Skip to Content
Artificial intelligence

AI is helping find lead pipes in Flint, Michigan

August 23, 2018

The algorithm is saving about $10 million as part of an effort to replace the city’s water infrastructure.

To catch you up: In 2014, Flint began getting water from Flint River rather than the Detroit water system. Mistreatment of the new water supply, combined with old lead pipes, created contaminated water for residents.

Solving the problem: Records that could be used to figure out which houses might be affected by corroded old pipes were missing or incomplete. So the city turned to AI. Using 71 different pieces of information—like the age or value of the home—Georgia Tech researchers developed an algorithm that predicted whether or not a home was connected to lead pipes.

The improvement: Before the software was implemented, only 20 percent of the pipes dug up needed replacement. By contrast, the list of lead pipe locations generated by the software has a 97 percent success rate. This huge jump in accuracy is saving the city enough time and money to remediate an additional 2,000 homes.

Deep Dive

Artificial intelligence

What does GPT-3 “know” about me? 

Large language models are trained on troves of personal data hoovered from the internet. So I wanted to know: What does it have on me?

An AI that can design new proteins could help unlock new cures and materials 

The machine-learning tool could help researchers discover entirely new proteins not yet known to science.

DeepMind’s new chatbot uses Google searches plus humans to give better answers

The lab trained a chatbot to learn from human feedback and search the internet for information to support its claims.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.