A group of Scientists recently developed an AI model which uses Google Street View photographs to determine startlingly accurate social insights about a geographic area. By looking at the cars we drive, the researchers’ deep learning network can determine a community’s racial, political, and economic makeup.
The research was conducted by scientists and based at Stanford university, using an AI training method called a convolutional neural network (CNN). This method involves creating a “gold standard” set of images, checked by humans, which are used to teach a computer how to classify new images on its own. In this case the machine was taught to look for vehicles and separate images of cars and trucks into 2,657 fine-grained categories.
Over a two week period the AI processed 50 million images from more than 200 cities in the US. The research resulted in the classification of more than 22 million individual vehicles.
The results were used to find the racial makeup, political tendencies, and other census-style demographics of individual areas by zip-code or precinct. In order to determine the level of accuracy the system had, the scientists compared their results with those gained from the American Community Survey (ACS).