Public transport plays a big part in our daily life. Taking Hong Kong as an example, around 8.93 million passenger journeys are made on a public transport system every day. Public transport is not as easy as travelling from one spot to another. Any negative experience on transport will result in undesirable consequences on mental health, physical health, productivity, and many more. The transport sector is insightful with advanced technologies. They have been consistently improving their value to the passengers.
5 Common Public Transportation Challenges
1. Customer experience
Regardless of the industries, there are common demands on customer experience: more convenience, comfort, and personalisation. Moreover, for commuters, the last thing they want to encounter is the crowded environment. Commuters wish for as minor crowding as possible within the vehicle. This solution is not straightforward since the challenge is about balancing optimum capacity utilisation and the best possible customer comfort.
Despite customer experience, efficiency is another highly concerning challenge. Any failure or delay will break the chain and results in chaos in the system. One common issue affecting the system's effectiveness is a delay in service, which affects hundreds or thousands of commuters. As reported by Network Rail, nearly 60% of passenger delays are caused by rail companies. The report indicates the potential of upgrading the overall effectiveness of the system at the company's side.
In 2018, the UK lost £8 billion from congestion, a considerable amount of money. Besides economic loss, congestion is also causing a reduction in productivity as people are in the middle of the roads and can't go elsewhere. To add with, being stuck in traffic places mental impacts on people, increasing people's stress level and anxiety. Transport companies, therefore, must attempt to reduce the occurrence and influence of congestion.
4. Fraud and security
Fare evasion is a problem for every transport company. Some companies are facing a severe fraud issue. The French RATP suffered from a loss of 171 million euros in revenue due to fraud. The amount is equivalent to 23 metro trains or 475 buses. While transport companies are losing money, the customers are also losing their comfort and trust in the transport service based on fare evasion. A survey suggests that 77% of respondents proclaimed that they were irritated by fraud. To improve customer satisfaction with transport services, the transport companies must seek a solution to resolve the fraud issue.
According to the United Nations, the transport sector, including public transport, individual cars and more, is one of the top consumers of fossil fuels. This sector is responsible for about a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions. The transport sector is a significant contributor to air and noise pollution, which people shouldn't ignore.
How is AI helping to address these problems?
Passenger flow optimisation
One of the ways to enhance customer experience is by eliminating the overcrowded situation in the transport system. It is about matching public transport schedules with passenger demand. To correctly understand and predict passenger demand, people utilise the data analytics ability of AI.
Passenger demand can be derived from information collected from different sources, such as the real-time number of passengers which sensors and cameras can provide. Moreover, to obtain a precise prediction from the AI system, we must also enrich the system with situation factors, such as weather conditions and period of the week. The data with a wide variety helps AI creates a big picture of the entire transport system for better decision making.
Other than predicting the current passenger demand, AI can also give suggestions on transportation management. The possible advice can be increasing the frequency or offering an additional vehicle. The essential function of AI is responding immediately to slight changes in the complete transport system. It facilitates better resources management with assured accuracy, time effectiveness and efficiency. That can be both a solution to customer experience and sustainability.
AI-driven security camera
Public transport is not always safe. ONDRP suggests that 51% of women and 38% of men feel insecure when using public transport. Due to limitations on personnel, complete and always on-call surveillance in the transport system is impossible. AI with computer vision is a reliable assistant on guidance on transport system security. People train AI to recognise and report potential danger in a desirable manner. For other times at work, personnel can focus on more valuable tasks and respond to security affairs only when necessary.
Other than protection purposes, AI-driven cameras can also be used for fraud prevention. A well-trained AI can easily detect and differentiate people who attempt to access turnstile abnormally, while staff may not since staff members may always need to multitask at work.
What is happening in the future?
The concept of driverless buses is not recent. The idea has been introduced since people started automating every process in our lives. What's behind every driverless vehicle are numerous sensors, cameras, GPS technology and, of course, an AI to transform data into useful information for making driving decisions. Driverless buses are determined to carry passengers to their destination automatically with a promised level of safety and efficiency. Since the launch of the first driverless bus in the French city of Lyon in 2016, many transport companies worldwide have followed the trend to invest in their driverless vehicles.
Touch-less user experience
Touch-less is an emerging feature in many sectors which can improve efficiency and effectiveness with speech recognition ability in AI. In the transport sector, speech recognition is used experimentally in vending machines and elevators. The Shanghai subway has automated ticket vending machines, which is supported by voice and facial recognition technologies. Besides, people also implement speech recognition in elevators to eliminate the control panel. The touch-less experience will be beneficial to smoothen and shorten the time of processes and facilitate the usability to visually impaired people.
Optimizing passenger transportation flow with AI - MaxinAI
5 Public Transportation Challenges - And Their Solutions! (gunneboentrancecontrol.com)
Hong Kong: The Facts - Transport (www.gov.hk)
WHITE PAPER: How AI and IoT can reshape public transit in the Covid era | Traffic Technology Today
Benefits of AI in the public transport industry - Deepomatic
LUMINATOR - Artificial intelligence in public transport
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