FLIR’s Michael Deruytter argues that city planners must refocus their strategies in light of technology developments

The need for city planners and road users to advance and evolve current infrastructure is growing. Recent shifts in social and environmental priorities are creating a greater demand for green and safe transport, alongside growing urban and suburban populations. City planners must now refocus to meet these mounting pressures as we edge closer to the tipping point for a new era in mobility.

It is a daunting and complex task that calls for a revision of existing infrastructure and transport networks, analysing how to solve pain points through implementing emerging technologies. These technologies require an extended network and connected ecosystem to ensure safety and efficiency.

As 5G and artificial intelligence (AI) become more mainstream, the potential to scale innovations such as autonomous vehicles and connect them to outside infrastructure—meaning vehicle to infrastructure and vehicle to vehicle connectivity—is incredibly encouraging. It promises a transport future that is exponentially safer and more efficient.

For roads to really become ‘smart’, digital technologies like AI and machine learning require a considerable amount of computing power combined with data collection and analysis tools. With 5G providing the connectivity for the rapid communication and the AI systems allowing for high-speed analysis of data, an additional component is needed to weave these technologies together.

This is where it gets interesting: the cellular vehicle to everything (CV2X) component enabled by the 5G component allows for information to travel from the cloud to another vehicle. This will create real-time communication of information to vehicles, allowing for information to be passed on about delays or upcoming road accidents.

And it only gets better. The more miles driven, the more the AI can learn and provide all the more accurate insights and responses to changing road conditions. It is the joining up of these technologies which will provide the final pieces to the road safety jigsaw and will shape a new era of road safety, with each road user existing as a coordinated body rather than individual units.

But don’t forget about thermal. In a nutshell, thermal imaging is the sixth sense, adding a sensing layer beyond human capability which provides a better view of pedestrians crossing, cyclists or potential red-light runners and can then be communicated to the vehicle, providing an advanced warning and enabling a suitable driving decision to be made. Thermal imaging cameras enable detection of road users in any weather condition, allowing for a ‘second pair of eyes’.

The FLIR ThermiCam AI is one such example. It uses both AI and thermal to predict and detect traffic, prevent congestion and potential accidents, and create safer roads around the clock. While this type of AI-enabled thermal camera technology works on existing infrastructure networks, the advantages of implementing it on 5G provides even greater predictive and preventative measures whereby critical traffic information is shared well before the human eye can see it and this will ultimately make our roads safer.

While city planners sit down to focus on the expansion of cities and suburban areas, now is the time to consider where to invest to secure the safety of all road users.