It’s an issue for cities across America: cars parked in bus lanes when they shouldn’t be.

Now, new AI camera technology is letting the buses themselves write tickets instantly.

Santa Monica recently tested the technology with their Big Blue Bus Line.

Last year, they provided 7.7 million trips, but not all were on schedule due to cars improperly parked or stopped in dedicated bus lanes.

“The question becomes how do we and other cities keep vehicles that should not be in the transit lane out of the lane,” said Robert McCall, who oversees Community Engagement for the City of Santa Monica.

Robert McCall

Santa Monica is among a growing number of cities exploring the use of AI cameras that can spot violations and issue tickets instantly.

As buses drive their routes, special cameras capture the license plates of cars that shouldn’t be parked or stopped where they are.

“Our cameras are able to be accurate to within 10 centimeters, we know if a vehicle is moving or whether a vehicle is stopped,” said Charlie Territo with Hayden AI, a startup developing smart enforcement technologies.

Already, their cameras are installed in buses in New York City and soon, Washington, DC.

Two special cameras installed on the windshield capture what’s happening ahead in the bus lane. That information is sent to a computer box installed on the bus, which uses AI to process what’s happening in the photos, flag the cars that are breaking the rules and generate reports cities can use to issue tickets in near real time.

Charles Territo

During Santa Monica’s 45-day pilot, the system identified more than 500 potential violations. Each fine is nearly $300 dollars.

“We don’t make any more or any less depending on the number of violations that are captured,” said Territo.

While it seems like AI might be an excuse to print money, cities say the real point is to get buses moving, reduce emissions and entice more people to ride.

“Our goal is not to issue citations, but our goal is to change behavior,” said McCall.

Santa Monica still hasn’t decided if they’ll actually implement this technology, but it paves the way for a bigger trend in the future where AI will write tickets automatically when people break the rules.