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AI China Technology

The AI Boss That Deploys Hong Kong's Subway Engineers 162

Posted by samzenpus
from the running-on-time dept.
Taco Cowboy writes The subway system in Hong Kong has one of the best uptimes: 99.9%, which beats London's tube or NYC's sub hands down. In an average week as many as 10,000 people would be carrying out 2,600 engineering works across the system — from grinding down rough rails to replacing tracks to checking for damages. While human workers might be the ones carrying out the work, the one deciding which task is to be worked on, however, isn't a human being at all. Each and every engineering task to be worked on and the scheduling of all those tasks is being handled by an algorithm. Andy Chun of Hong Kong's City University, who designed the AI system, says, "Before AI, they would have a planning session with experts from five or six different areas. It was pretty chaotic. Now they just reveal the plan on a huge screen." Chun's AI program works with a simulated model of the entire system to find the best schedule for necessary engineering works. From its omniscient view it can see chances to combine work and share resources that no human could. However, in order to provide an added layer of security, the schedule generated by the AI is still subject to human approval — Urgent, unexpected repairs can be added manually, and the system would reschedule less important tasks. It also checks the maintenance it plans for compliance with local regulations. Chun's team encoded into machine readable language 200 rules that the engineers must follow when working at night, such as keeping noise below a certain level in residential areas. The main difference between normal software and Hong Kong's AI is that it contains human knowledge that takes years to acquire through experience, says Chun. "We asked the experts what they consider when making a decision, then formulated that into rules – we basically extracted expertise from different areas about engineering works," he says.
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The AI Boss That Deploys Hong Kong's Subway Engineers

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 07, 2014 @08:54AM (#47399137)

    What we see now are the first steps towards making a big chunk of management obsolete. Expert systems are well on their way to out-compete managers who in many situations cannot make decisions of the same quality as an AI. Or to put it differently: An AI can make better decisions than a human in many areas. And in these areas humans (managers) will not be able to compete.

  • Re:Expert System (Score:4, Interesting)

    by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Monday July 07, 2014 @10:35AM (#47399945)

    I don't even know if I'd classify something like this as "AI". It's just running an algorithm using lots of information and doing complex calculations. Way more complex than any person could do, but they are not the kind of actions I would generally consider "intelligent".

    It is a curse for the field of AI that it's generally defined quite vaguely as "trying to do things in computers that humans do better than computers". Why, so many things people consider "not AI" today are commonplace precisely because AI researchers dedicated a lot of their time to solving them! Once you solve an AI problem, in minds of many people, it ceases to be not only a problem, but also a matter for AI. The area in question is known as "automated planning and scheduling", and the reason why you don't think it should be classified as AI is to a large extent because it was the AI researchers who largely solved it back in the 1970s or so.

  • Re:So... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Charliemopps (1157495) on Monday July 07, 2014 @01:22PM (#47401617)

    But still you can have 2 tickets and due to traffic you can get to one site right away and the other will take 1 hour to get to but after going to one site traffic frees up and you can get to that 1 hour site in to 10-20 min.

    that's of minor concern. You need to understand how this stuff was done prior to these systems.

    15yrs ago, the tech would drive into work, pick up a stack of work orders off a printer, get in his van and head out in whichever route he thought best. You'd not see the guy for 4hrs, then he'd head back in, grab another stack and so on.

    Now he doesn't even come in. He just looks at his phone and heads to the specified location. The phone even links the location to google maps. Now he can't get lost. The app tells the office where he's at, not that they care... but if he's been on the same ticket for 6hrs they can see he's at the house or if he stopped by a local lake to do some fishing which is something that actually happened quite frequently prior to dispatching software. I used to have to schedule dispatches with other companies we did buisness with and it was common back in the 90s for the tech not to show up on time so, if they were on main street or near the center of town, I'd have the customer stick their head out the front door and look for the techs van. They'd often be at a local don-nut shop or bar waiting for the appointment and get too busy chatting. The customer would have to run down and get them. It was insanely frustrating. Now the dispatcher can update the ticket and make the techs phone chirp.

    Traffic delays aren't that big of a deal in comparison.

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