NJ Transit to use $1.6M grant to study how AI can make crossing safer

Can artificial intelligence make transportation systems smarter? New Jersey Transit may soon find out.

NJ Transit has been awarded a $1.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation for the implementation of AI-based systems designed to improve safety at light rail grade crossings.

NJ Transit will work with the Rutgers University Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation on the research & development of these systems. The data collected will provide critical information to help reduce pedestrian and vehicle strikes and serve as a foundation for community-driven safety improvement solutions.

Officials said the primary focus of this initiative is to significantly enhance safety, while reducing accidents at light rail grade crossings and on rights-of-way. This project strategically aligns with the goals of the Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation grant program and aims to elevate the state of New Jersey’s transportation system.

In Stage 1 of this project, NJ Transit and Rutgers University will prototype a tailored artificial intelligence-powered technology solution consisting of stationary cameras at five light rail grade crossings, and forward-facing cameras in one Hudson-Bergen Light Rail vehicle. This technology will improve safety and detection, while offering valuable guidance for future infrastructure enhancements in other areas of mass transit. The Stage 1 study will culminate in a network-wide implementation plan geared towards enhancing pedestrian and vehicle safety.

The system will leverage cutting-edge AI algorithms, including deep learning, to analyze real-time camera video data from light rail grade crossings (captured by stationary cameras) and rights-of-way (captured by forward-facing cameras in light rail vehicles) using Edge Computing technologies. For grade crossing safety monitoring, the AI system will identify the activation of warning devices (e.g., signals and gates) and subsequently detect safety events, considering factors such as trespasser type (e.g., pedestrian or vehicle), time of occurrence, movement trajectory, weather conditions, proximity to the train’s arrival and other critical factors.

In Stage 2, NJ Transit will proceed with the implementation of the AI-powered technology at 50 grade crossings and five light rail vehicles on its light rail systems. These systems will increase safety, reduce delays and ensure a wide array of communities across the state will benefit from improved access to safe transportation options.

NJ Transit CEO Kevin Corbett said he is grateful for the assistance.

“Alongside Rutgers CAIT, we are working to set a new standard in transportation safety aimed at preventing grade-crossing incidents leveraging the power of artificial intelligence,” he said. “We thank the USDOT for this grant award, which allows NJ Transit to continue to introduce innovative technologies that enhance safety in and around the communities we serve.”