expressed high hopes that the AI ​​can better synchronize traffic light changes. He told Reuters the system is expected to be introduced in a few months and the locations will be announced soon.

Aleksandar Stevanovic, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, said the simulations showed AI can make traffic smoother. But he wondered if a tech company with no expertise in traffic engineering could ultimately make such software a reality.

“Every year there is someone new who claims we can do wonders,” he said.

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