The future of transportation will be less congested if Xtelligent has its way. The startup was among those to pitch its ideas at a recent Demo Day put on by URBAN-X, the MINI-backed urban tech startup accelerator in Brooklyn, New York.
Xtelligent is described as an algorithm and artificial intelligence (AI) company that brings the latest innovations to roadways. It’s headquartered in Los Angeles and Scotland, and has projects underway in Colorado and California.
Michael Lim, Xtelligent’s co-founder, says research driving the technology has been funded by the National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Transportation and California Department of Transportation.
The U.S. Department of Energy recently awarded the startup $1.2 million over two rounds of funding to help commercialize the technology, Lim says. “Additionally, we have received investment from selected venture capital investors to accelerate our growth.”
The startup partnered with URBAN-X to accelerate the development and deployment of its technology. “We are not actively raising capital at the moment,” the co-founder says, “but URBAN-X is helping us to connect with strategic partners and investors to build relationships.”
“By connecting city intersections to the latest sensor technology, Xtelligent is powering the next step in connected, automated, intersection signal management, and laying the groundwork for the safe integration of multimodal transportation and automated vehicles,” according to the URBAN-X site.
Xtelligent explains on its website that 1970s-era technology regulates 98% of signalized intersections in the United States. Lim noted in his recent presentation that this is based on a simple timer: An approach that was invented when the horse and buggy roamed the streets.
“If you have waited at a red light as a pedestrian, driver or cyclist and wondered what you were waiting for, you were waiting on a timer.”
Xtelligent is developing traffic signal control technology that mimics how the internet controls data flow in its vast network. The decentralized/distributed approach allows for greater intelligence in how traffic signal networks manage timing on a real-time basis while also making traffic management systems cheaper, more scalable and resilient (from events such as crashes and cyber attacks), Lim says.
“Furthermore, there is opacity in traffic signal performance today, and we’re applying new techniques to give traffic engineers a way to measure traffic signal timing performance on a network level.”
While the company is using AI and machine-learning techniques, he adds, Xtelligent is doing so in a way where cause and effect can be understood by traffic engineers (rather than providing a black box algorithm that requires blind trust), and maintains privacy and security.
Xtelligent’s presentation at URBAN-X noted a 26% traffic reduction demonstrated in Colorado using its technology.
The work there has been in partnership with the state Department of Transportation and city of Greenwood Village. Lim says Xtelligent is solving the traffic management problem from the network-level perspective of the whole city rather than just a street or corridor.
The startup also is working with local officials in Fremont, California, on signal improvements and transportation connectivity. “They have been a critical leader in California in terms of thinking towards the future and enabling innovators to partner with them to build, test and demonstrate what technology can potentially do to help cities become more dynamic, livable and sustainable,” Lim says.
“Developing complex technology requires risk-taking, support and patience, and we wouldn’t be where we are without our government partners.”
Further, Xtelligent has just started work in Los Angeles in preparation for the 2028 Olympics.
Lim says there hasn’t been much news coverage of the startup’s efforts. “We’ve been semi-stealth.”
But he points to modeling completed at University of Southern California that shows “shows 50%-plus improvement in throughput performance” using Xtelligent’s approach, which also is more resilient to unplanned events such as a car crash.
“At Xtelligent, we are all mission-driven entrepreneurs committed to using technology to improve the sustainability and livability of cities and fight climate change,” Lim adds. “This is a passion project for us.”