Chinese City Uses Alibaba AI System to Curb Congestion

Internet giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’s “City Brain” technology has helped Hangzhou, China, significantly reduce traffic congestion, CNN Business reports.

Hangzhou, which has a population of 7 million people and is where Alibaba is based, recently was China’s 5th most congested city. The city now ranks 57th on that list, with much of the improvement coming since Alibaba began testing City Brain there two years ago.

City Brain uses various sensors to gather information from across the city, including video from intersection cameras and GPS data on the location of cars and buses. The artificial intelligence platform analyzes the information in real time and coordinates more than 1,000 road signals across the city.

Hangzhou also is using City Brain to route emergency vehicles. In some cases, the system has helped halve the response time of ambulances and fire trucks, according to the report. Machine learning tools also can be used to help cities address water shortages and other infrastructure challenges, Alibaba officials tell CNN.  

Alibaba has begun testing City Brain in several other Chinese cities and is expanding the technology to other countries such as Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Other companies are testing similar systems. Volkswagen and Siemens, for example, began trials of a smart traffic system last autumn in Wolfsburg, Germany, that alerts drivers to status of upcoming traffic lights.

A report last year by McKinsey Global Institute predicts such systems will help reduce commute times by as much as 20% by 2025.