Autonomous trams to chatbots: AI increasing its role in rail

- Potsdam, Germany
Siemens has developed AI tech that makes the roads safer

Though it is now somewhat less of a bold vision than when first brought to the public’s attention, artificial intelligence (AI) – in short, computers making decisions that would otherwise be the preserve of humans – has very much arrived and the smart money says it will very much be part of the future.

However, it is one thing AI governing the quality of a photo as it does on Huawei’s latest phone, or playing chess guided by the power of Google’s DeepMind operating system, but quite another when life itself could literally depend on it. That’s certainly the case in transport and while 2013's and 2016's crashes in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, and Bavaria, Germany, are incredibly rare, errors can prove catastrophic. And while you will see here that AI-enabled systems do indeed have the power to control vehicles, we also shine a light on the other forms of tech that don't have such a heavy burden of responsibility on them, protecting revenue and reliability rather than against the threat of a major emergency.

Siemens used AI for its latest tramLaunched officially in Potsdam during last year’s nearby InnoTrans show, Siemens showed what could be achieved by AI with a new breed of tram that can avoid the threat faced by tram drivers on a daily basis: people walking in front of a moving vehicle. The German manufacturer’s AI Combino tram can come to an abrupt stop should something cross its path thanks to a host of sensors, lasers and cameras that help make the kind of split-second decisions that elude humans. It’s still in development phase but it surely has a great deal to offer the wider autonomous vehicle market that is building pace at an impressive rate of knots.

Tickets and booking

Trainline aggregates train information for its latest serviceTrawling every one of the roughly 500 million daily tweets for useful information is a task beyond that of any human, which is why Trainline is using the power of AI to do it . The transport ticketing company is using a system to help make journeys smoother for passengers by aggregating rail disruption information from Twitter in order of importance. Trainline then takes that info and matches it with Google Assistant users asking for specific travel-related questions, such as: ‘Are there train delays tonight?’ or 'Is the weather affecting services?'

With other train-related tech that relies on the human voice, SmartRail World recently reported about Virgin Trains’ Amazon Alexa ticketing system service that enables those with special requirements to book not just tickets but also platform assistance. Though not singled out by the train operator for its AI capabilities, news from the shopping giant Amazon has separately launched Alexa Hunches, a feature that promises to use “deep neural networks and machine learning” to remind home owners to complete tasks that may have slipped their memory, such as locking the front door or turning off lights. So, perhaps that signals further room for improving the voice-activated service.

About SmartRail World

SmartRail World LogoThe hub of our global community, SmartRail World is the online home of cutting edge rail and metro technology. Since our launch in Summer 2013, we’ve had a focus on the growth of digital technology within the industry – from signalling and telecommunications to fare collection and passenger experience. We are relentlessly focused on the future, as are our global community. Our readers come to us to learn about the latest industry news trends and developments, and how they can use them on their own rail and metro networks or with their products and services.

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