UN launches drive to use AI to reduce road deaths

New scheme will help halve number of fatalities by 2030, officials say

ABU DHABI - UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - 07OCT2014 - Rush hour traffic showing that the majority of the vehicles on a four-lane heading towards Salam Street in Abu Dhabi. Ravindranath K / The National (to go with Ramona story for News)

More needs to be done to use artificial intelligence (AI) to improve road safety, say top UN officials.

They made their comments as a new safety initiative was launched with the aim of halving the number of road deaths and ensuring everyone has access to safe and affordable transport by 2030.

Better AI is crucial in achieving those goals, especially in low and middle-income countries where the most lives are lost each year on the roads, according to UN representatives.

The new scheme was launched by UN Special Envoys for Road Safety and Technology, along with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), state news agency Wam reported.

“The disproportionate number of road deaths in developing countries is yet another example of why the benefits of new technologies must reach everyone, everywhere,” said Houlin Zhao, secretary general of the ITU.

The World Health Organisation estimates around 1.3 million people die each year as a result of road traffic accidents, with up to an additional 50 million suffering non-fatal injuries, including disability.

AI can be used to assess crash data to improve road infrastructure and accident response times, said officials.

“There is an untapped opportunity to harness artificial intelligence to close the digital and road safety divide around the world,” said Road Safety Special Envoy Jean Todt.

He said there was still much work to do to reach the 2030 target.

“Connected vehicles are far from reaching the communities that are most affected by road traffic crashes,” he said.

“The infrastructure in many countries could not support autonomous driving anytime soon. The cost of the technology is still very high.”

Updated: October 9th 2021, 7:04 AM