As it turns out, what looks chaotic and random on a city street to the human eye is actually fairly predictable to a computer. As we’ve encountered thousands of different situations, we’ve built software models of what to expect, from the likely (a car stopping at a red light) to the unlikely (blowing through it). We still have lots of problems to solve, including teaching the car to drive more streets in Mountain View before we tackle another town, but thousands of situations on city streets that would have stumped us two years ago can now be navigated autonomously.
In basic terms, a system has been designed that monitors how many pedestrians are waiting at a junction. If there are few, then the pedestrian crossing is left at the default setting. However, if they detect lots of people, and as crowds take longer to cross — add a few seconds to the crossing time. Two types of sensor will be used during the trials, which will be aware of the number of people waiting at a pedestrian crossing, and depending on how large the crowd is, and depending on the needs of the road traffic, may change how long people have left to cross the road. The sensors are off-the-shelf equipment that is often used in supermarkets and shopping centres to track shoppers, which have been modified by TfL.
According to a BBC News report, data from pedestrian signal buttons may or may not have any real effect on SCOOT-controlled crossing timings, depending on their location and the time of day, and some junctions may be completely automated, with push-buttons which do not have any effect at all, effectively acting as placebo buttons. However, the same report quotes a Transport for London source as stating that the majority of pedestrian junctions in London do respond to the pedestrian signal button.
"Internet machine is a multi-screen film about the invisible infrastructures of the internet. The film reveals the hidden materiality of our data by exploring some of the machines through which ‘the cloud’ is transmitted, processed and transformed." - Internet machine – Timo Arnall
cf Arnall’s earlier film “Robot Readable World”
Today, Nathan Kallus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge says he has developed a way to predict crowd behaviour using statements made on Twitter. In particular, he has analysed the tweets associated with the 2013 coup d’état in Egypt and says that the civil unrest associated with this event was clearly predictable days in advance. […] First, Kallus defines a significant protest as one that receives much more mainstream media coverage than usual. He then analyses the mainstream coverage to see when significant protests actually occur and looks for activity in the Twitter feed that precedes the protests. If these are the predictive indicators, then it is possible to look for similar types of activity and assume that this is predictive too. Kallus tests this idea by studying the tweets associated with the 2013 coup d’état in Egypt, which was centered around the anniversary of President Morsi’s rule, triggering significant protests during which he was removed from power by the Egyptian army. Kallus says that evidence of the protests was clearly visible in the Twitter feed well in advance, as were the advanced protests that occurred before the anniversary. What’s more, the social media content predicted that the protests would go on for weeks beyond the anniversary. Kallus’s conclusion that tweets can accurately predict significant protests in advance is an interesting one. There’s no question that the evidence is there to be found in the social media in retrospect. There is no shortage of people who make these kinds of predictions about historical events using historical data. The bigger question is whether it’s possible to pick out this evidence in advance. In other words, is possible to make predictions before the events actually occur?
"Urban Isolation is a short skateboarding film directed by filmmaker Russell Houghten set on completely empty streets and highways in Los Angeles. The short, which required some impressive special effects to clear out the customarily gridlocked streets of LA, scored the grand prize in RED Camera’s REDirect skateboard cinematography contest.”
Source: Laughing Squid
From all the way up in the thermosphere, ISS personnel orbiting 200 miles over the Middle East can see bombs and missiles exploding in Gaza and Israel as the two sides go to war. International Space Station astronaut Alexander Gerst has posted his ‘saddest photo yet’.
The story and the synthetic-voice news report are such gems of a fictional dystopic world that Ballard himself would’t have dared that much.
"The China National Highway 110 Traffic Jam was a recurring massive traffic jam that began to form on August 14, 2010, mostly on China National Highway 110 (G110) and Beijing–Tibet expressway (G6), in Hebei and Inner Mongolia. The traffic jam slowed down thousands of vehicles for more than 100 kilometres (60 mi) and lasted for more than ten days. Many drivers were able to move their vehicles only 1 km (0.6 mi) per day, and some drivers reported being stuck in the traffic jam for five days. It is considered to be one of the longest traffic jams by some media. […] By late August 2010, the traffic jam largely dissipated, reportedly due to the efforts of authorities. Between Beijing and Inner Mongolia, only minor traffic slowdowns were reported near toll booths."