Partner Perspective

AI key to make future roads safer

The AI for Road Safety initiative brings together the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Road Safety and Envoy on Technology offices in a new partnership for global action with WGIC Partner ITU, the International Telecommunication Union.

Remco Takken October 21, 2021
AI key to make future roads safer

​Countries and investors need to step up the development and use of artificial intelligence (AI) to keep future roads safe for everyone, say the United Nations partners leading a new AI for Road Safety initiative. The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) include a call for global action to halve the annual rate of road deaths globally and ensure access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport for all by 2030. Faster progress on AI will be vital to make this happen, especially in low- and middle-income countries where the most lives are lost on the roads each year.

How ITU supports road safety

ITU’s contribution to the AI for Road Safety initiative will build on established ITU standardization work for Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS), ranging from ITS radiocommunications and automotive cybersecurity to vehicular multimedia and the performance of communications involving vehicles.It will also build on outcomes from the ITU Focus Group on Autonomous and Assisted Driving, including techniques for continuous monitoring of ‘AI driver’ behavioural performance, and the ITU Focus Group on Vehicular Multimedia, working to enable next-generation vehicle infotainment systems to improve road safety. Applicable standards also support global vehicle regulations set out by the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), reflecting longstanding ITU collaboration with the UNECE Transport Division. For example, the global regulation on vehicle emergency calls references an ITU voice-quality performance standard (ITU P.1140).

Safe system approach

AI would form part of the holistic ‘safe system’ approach to road safety, encompassing all elements of dynamic mobility.The UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Road Safety, Jean Todt, said: “There is an untapped opportunity to harness AI to close the digital and road safety divide around the world. I look forward to working with private, public and UN partners to bring life-saving tools to those who need it most.” UN Secretary-General António Guterres last year announced his Roadmap for Digital Cooperation, underlining the need for AI and other tech solutions to drive sustainable development. AI is crucial to realise this “bold vision of the digital future that the world needs,” said Maria-Francesca Spatolisano, Assistant Secretary-General, currently heading the Office of the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Technology. “Today’s initiative is a noteworthy effort to focus on practical, real-world technology issues that concretely affect peoples’ lives,” she said.

ITU’s ai4roadsafety
ITU Focus Group on AI for autonomous and assisted driving (FG-AI4AD)