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San Francisco-based company Hayden AI aims to improve public transit safety

San Francisco company using A.I. to make public transit safer
San Francisco company using A.I. to make public transit safer 04:39

SAN FRANCISCO -- Amid a drop in ridership for public transportation and new challenges for buses on the road, San Francisco company Hayden AI hopes its technology can help more transit agencies improve service and make for a safer experience.   

"I was inside Inner Sunset in San Francisco riding a transit bus and, in the past, I was very focused on understanding driver behavior" said Chris Carson, the CEO and co-founder of Hayden AI

He remembers the moment that helped to inspire the mission of the company. 

"The bus driver kept taking his hand off the steering wheel in order to push a button on a camera," explained Carson.

Carson realized then that it was taking the driver away from their primary job and wondered if there was a better way to report cars that were parked illegally, especially in bus lanes. 

"What he was actually doing was capturing manually, hitting a button to capture vehicles that are either parked in bus stops or dedicated bus lanes," Carson told KPIX. "I thought to myself that we could start to automate that."

Carson believes artificial intelligence, which his company uses to detect when a car is parked where it shouldn't be, can advance every aspect of our lives. He says for buses, the need for this technology comes at a time when that form of public transportation has slowed down by 50% over the past decade. 

Deliveries and rideshare vehicles are adding to the traffic and curbside congestion for buses. He says his company has found in some markets where buses can go from behind schedule to ahead of schedule with this tool. 

"If you were trying to monitor parking from across the city, you can imagine you would probably need an army of human beings to monitor that," said Vaibhav Ghadiok, the chief technology officer with Hayden AI. 

Chadiok points out that with the help of this technology, not only have they seen buses become more efficient and ridership increase, but the environmental impact improves because there is less idling on routes. 

The company is working with transit agencies in New York and Washington, D.C. as well as running pilot programs in southern California. Hayden AI is not currently working with any public transportation services in the Bay Area. 

"There's no technology that's inherently bad or good, it's how you apply the technology that makes it good or bad. "In our case we're using A.I. for public good, improving transit bus services for millions of riders already."

Hayden AI says their technology uses GPS to identify where bus lanes are located and any cars in the way. Their design has two cameras, one for the AI to detect if a vehicle illegally parked and the other to read license plates. 

To address concerns of privacy, the company says they are not recording the video that comes into the system unless the technology detects a car is not where it should be, and only then does the license plate reader take note of vehicle. 

"Part of our mission is to also help give tools to transit agencies that they've never had in the past so they can find ways to improve the ridership experience," Carson said. 

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