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UN, ITU tap into AI tech to improve road safety globally

By , ITWeb
Africa , 11 Oct 2021
ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao.
ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao.

The United Nations (UN) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) have launched an artificial intelligence (AI)-driven road safety initiative, targeting low- and middle-income countries.

The organisations say there is a need to step up the use and development of AI capabilities in keeping roads safe, and the new initiative aims to strengthen global AI efforts across the public and private sectors to improve safety for all road users.

The initiative is part of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and wants to halve the annual rate of road deaths globally by 2030.

As such, the UN and ITU say, 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.

“The disproportionate toll of road deaths on developing countries is yet another example of why the benefits of new technologies must reach everyone, everywhere,” says ITU secretary-general Houlin Zhao. “This is the highest priority of the AI for good movement and the main guiding light to our new AI for road safety initiative.”

ITU says its contribution to the project will build on established ITU standardisation work for intelligent transport systems, ranging from radio communications and automotive cyber security, to vehicular multimedia and the performance of communications involving vehicles.

The initiative is a collaboration between the UN secretary-general’s special envoy for road safety and envoy on technology offices and ITU.

UN secretary-general António Guterres pronounced last year in his Roadmap for Digital Cooperation, on the need to use AI and other tech solutions to drive sustainable development.

Jean Todt, the UN secretary-general’s special envoy for road safety, says: “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.”

Maria-Francesca Spatolisano, assistant secretary-general and head of the office of the UN secretary-general’s envoy on technology, says AI is crucial to realise this “bold vision of the digital future that the world needs”.

“This initiative is a noteworthy effort to focus on practical, real-world technology issues that concretely affect peoples’ lives.”

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