City Hall is considering a pair of new pilot programs that combine advancements in artificial intelligence with existing camera technology to identify wrongdoing and theoretically increase quality of life in some areas of town.

The City’s Department of Transportation is the lead agency for the two programs and neither will cost Santa Monica anything during the testing phase. Should either system yield obviously useful results, the City would have the options to purchase full-scale versions for regular use.

In the first case, officials want to install an AI camera system on two buses that would detect and deter the illegal use of bus lanes and zones by traffic. The system would be tested along Lincoln Blvd. where the city has a bus-only lane.

“The system being piloted leverages computer vision technologies and advanced analytical capabilities to capture evidence of potential parking and traffic violations in bus-only lanes and bus stop zones,” said a report on the program. “The pilot will study whether this technology could help improve transit safety and efficiency.”

The system includes a forward facing camera and a license plate reader. If the system detects a violation, it creates an encrypted evidence package that is sent to the Santa Monica Police Department’s Traffic Services Division.

The 45-day pilot would include access to data analysis and real-time camera feeds to help officials determine its success.

“Since the purpose of this pilot is to assess the technology and gather data, any evidence packages created during the 45-day pilot will be for information only,” said the report.

A similar program is being considered for stationary use at trouble spots in the Downtown area.

“Proactive video monitoring is a crime-deterrence solution that uses AI-equipped cameras in areas like parking lots, courtyards, and structures,” said the report. “Live feeds from the cameras are monitored 24 hours a day by the pilot vendor’s trained staff. The technology can help deter trespassing or crimes such as theft or vandalism as the monitoring staff engage with intruders through loudspeakers and tell them to leave the premises immediately or law enforcement will be called. The warning is repeated as needed until the person leaves or law enforcement arrives. In most cases, the individuals leave quickly and do not return.”

According to the report, the cameras are useful for monitoring areas outside traditional business hours and could help lower incidents without the associated costs of adding human patrols.

The pilot program for stationary cameras will be held at the Main Library and last 60 days.

“Both the bus lane enforcement and proactive video monitoring pilots are launching shortly,” said the report. “Staff will closely monitor both pilots, and, at the end of each, analyze the data. If either or both pilots show the piloted technology could benefit the City, open competitive procurement processes may be initiated. Staff will then make recommendations for Council approval.”

Matthew Hall has a Masters Degree in International Journalism from City University in London and has been Editor-in-Chief of SMDP since 2014. Prior to working at SMDP he managed a chain of weekly papers...