Partnership for Inclusive Innovation director speaks at Congressional AI-Transportation roundtable

Debra Lam, (front row on the right, second from right) addresses the full U.S. House Committee Bipartisan Roundtable on AI in Infrastructure and Transportation. (PHOTO: Robert Knotts)

The Partnership for Inclusive Innovation (Partnership), a program of Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute, focuses its work on improving access and opportunities for all Georgians. Its goal since its founding in 2020 is to drive innovation and create opportunities for all to thrive together as part of the innovation ecosystem., regardless of geographic, racial, gender and socio-economic status.

The U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure held a roundtable on artificial intelligence (AI) in infrastructure and transportation on April 16, 2024 where Partnership Executive Director Debra Lam was invited to speak and share how the organization is leveraging AI as a tool to bring innovative solutions in the transit space.

Lam also sat down with U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, the committee’s ranking member, for Q&A session on how AI can help drive innovation in transportation forward.

 

Below are Lam’s prepared remarks for the hearing:

Good morning, Chairman Graves, Ranking Member Larsen and distinguished members of the House Transportation Committee. It’s an honor to be here today to discuss the transformative potential of AI in Transportation.

My name is Debra Lam and I lead the Partnership for Inclusive Innovation based out of the Georgia Institute of Technology. Our mission is to catalyze and invest in innovative solutions that drive shared economic prosperity through public-private collaborations. Since 2020, the Partnership’s work has deployed millions in financial and social capital and catalyzed hundreds of projects with local governments, corporates, universities, startups, and nonprofits. The projects have created new businesses, increased jobs, and deployed hundreds of technologies and innovations.

In the realm of AI and transportation, we are guided by three core principles:

  • Community-centered problem solving: We believe in starting with the challenges faced by communities themselves, who best understand their needs. However, complex issues like transportation and infrastructure require a collective approach. This is why we form robust public-private partnerships, combining the expertise of multidisciplinary research teams to find the most effective tech-based solutions tailored to community goals. Whether it is AI or other future, unknown technology, it should be seen as one of many tools that is centered on solving community problems.
  • Innovation for all: We stand by the idea that every community, regardless of its size or location, can be a hub of innovation. Our objective is to democratize access to technology and foster an understanding of innovations like AI. This empowers communities to not just utilize technology but to refine and advance it.
  • A holistic view of transportation: Transportation is the lifeline connecting housing and employment. We are dedicated to ensuring that accessible and affordable transportation, especially with the integration of AI and other advanced technologies, is not a hurdle but a support system for securing employment and accessing homes.

Now, let me illustrate how these principles come alive in one of our projects:

Through a U.S. Dept. of Transportation SMART grant, the Chatham Area Transit Authority, with Georgia Tech researchers, is improving transit services in historically underserved neighborhoods. Piloting an On-Demand Multi-model Transit System (ODMTS) powered by AI, riders, including paratransit riders can use a mobile application to summon prompt and efficient transit service.

The AI-driven algorithm behind the service not only learns and evolves from increased usage but also guides the existing, professional drivers along the safest and most expedient routes. The project utilizes union operators and trains early career professionals as operators and maintenance personnel from the local colleges. Additionally, we are improving algorithms to optimize electric vehicle charging to increase operational efficiency and energy conservation.

This project stands as a testament to our approach, showcasing AI as a powerful ally in elevating and integrating transportation services to meet the needs of all communities.

I look forward to delving into these topics with you today.

Thank you for your attention and for supporting this vital work.