TSA introduces artificial intelligence to decrease pat downs for travelers

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  • Published on March 13, 2023
  • Last Updated May 15, 2023
  • In Culture

To make things simpler for trans and nonbinary passengers, artificial intelligence algorithms have been implemented into body scanners.

From the hassle of getting through airport security, taking off your kicks to put them back on, removing your laptop and belongings, and having to rearrange your carry-on bag before rushing to your gate, it’s no secret that the entire process of flying can be nerve-racking. An added pointless pat down would be the awkward and intrusive icing on the cake, but it happens often.

Passengers can breathe a sigh of relief: the TSA has reported a decline in the number of passengers requiring a pat down as a result of the new artificial intelligence-based technology it has been utilizing over the past few months. The updated algorithm implemented in TSA’s body scanners aims to significantly reduce the number of false alarms that result in unnecessary pat downs, and thus represents an improvement.

In an effort to make the body scanning process more comfortable for transgender, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming visitors, a new algorithm was developed. In the past, scanners, or AIT as they are known in the industry, mainly depended on a gender binary to detect whether passengers were concealing contraband. If a security guard incorrectly identified a passenger’s gender, the system would send them through extra screening, which usually involved a pat down.

“TSA recognized a trend with false alarms at the Advanced Imaging Technology units and implemented an algorithm update on the nearly 1,000 deployed units to significantly reduce false alarms,” TSA spokesperson R. Carter Langston indicated in an emailed statement, according to the Condé Nast Traveler. Langston says that the latest algorithm has also been shown to reduce the number of pat downs for all passengers, making the security procedure more effective and minimally intrusive.

The Transportation Security Administration was given $18.6 million by Congress to finish creating, testing, and implementing the new algorithm. The upgraded body scanners are just one component of the agency’s initiative to make its screening procedures less prejudicial to one gender or another. Also, an ‘X’ gender option has been enabled to the TSA PreCheck application, and officers no longer ask about a passenger’s gender when they verify their identification (such as using a passport or driver’s license).

Midway through December, the new algorithm began rolling out to scanners, and it will continue to do so until the summer of 2023.