Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. (VWGoA) and the City of Carmel, Indiana, have announced a new joint research project. The project, a first of its kind globally for VW, will employ Carmel’s existing city cameras and the automaker’s machine-vision software to help optimize traffic flow, analyze street usage patterns, and support emergency responders. VW believes this project will show how its software may have applications in various multi-modal transportation solutions in cities worldwide.
“The future of transportation will require more data connections and sophisticated analysis than ever before,” said Johan de Nysschen, Chief Operating Officer at Volkswagen Group of America. “We see our tool as an opportunity to provide cities with more usable data on mobility to help shape their future transportation needs, from pedestrians and vehicle drivers through public transit.”
From the Factory to the Street
The research project with Carmel was inspired by machine-vision software that engineers developed in-house at VW to help optimize production. In Wolfsburg, Germany − Europe’s largest automotive factory − and Volkswagen’s EV hub in Zwickau, the software allows cameras to initiate quality control checks for vehicle assembly and logistics. The developers later realized the software could have applications in a city environment.
“With enhanced software from Volkswagen, Carmel can more easily expand our view of traffic flow throughout the city,” explained Jim Brainard, Mayor of the City of Carmel, Indiana. “As we plan for public transportation needs in our future, our ability to capture more sophisticated information will help us make better decisions.”
Applications During Emergencies
Using cameras already in place around Carmel intersections, VW’s software will analyze the flow of cars, bicycles, and pedestrians. Similarly, VW’s software will monitor other essential data, like parking spot utilization and usage, to help city planners identify new mobility trends. It can also provide an automated data snapshot of an intersection or street location to support emergency responders, including better reaction times for severe weather.
Privacy & Security
The city will have a dashboard that gathers data from various locations. However, the software does not track individuals or individual vehicles as it automatically pixelates faces and license plates. The software does not store images either; only the counting data it generates.
In Germany, teams at Volkswagen Group have been in discussion with other cities worldwide about deploying this machine vision software for similar use cases. Located in southwestern Indiana in Hamilton County, Carmel is home to over 100,000 residents as of 2019. “We’re grateful to the City of Carmel for partnering in this shared research effort,” de Nysschen said.