AI in the News

USC student's computer program enlisted in security efforts at LAX

Program developed by a USC student is intended to thwart terrorists by making the frequency of searches unpredictable.

"The doctoral dissertation of a 26-year-old USC computer science student is having an unusual effect on security and transportation at Los Angeles International Airport. That's because the LAX police are giving a trial run to a new computer program that, they say, seeks to keep potential terrorists and criminals constantly uncertain about where, when and how often vehicles will be searched at airport entrances. The software is based on the thesis of Praveen Paruchuri, who earned his doctorate in May. ... Citing security concerns, Butts declined to discuss specifics of the program and its complicated algorithms other than to say it affects police deployment and the frequency of car searches in a way that 'makes it virtually impossible to predict where resources might be deployed.' It not only takes away the routine behavior that terrorists might study and take advantage of, it also designs schedules more likely to catch criminal behavior, [James] Butts said. ... LAX's adoption of Paruchuri's work is 'something that we, as researchers, dream of: creating research that is not only academically wonderful but something that is also very useful,' [Milind] Tambe said. Although engineers in artificial intelligence often are inspired by thinking about what robots will do on Mars in 50 years, Tambe said, 'This is not planet Mars. This is planet Earth, and we are being useful right here and right now.'"

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