Shark Tank boss pledges unprecedented €1.3 million for AI ‘traffic brain’

AI visionary Alexiei Dingli wins over Mark Bajada with digital traffic brain that can analyse hundreds of traffic camera feeds and take instant decisions to alleviate traffic woes

Alexiei Dingli walks onto Shark Tank Malta... and nabs a €1.3 million investment
Alexiei Dingli walks onto Shark Tank Malta... and nabs a €1.3 million investment

One of Malta’s foremost proponents of Artificial Intelligence, Prof. Alexiei Dingli, walked away from Shark Tank Malta with an unprecedented €1.3 million in pledged investment from clean energy entrepreneur Mark Bajada.

The former Valletta mayor won over Bajada Investments’ founder with his proposal for a digital brain to be integrated in the national traffic control system. Only China, Dingli said, has a similar system.

Dingli started off with a startling pitch: announcing that in the opening seconds of entering the Shark Tank, two traffic fatalities had taken place somewhere in the world. “It’s not only costing us time… but also lives.”

Dingli said Malta in 2024 would suffer €400 million in costs associated with traffic, such as lost time for businesses or environmental consequences. “The current solutions today are made up of camera feeds and sensors going to a control room full of people trying to make sense of that… with hundreds of cameras, this doesn’t make sense.”

Instead Dingli and his team wants to develop an integrated AI system that analyses the traffic from the circa 400 camera feeds in Malta, and which takes the decisions and inferences to propose solutions - that can be scaled up to many other systems across Europe.

Dingli says a centralised AI system can balance out the type of routes proposed by social media apps, because it takes into consideration incoming traffic from all other roads.

He said the system can partner with Google Maps, by offering the analytics that balances out all the traffic pressures happening on all Maltese roads. “Interventions to alleviate traffic, such as closing a tidal lane or traffic light operation, are currently done by human interventions. The AI system can take into consideration the entire road network and take decisions from its total analysis.”

Dingli said the biggest challenge for his project is scaling up the project for servers that can process all the data from hundreds of cameras - an additional €1 million alone for data servers.

He estimated revenues of €500,000 in the first year, doubling each year, whetting the appetite of the Sharks with prospects for scaling up the software for other European cities.

Mark Bajada was won over, albeit with a dose of caution. “In the absence of the financial data, but in full trust of your legacy, I would give you €1 million for a 50% share, with my team responsible for commercialisation and internationalisation while you handle execution. And I’d add another €300,000 in working capital.”

Dingli immediately replied with a ‘yes’, saying he would be honoured to be part of Bajada’s journey in business.

In a first reaction on Facebook, chuffed Dingli gave Bajada a heartfelt thanks for believing in his vision to create a digital traffic brain to alleviate traffic woes.

“Your investment is much more than financial support; it’s a vote of confidence in a future where technology and smart solutions pave the way for smoother, more efficient roads. Together, we’re not just tackling traffic but driving towards innovation and positive change.

“This journey has been a dream, and seeing it become a reality is a testament to the power of collaboration and shared vision. Thank you, Mark, and to everyone who’s been part of this adventure. Here’s to a future with less congestion and more connectivity!”

Mark Bajada produced the first solar panels in Malta in the 1990s, before the alternative source of energy was yet popular. Since then, he has developed the first solar farm and the first solar road. Today Bajada is known as a leader in Malta’s renewable energy sector, with ventures in engineering, hospitality and elderly care, including his programme to open new dementia day care centres.