Google knows who drives what

DONALD Trump might drive around in a presidential limousine, but most of his followers have F250s, or similar vehicles.

How do we know that?

Google tells us so, thanks to AI, a clever algorithm properly known as a convolutional neural network, or CNN (no, not the TV one) or ConvNet. Take your pick.

A team at Stanford University is using Google Street View to predict election results based on the cars seen at various properties in the US.

Apart from the vast amount of information publicly available on Google, the team has found that people who vote Democrat tend to drive sedans, while those with Republican leanings favour pickup trucks.

The Stanford researchers started with an AI algorithm and trained it to recognise not just the difference between cars and trucks, but to break them down by make, model and year.

Once the AI tool was ready, the team employed it to analyse 50 million street view images.

It took just a fortnight to scan and classify more than 22 million vehicles across 200 cities, or roughly eight percent of all vehicles in the US. To put that into perspective, a human looking at each image for just 10 seconds would require 15 years to identify that many cars and trucks.

Moreover, the AI doesn’t just figure if it’s looking at a car or truck, but can spot minute details that many car enthusiasts wouldn’t notice, such as the different shaped taillights between a 2007 and a 2008 Honda Accord.

By comparing the wide-scale data with election results and census data, the team was then able to note clear correlations at even the most granular levels.

If sedans outnumber pickup trucks, there is an 88 percent chance a precinct votes Democratic, whereas if pickup trucks outnumber sedans, that chance becomes 82 percent Republican.

The researchers say the data is not a substitute for a comprehensive census poll, but they feel it’s an incredible tool and could replace polling in countries that can’t afford the expense of a western election.

Ultimately, the possibilities for uses of this data extend way beyond elections.

And you can bet your boots Donald Trump will have a pick-up or six parked somewhere on any of his many properties.

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