Trains with brains – that’s what Railway Minister Piyush Goyal believes the use of artificial intelligence can mean for the Indian Railways network. Addressing a conference on artificial intelligence (AI), Goyal told a big group of railway employees to brace innovation and look to create an Indian Railways of the future. The railway minister asked the 1.3 million railway employees family not to fear AI, but to use it to the advantage of the Indian Railways network – from safety, passenger amenities, growth efficiency to better revenues and cost effectiveness, Goyal said that the possibilities are endless. “How we can serve our passengers better, how our freight customers can be happier, how can we expand capacity without investing thousands and lakhs of crores of rupees, how we can make passengers feel safe, how we can improve the security of our women travellers, can we monitor cleanliness, quality of catering, toilets – how can we harness artificial intelligence for social and economic good,” Goyal urged railway employees to ideate.
“Can Railways be the first large organisation in India, particularly in the government sector, to embrace artificial intelligence and see how every activity that we do be done smarter,” he asked. “We as railway family, if we look at our own organization, I think there is huge amount of opportunities for Artificial intelligence to help us serve the people of India better, help us become an engine of growth that the nation looks up to the railways to be. In two words, we are possibly talking about trains with brains, in a sense, what we are doing is done slightly smarter, slightly more intelligently, we can transform the Indian Railways,” Goyal said.
Giving the example of Google Maps, Goyal explained how data can be intelligently used to estimate the time taken to travel from one point to the other. From the Indian Railways perspective, Goyal said, “We are creating so much data which is completely useless. A data which is not used is criminal because it costs the Railways and all the employees management bandwidth. The kind of data overdose that I am seeing in Indian Railways is actually harmful for our system. We can put the data to use with the help of AI, and it’s just a program which uses available data in a structured manner, superimposes it with history and historical perspective.”
“We can transform Indian Railways into the world’s best railways and the kind of people we have in railways – I have been engaging with many in Delhi and across zones – I find a team of highly competent experts in their field. Possibly, we need to go just a little beyond, scratch the surface of the 1.3 million rail family employees, believe me we can do wonders with the talent that we have in our organisation. All of us our willing to support any of these good new ideas, we are hungry for your involvement,” Goyal said. “Imagine the collective might of 1.3 million brains working for better trains – we can move mountains if you ask me,” he said expressing confidence.
The conference on AI was organised by Centre for Railway Information System (CRIS). Indian Railways is looking to make use of AI for asset maintenance, process optimization and to enhance customer experience.