Introduction: Artificial Intelligence and Bus Transportation
Artificial intelligence and bus transportation: Bus transportation has been critical to keeping some of the world’s major cities running. Alongside other means of public transportation such as subways, buses move millions of people every single day.
Despite proving reasonably efficient and reliable, few transportation experts would say the current system of bus transportation is perfect. Artificial intelligence technology (AI) has the potential to revolutionize bus travel by combining the efficiency of technology with human-like thought processes in real time.
Worldwide, AI is already being introduced successfully into bus transportation systems. This type of technology has shown its potential to transform the commuter experience by making ticketing more efficient, improving route planning and buses, and improving crowd management.
Also Read: Artificial Intelligence and Air Travel
AI and a Better Ticketing Experience
Cities around the world have been using travel card technologies to make ticketing for buses more efficient. The queues at the door of a bus with people lining up to pay a fare with correct change are almost entirely a thing of the past.
However, in some cases, the cues have only moved from the bus door to ticketing machines where commuters need to load their metro cards with credit. Traditional ticketing, even though modernized, continues to cause delays to bus travel.
Also Read: Artificial Intelligence and Urban Design
AI applications have the potential to smooth the experience. As the application learns about the frequency of a person’s bus travel, it can predict their spending – and their need to add credit to a ticketing app. Consumers can then top up before they set off and avoid delays to their journey.
In addition, as AI-based technologies continue to expand their capabilities, it is not unthinkable that passengers no longer need to swipe a card at all. Instead, biometrics like fingerprints or facial recognition technology might connect directly to their account and take payment for the journey.
Also Read: What are smart cities?
AI and Better Route Planning
In most cities, bus routes have developed historically as a reaction to the population’s needs. For example, if a large new housing development is created on the eastern edge of the city, existing bus routes will be extended or new bus routes created.
But which solution is better – the extension of an existing route or the launch of a new one? Artificial intelligence technology can answer those questions by analyzing vast amounts of historic and current passenger data. Based on this foundation, AI-based applications then model different solutions and predict how they would affect schedules and efficiencies.
Also Read: Self taught AI will be the end of us
Of course, experienced transportation managers can answer the question based on their experience. However, a human would need years, if not decades, to acquire the knowledge a computer can learn in hours. Plus, AI is able to analyze vast quantities of data faster than a human can.
This does not mean that technology will render humans superfluous anytime soon. AI continues to learn from human behavior. To make decisions quickly, computers need to understand how humans make decisions. That means, the thought processes of managers need to be coded into the AI software and double-checked for their validity.
Also Read: Blind robot that can run
Better connections go hand-in-hand with improved route planning. No passenger likes to reach a connection point only to find out that their next bus left one minute ago, and they need to wait for 30 minutes.
The same is true for so-called bus bunching when three buses for identical routes arrive at the same time to pick up five passengers. Bus bunching not only leads to passengers shaking their heads at bus stops. More importantly, it wastes company resources, including the drivers’ time and fuel.
Also Read: AI and Weapons Of The Future
To address this issue and others related to scheduling and timetables, the Hong Kong-based Kowloon Motor Bus Company introduced scheduling and timetabling algorithms based on AI. This new approach has helped the business optimize duty assignments and timetables in seconds. This type of work would take human traffic planners several hours. The planners now use their time to evaluate the AI’s results. Customer journeys have become smoother as a result.
AI and Crowd Management
Route planning and improved connections impact crowd management. Few things are more annoying for bus commuters than waiting at a crowded bus stop in the rain only for the bus arriving to be full already.
Also Read: Redefining Art with Generative AI
AI technology can put a stop to that scenario by evaluating how many passengers normally use a route at a given time and predicting how many vehicles will be needed. Should there be a sudden change on a particular route, perhaps because of a one-off event, AI would be able to model the consequences. The technology can then predict accurately how many additional vehicles need to service that route.
AI and Better Busses
Mention AI technology and bus travel and thoughts will turn immediately to autonomous buses. The idea of self-driving buses may not be as farfetched as it sounds. Whilst accidents involving autonomous vehicles of any kind tend to generate breath-taking headlines, statistics show that so-called human error is more frequent than system failures.
Also Read: AI disrupting trucking industry
Several Asian cities have trialed self-driving buses since 2015. Those vehicles use a master controller computer, backed up by cameras and radar technology to “read” the traffic around them. AI analyzes traffic conditions, pedestrians, and the behavior of other vehicles to determine the actions of the autonomous bus.
Cities around the U.S. are testing beta models. The self-driving buses in Asia still have a driver on board, but the human is effectively there as a backup to take over when problems occur. Experts believe that autonomously controlled buses are likely to be safer and more efficient in terms of gas usage and emissions.
Also Read: AI and Power Grids.
Another area in which AI is shaping better buses is the development of electric buses. Electric buses benefit the environment through lower emissions, but the major challenge remains the same as with any electric vehicle. Battery life and recharging technology need to be carefully managed.
For bus transportation, the main question is whether to charge in-house, during the vehicle’s downtime, or on-route. The answer will be determined in part by the availability of charging stations. However, AI can help determine and predict energy use in different weather and traffic conditions, for example. The technology analyzes and evaluates more data faster than a human could, allowing it to predict battery life and the need to recharge.
Also Read: China is using AI in classrooms
AI and Predictive Maintenance
Buses break down for any number of reasons, but AI can help prevent the inconvenience caused by these events. By analyzing how frequently a certain type of vehicle breaks down because of a given reason, AI-based software can then create a schedule of pre-emptive checks and maintenance.
Rather than rushing to fill a gap created by a broken-down vehicle, transport managers can plan ahead and avoid problems before they occur.
Also Read: AI global arms race
Artificial intelligence technology has huge potential to improve and transform bus travel in the future. As the world’s population continues to grow, so does the importance of mass transportation.
Over the next few decades, buses throughout the world’s major cities need to accommodate more passengers. At the same time, transport managers have to plan for increasing fuel costs and customers looking for a more convenient, sustainable method of transportation.
Also Read: AI ethics and laws
AI can help transform bus transportation through unmatched data analysis and accurate predictions when it comes to route planning and crowd management. Technology can help buses run more efficiently, minimizing fuel consumption and emissions. Most importantly, AI has the potential to create seamless journeys from the initial ticketing experience to a trip across town with multiple connections.