Oceanit’s SURF (Social Utilization of Resources for the Future) Team is spearheading a multi-week internship for Hawaii high school students and recent graduates that aims to use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to make Oahu’s roads safer for pedestrians and more resilient for vehicles. In partnership with the Hawaii Department of Transportation (HDOT) and Hawaii Technology Academy, students are learning about some of the multi-faceted issues that affect traffic safety and will be using Oceanit’s Aloha AI platform to collect data and come up with potential solutions.

During one of the cohort’s first Zoom meetings, HDOT’s deputy director, Ed Sniffen, joined to give the group some background on the traffic problems affecting Farrington Highway between Nanakuli and Makaha. After discussing issues like access to jobs, public transportation, and gentrification, students over four sessions did “question-storming” generating only questions that could lead to unexpected solutions. Some of the questions they thought to include were:

  • How much of the traffic is commuter vs. local traffic?
  • How many people travel without a car (i.e., bus, walking, biking)? Why not more?
  • What kind of jobs do people who live in the area have?
  • Could AI figure out where the most accidents occur on the road or where it’s the most unsafe?
  • What is the community willing to sacrifice for safer roads/sidewalks?
  • Can the sensors recognize and contact authorities during an emergency event?

More than 100 questions were generated by the students from which 12 final questions were submitted to HDOT Deputy Director Sniffen for his review. HDOT will evaluate the questions internally to see which will best challenge the status quo and provide nontraditional answers or solutions. Sniffen plans to ask the students to answer the final questions using the data collected from a real-time AI sensor that is counting and classifying vehicular and pedestrian traffic.

One of the key components of this internship is teaching students to think creatively by employing the principles of Design Thinking, which focus on real-world, human-centered solutions. Oceanit’s Ian Kitajima notes that “though this is a transportation project, this is a human project. . . It’s not really about technology. It’s about community.”

This internship offers both students and HDOT an unprecedented opportunity for collaboration and exchange. Students get to work directly with HDOT to look at real-world problems that affect their communities while learning how government entities think and work. At the same time, students provide HDOT with fresh perspectives and ideas to attempt to solve some of our state’s most acute problems. Innovation occurs at the intersection of this two-way street.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *