Google tries to make traffic lights more efficient with AI

Google is working on technology to make traffic light signals more efficient, as a way to cut fuel emissions and reduce traffic delays.

And they’re doing it using artificial intelligence.

By using AI to optimize signal lights, Google says it cut fuel use and traffic delays by 10% to 20% at four locations in Israel.

Google’s Chief Sustainability Officer, Kate Brandt, says the results so far are promising.

"Inefficient traffic lights are bad for the environment and they're bad for public health. That's because idling cars, they mean wasted fuel and more street level air pollution so we see a really great opportunity for AI to help create a breakthrough change so instead of manually measuring and calculating timings, one of our AI research groups has found a way to accurately calculate the traffic conditions and the timing at most intersections in cities around the world and then they're training a model on that data to optimize those inefficient intersections.’’

The next test location will be Rio de Janeiro.

The city's municipal traffic authority expressed high hopes for the AI and told Reuters the system should be introduced within months.

The traffic lights project is among new software initiatives inside Google to combat climate change.

Some employees as well as advocacy groups have called on the company, the world's third-most valuable, to more urgently use its influence to combat the crisis.

Google has not addressed critics' calls to stop selling technology to oil companies, or funding lawmakers who deny global warming.

But it has prioritized sustainability features.

The CEO of Alphabet – which owns Google – Sundar Pichai explains.

"At Google, we view big risks as a challenge and as an opportunity. Last year, we committed to help one billion people make more sustainable choices by 2022 through our core products like Google Maps and search. In all of these efforts, our goal is to make the sustainable choice an easier choice. Individually these choices might feel small but when you multiply them together across our products, they equal big transformations for the planet."

In the coming weeks, Google plans to allow its Nest thermostat users to buy renewable energy credits for $10 a month to offset emissions from heating and cooling.

To stem misinformation, English, Spanish and French queries mentioning "climate change" starting this month will feature explanations from the United Nations.