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Insights How is AI resculpting our growing transport network?

Artificial intelligence, or AI, is transforming every aspect of our lives. UK Research and Innovation define it as a ‘suite of tools that aim to reproduce or surpass the abilities of humans to undertake complex tasks like learning and problem solving’. Essentially, it helps us to find solutions in all industries including health services, science, energy, and construction.

In the transportation industry, AI has been leveraged to help increase safety, reduce traffic congestion, and lessen carbon emissions, amongst other benefits. The transport sector is one of the largest contributors to carbon dioxide emissions, so this certainly is good news. At AtkinsRéalis , AI is just one of many digital technologies that we use to help us to continuously improve and develop digital solutions that solve and enhance business performance, reduce costs and offer better outcomes. 

So how is AI resculpting the growing transport network around the world?

globe and lines linking the countries together

The evolving transportation industry

Transport is a wide-reaching sector and encompasses everything including road, rail, air, marine and logistics. Society has always been reliant upon efficient connectivity models which can be used to transport goods, services, and people. Transportation is, therefore, ever-evolving, and in turn, we need to be innovative in providing for future generations. As we know, the population is growing and ageing, so there is an increasing need to both meet changing infrastructure requirements and ensure development is sustainable, which AI can help with.

Over the last century, we have seen rapid change as the industry has expanded and evolved to meet new challenges and societal demands. It is difficult to be certain about what transportation will look like in a few decades time but, it is imperative that we find a way to design a sustainable future for the industry.

The potential of AI in transportation

Many of us are unaware of how much we use AI in our daily lives. Rapid advances in technology are changing and improving the way we live and work, helping us to be more efficient, agile, and responsive than ever before. One of the largest, and fastest-growing areas of artificial intelligence is machine learning, whereby algorithms learn from examples and experience rather than a set of predefined rules.

In the transportation industry, machines, having AI capabilities, can mimic humans, automate tasks, and learn on the go. Examples of AI in action transforming the transportation industry include self-driving vehicles, traffic management, delay predictions and drone taxis. Transport has arguably become more about an experience, rather than simply just getting people or things from A to B. ‘User-oriented design’ has become a vital concept for transport planners and designers, who ensure comfort, convenience, and safety are all considered factors. In the UK, Atkins, a member of the AtkinsRéalis Group, employed digital technology and advanced analytics to collate ‘in the moment’ customer experience data which in turn creates a better experience on the M25 for customers.

However, often the potential of AI is only useful if the humans using it can keep up with the pace of change. Roles in the transportation sector typically include civil engineers, architects, project managers and planners, who therefore need to be astute in order to both keep on top of significant transportation trends, whilst also implementing innovative techniques on projects, and realising the potential in the industry.

AI at AtkinsRéalis

We use AI in our transport market to streamline processes and recognise patterns of behaviour within different situations. An example of this in practice is the trials we are currently running in the United States to improve the way distress is detected and measured in pavements and roads. To test the impact of AI, we are applying machine learning to the examination of pavements and roads for a project that covers 4,000 miles of road data. The expectation is to reduce the time taken by over 50% and to complete the distress detection in just 18 weeks, which has previously never been achieved.

The construction industry is often wary of adopting new technologies, in part due to the complex nature of contracting models; the risk and reward structure means that it is more complicated to implement. However, in 2020, Atkins, a member of the AtkinsRéalis Group, established a partnership with nPlan, an AI technology startup. This will enable the exploration of new contracting models that focus on collaboration and are driven by technology and data which could transform major project delivery across the industry.

Drive your career forward at AtkinsRéalis

At AtkinsRéalis , we are shaping the future of transport by combining traditional engineering techniques with new technologies and innovative thinking. Our solutions positively impact societies around the world by incorporating sustainability at all levels, ensuring we deliver a better tomorrow.

If you’re looking to apply cutting-edge technologies on a major infrastructure project, browse our available jobs in transportation today and drive your career to a new level within our Group.