Studying AI's Potential to Optimize Public Transit Systems

Three projects are underway to optimize the efficiency and cost of public transit systems, thanks to government funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

2 minute read

October 29, 2020, 12:00 PM PDT

By Lee Flannery @leecflannery


Proterra Electric Bus

Proterra Inc / Wikimedia Commons

Three organizations—the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the Chattanooga Regional Transportation Authority (CARTA), and Utah State University (USU)—each received $1.75 million in federal funding to undertake projects to optimize energy and cost efficiency of public transportation systems with the use of artificial intelligence (AI). 

"Researchers at MIT will look to develop a transit-centric Smart Mobility System to help agencies create short-term operating plans and adaptable real-time control strategies. CARTA will also develop a software platform using artificial intelligence (AI) to integrate fixed-route transportation with on-demand services and paratransit and determine where best to deploy electric buses. And USU aims to develop tools for planning and operations to help the large-scale electrification of bus fleets," reports Chris Teale.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), a funder of the projects in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), more efficiency and affordability in transportation systems will contribute to a larger goal of reduced carbon emissions in urban areas. 

"The USU research project comes as more transit agencies look to electrify their bus fleets in a bid to cut emissions, but come up against issues like higher electricity costs from charging and the need to balance their schedules to ensure the vehicles have enough time to be charged without impacting service," Teale writes. 

AI will play a key role in solving hypothetical scenarios in which electric fleets are in operation nationwide with such variables as inclement weather and route popularity.

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