SEPTA to spot guns with artificial intelligence

SEPTA to spot guns with artificial intelligence

SEPTA subway cars stand on the Market-Frankford line in Philadelphia.

A new security measure is coming to the Market-Frankford line. Photo: Charles Mostoller/Bloomberg via Getty Images

SEPTA will soon begin using an artificial intelligence system that can detect people getting on trains and buses with guns.

Why it matters: There’s been a dramatic spike in violent crime aboard the public transit system.

  • Robberies and aggravated assault were up 80% from 2019 to 2021, and the agency’s longtime police chief retired suddenly early this year amid ongoing scrutiny over safety.

Driving the news: SEPTA is the U.S.’s first major transit system to test out the AI technology, known as ZeroEyes. It’s been deployed by the Pentagon as well as public schools, universities and Fortune 500 companies in more than 30 states, according to a SEPTA statement.

How it works: The company behind ZeroEyes was founded by former Navy SEALs who used hundreds of thousands of images and videos to train the AI system. It helps identify people carrying guns within three to five seconds.

  • Company staffers monitor and relay that information to police.
  • The technology doesn’t use facial recognition nor does it “receive, record, store or share videos or images of any person,” SEPTA said in the statement.

Zoom in: ZeroEyes will first be deployed at subway platforms on the Market-Frankford and Broad Street lines.

  • A shooting this month killed a 21-year-old man on a Broad Street line train near Fairmount Station.

What’s next: SEPTA expect to have ZeroEyes up and running in the next two months. If successful, the agency plans to expand the technology to other locations.

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