Image credit: Alibaba

Alibaba Cloud, the cloud-computing unit of Alibaba, rolled out today version 2.0 of its urban traffic-management system City Brain in its home city Hangzhou at The Computing Conference, which welcomed 120k visitors this year. Started as a service to solve suffocating traffic, the company expects the program to tackle more problems for modern cities.

First launched in September 2016, City Brain is mainly used to improve traffic flows, make live traffic predictions, and detect traffic incidents using data from video footage, traffic bureaus, and public transportation systems. After two years, Hangzhou, the first city to embrace the system, dropped from the 5th to the 57th spot on the list for China’s most congested cities, according to the company.

The latest version is expected to monitor and control the city’s traffic at a larger scale and with more accuracy. Hangzhou City Brain 2.0 now covers a core area of 42 square kilometers in downtown Hangzhou, while the traffic violations are reported with 95% accuracy. The system has over 110 autonomous alert capabilities and 1300 traffic signals that are controlled by AI, according to Jing Zhi, deputy chief of the Zhejiang Provincial Public Security Department. Over 200 traffic policemen are available through the platform to attend to traffic emergencies.

In a live demonstration at the event, a local police officer reported the real-time traffic conditions of the city. “Enabled by City Brain, we can monitor the vehicles in real time, whether it’s in motion or stationary. It’s an amazing thing for a city to have knowledge of specific numbers about on-road vehicles in real time,” said Simon Hu, President of Alibaba Cloud.

In addition to traffic management, the program is also available for the city’s rescue and firefighting team to identify and monitor fire emergencies timely. The system will help to clear out firefighters’ path and prepare them for on-site situations of the emergency spot. In a high-risk scenario like this, advanced technology support not only increases efficiencies but also save lives.

Alibaba has introduced City Brain to Chinese cities like Hangzhou, Suzhou, and Guangzhou, as well as overseas cities in Malaysia. But the tech giant is taking a step further from powering existing cities to shaping our cities for the future. Based on previous experiences, Alibaba has set up a city planning lab with the municipality of XiongAn, is another new area of “national significance” for China, to help its transformation to a digital city. Yang Baojun, President of the China Academy of Urban Planning and Design, says that every level of change in the city will be reflected upon big data and AI.

Emma Lee (Li Xin) was TechNode's e-commerce and new retail reporter until June 2022, when she moved to Sixth Tone to cover technology and consumption. Get in touch with her via or Twitter.

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