Volkswagen Group of America and the City of Carmel, IN, have joined together on a research project that uses existing city cameras and Volkswagen machine-vision software to help optimize traffic flows, analyze street usage patterns and support emergency response. This joint project is the first of its kind for Volkswagen globally. The company believes that its software could have applications in various multi-modal transportation solutions in cities worldwide.

“The future of transportation will require more data connections and sophisticated analysis than ever before,” said Johan de Nysschen, chief operating officer at Volkswagen Group of America. “We see our tool as an opportunity to provide cities with more usable data on mobility to help shape their future transportation needs, from pedestrians and vehicle drivers through public transit. We’re grateful to the City of Carmel for partnering in this shared research effort.”

The project grew out of an advanced machine-vision software that Volkswagen experts developed in-house to help optimize production. In Wolfsburg, Germany − Europe’s biggest automotive factory − and Volkswagen’s EV hub in Zwickau, the software is used in cameras for quality checks on vehicle assembly and in logistics. The developers realized the software could have applications in a city environment.

“With enhanced software from Volkswagen, Carmel can more easily expand our view of traffic flow throughout the city”, said Jim Brainard, Mayor of the City of Carmel, Indiana. “As we plan for public transportation needs in our future, our ability to capture more sophisticated information will help us make better decisions.”

Using cameras already in place around key Carmel intersections, the Volkswagen software will analyze traffic flow of cars and bicycles, pedestrian movement and other data like parking spot utilization to help city planners identify new trends in mobility and usage. It can also provide an automated data snapshot of an intersection or street location to support emergency responses and reaction on natural disasters. It could eventually help with immediate needs such as the flow of traffic before and after major events. An efficient traffic flow could also help to reduce environmental impact of transportation.

The city will have a dashboard that gathers data from various locations and highlights key learnings. The software does not track individuals or individual vehicles; it automatically pixelates faces and license plates. The software also does not store images, but only the counting data it generates, as a further form of privacy protection.