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AI in transportation: USDOT seeks input on potential applications

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Announcements | Technology
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The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Infrastructure (ARPA-I) has its eye set firmly on the effects AI could have on transportation; a technology that Warren Buffett has recently compared to nuclear weapons.

USDOT posted a request for information (RFI) regarding AI on the Federal Register earlier this month. It’s asking for information on the potential applications of AI in transportation and what challenges and opportunities it could create. The department says it hopes to get input from a broad mix of stakeholders. Comments must be received by July 2.

The RFI is in response to President Joe Biden’s October 2023 Executive Order entitled “Safe, Secure, and Trustworthy Development and Use of Artificial Intelligence.”

USDOT says ARPA-I is an agency Congress established “to support the development of science and technology solutions that overcomes long-term challenges and advances the state of the art for United States transportation infrastructure.”

“Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) bring significant potential benefits and risks, and they have the potential to transform American society with deep implications for safety, access, equity, and resilience in the transportation sector,” the RFI states. “Virtually all aspects of transportation and mobility — from the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of physical infrastructure systems to the operation of the digital infrastructure that underpins and enables the movement of people and goods — will likely be impacted by the deployment of AI tools and applications.

“Beyond the direct impact of the technology itself, AI has the potential to reshape how individuals, communities, corporations, governments, and other users interact with the transportation network in ways that are difficult to anticipate.”

Biden’s Executive Order also requires AI developers and all U.S. government departments to ensure AI developments are safe, secure, and trustworthy, according to U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. That’s also a goal of the department’s newly formed Transforming Transportation Advisory Committee (TTAC).

Buffett, CEO and chairman of GEICO parent company Berkshire Hathaway, shared during the company’s annual meeting that generative AI could cause more harm than good to society as a whole, according to PropertyCasualty360.

“If it’s used in a pro-social way, it’s got terrific benefits to society, but I don’t know how you make sure that that’s what happens any more than I know how to be sure that when you used two atomic bombs in World War II that you knew that you hadn’t created something that could destroy the world later on,” Buffett said, according to PropertyCasualty360.

While Buffett said he doesn’t know a lot about AI, he cautioned about the reality of cyber threats to individuals and companies through the technology, such as face and voice cloning, according to the article. He has experienced virtual cloning firsthand when a very convincing persona of himself was created.

Taking over work responsibilities may be seen as a positive consequence of AI, but Buffett pointed out that mindset could change.

“It can create an enormous amount of leisure time,” Buffett said, according to the article. “Now, what the world does with leisure time is another question… That’s what makes it a genie…we may wish we’d never seen that genie, or it may do wonderful things.”


Featured image credit: gmast3r/iStock

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