18 May 2023 | Our Work
The latest edition of Policy Insight by Paula Claytonsmith – Director, Government and Policy at the Local Council Roads Innovation Group (LCRIG) has a theme of AI and climate change, with a focus on activities in the areas of innovation, skills, net zero and collaboration.
What is Policy Insight from Paula @LCRIG?
As a non-profit Community Interest Company (CIC), we believe in giving the best we can to all our members and partners. We are enthusiastic about making sure we put our resources both financial and intellectual into the sector. My role includes seeking out knowledge, sharing ideas, and highlighting policies from the Government, industry, and wider to help to bring the latest ideas to our members. My aim during these briefings is to curate insights that will provoke awareness and thought amongst our members, whether they are councils, SMEs, or larger organisations.
My last Policy Insight was in September last year, I can’t quite believe it was eight months ago! At that time it was a week before Strictly Highways in Blackpool. I am beginning to think time moves differently at LCRIG, particularly as I celebrated a year at LCRIG at the beginning of this month! As Martin Duffy reminded me in a recent call, it’s not long until I take on the CEO and I’ve certainly been giving thought to how I will measure my success in the role.
However, back to the subject in hand, that of Insight and things I’ve seen and heard worth that are worth mentioning under our four pillars. There is a theme of AI and climate change in this edition, and I hope the things I share are of as much interest to readers as they are to me….
Let’s talk about what seems to be a common emerging area with AI and road condition defect detection. In the last couple of years, I have seen statements like “XXXXX organisation has announced the launch of XXXXXX to help cities and municipalities, road authorities, map providers and commercial fleet owners better understand the state and quality of roads.” And it’s fair to say that even for the uninitiated, a quick Google search on AI being used to detect road defects, lists many organisations that have AI solutions. Even tyre companies are suggesting they can help municipalities detect road defects.
Figure 1: Source: Traffic Technology Today
But why has this headline caught my attention? It’s not that it’s a tyre company, for sure this is interesting. But in a time of more sophisticated and emerging ChatGPT-type options (other versions available), it’s no longer the detection that is innovative but what would AI “detect and suggest”. In the current environment, deciding what treatments to do is a much more nuanced and experienced world, with humans, not AI providing the brain power. On the subject of the proliferation of technology, next week I’m at the ITS European Congress joining a panel on “Overhyped technology” with panel members from the UK and US.
If you want to read something interesting, in amongst the chatter about AI and Ethics, this is a very interesting article from Forbes that highlights interesting semantics in generative AI responses “When Generative AI Refuses To Answer Questions, AI Ethics And AI Law Get Deeply Worried”
I’ve recently been in the luxurious position of being able to read several technical and special interest papers for the upcoming ITS European Congress. One of these papers is about the gap between power grid supplies and projections going forward given the increase in EV cars, EV charging, home energy, and other future reliance on electricity in Europe. Several projection charts showed a gap between supply and future demand that looked not too dissimilar to the situation here.
This is the same for skills, there is a global skills supply issue. Some of this will force the emergence of technologies and innovations to fill the gap but even with this, I fear there will be a gap. If you want to play around with the United Nations charts like below, this link is great and terrifying in equal measure! The expression “not pulling up the ladder behind you” I think is just as relevant for leaving future generations that follow us with interesting jobs and maybe not clinging to old ways of doing things.
Check out the LCRIG Skills platform where we are starting to do our bit by bringing together different opportunities to upskill existing and incoming workers.
Something that caught my attention recently is the news that Italy’s Eni Faces Lawsuit Alleging Early Knowledge Of Climate Change. According to The New York Times story that initially led me into a rabbit warren of information, is that Greenpeace and other groups, along with 12 private citizens of Italy, are suing Eni in Rome. Eni, an Italian major oil company is facing the country’s first climate lawsuit, with environmental groups alleging the company used “greenwashing” to push for more fossil fuels despite knowing of the risks posed by burning its products since 1970. Greenpeace and others are saying the company was well aware of the climate damage caused by its product but chose to ignore the harm and keep pumping oil anyway.
Why did this interest me? It made me wonder if communities in the future might consider the same if they feel council services, including Highways aren’t decarbonising enough, despite knowing about the impacts of materials or their services. It could be a stretch, however last year ClientEarth, won their case against the UK Government. The High Court found that the net zero strategy, which sets out plans to decarbonise the economy, doesn’t meet the Government’s obligations under the Climate Change Act to produce detailed climate policies, that show how the UK’s legally-binding carbon budgets will be met.
It also found that parliament and the public were not told about a shortfall in meeting a key target to cut emissions. Behind-the-scenes calculations by civil servants to determine the impact of emissions cuts from policies in the government’s net zero strategy did not add up to the reductions necessary to meet the sixth carbon budget, which is the volume of greenhouse gases the UK can emit during the period 2033-37 [source: ClientEarth.org].
Staying on the theme of climate, I did come across the following newsletter, it’s an intriguing newsletter set up to help newbies work out their career impact. I wonder how we assess our climate impact in our career or next jobs within our own sector?
Collaboration: I wrote earlier about AI and the next stage, these two talks below give a good insight into the importance of human collaboration and to quote one of the speakers “AI is almost like a new intellectual experience with new weaknesses and strengths compared to humans…….we need to teach AI common sense, norms and values.”
Why AI is incredibly smart and shockingly stupid – Yejin Choi, Yejin Choi. The University of Washington / Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence (16 minutes)
The inside story of ChatGPT’s astonishing potential – Greg Brockman, President & Co-Founder at OpenAI (30 minutes)
In my last Insight, I promised I wasn’t obsessed with “dust”. But I did highlight an interesting project that NASA is doing called “Earth Surface Mineral Dust Source Investigation (EMIT)”. My interest is the issues of dust as pollution particulates. Sticking with NASA I’ve been regularly watching the progress of their project ECOstress, given the rise in temperatures, this is an interesting project that looks at the temperature of plants and use that information to better understand how much water plants need and how they respond to stress.
Thanks for reading and I hope to see readers at events over the next few months including Traffex, and of course our Innovation Festival! Book here if you haven’t already!!
Director, Government & Strategy, LCRIG