City of Austin and The University of Texas Implement Automated Video Analytics for Improved Mobility

Following the 2018 Smart 50 Awards Gala in Kansas City, Missouri, we spoke with The University of Texas at Austin and the City of Austin about their winning project: Automated Video Analytics for Improved Mobility. Read more about their project below:

“Many transportation agencies own extensive networks of traffic monitoring cameras that are used to understand travel conditions and remotely take actions to alleviate problems. These actions include making adjustments to signal timing and dispatching emergency response personnel. The key insight in this Smart 50 Awards project is that the information captured by these cameras can be of great value for additional transportation planning and operations applications, by building innovative ways for the camera data to be automatically and systematically analyzed without significant human effort.

The City of Austin is a test bed for this project, which is a collaboration between the city and The University of Texas at Austin Center for Transportation Research and the Texas Advanced Computing Center. Using video snippets collected by the City of Austin traffic monitoring cameras, the team demonstrated the use of a novel analysis framework to answer real-world questions based on collected data. Preliminary applications include the identification of traffic patterns including vehicle flows, direction of travel, and pedestrian movements.”

An interactive project demonstration website is available at

Q: What does the term ‘smart city’ mean to you, and how does your project contribute to a larger smart city vision?

A: The City of Austin’s Smart Mobility Roadmap defines a smart city as one that takes a proactive approach to ensure a future that is equitable, affordable, prosperous and data-driven. This Smart 50 Awards project contributes to the smart city vision by enabling the systematic use of data and information, generated by existing infrastructure, to support safer and more efficient mobility. By exploiting artificial intelligence techniques and high performance computing capabilities we can enable systematic analyses that require minimal human intervention, and can support more informed system performance assessment, planning and operations.

Q: Why is the implementation of your project transformational in our current society?

A: Video data has the potential to provide a much more comprehensive picture of traffic conditions than data collected by other types of sensors, but the effort involved in manual data analysis is often prohibitive. The implementation of this Smart 50 Awards project is transformational because, unlike other video data processing solutions, its approach is not tied to specific hardware and leverages existing assets. Understanding the characteristics of how people travel, and proactively identifying locations that may pose safety concerns, will unlock the ability of cities to build safe, efficient, and equitable transportation systems.

Q: What advice did you receive along the way that helped you complete your winning project?

A: The best advice we received along the way was to focus on an approach that leverages the data that cities are already collecting. Cities are typically working under very constrained budgets, so our focus was on building solutions that create the most value while minimizing the additional investments required.

Q: What advice would you give a city, community or a solution provider looking to implement a municipal-level project?

A: We encourage solution providers to take the time to understand a city or community’s unique needs. Rushing in with a solution without understanding the need is unlikely to result in a partnership. On the flip side, we would encourage cities and communities to take a leading role in the smart city implementation process by being clear about their needs and use cases before seeking solutions.

Q: What does it mean to you to win the Smart 50 Awards?

A: We are very honored to be considered in this elite group of Smart 50 Awards winners. We have been working hard over the last several years to strengthen our city-university relationship for smart mobility projects, and it is wonderful to have these efforts recognized.