Artificial Intelligence to Aid Taxi Drivers in Japan

Category: Technology/Innovations


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. detect / dɪˈtɛkt / (v) – to recognize something

    The app can detect a user’s location.

  2. forecast / ˈfɔrˌkæst / (n) – a prediction

    The manager will present the sales forecast for this period.

  3. precise / prɪˈsaɪs / (adj) – having the exact amount or figure

    We need to present precise computations of our expenses.

  4. dispatch / dɪˈspætʃ / (v) – to send quickly

    The cable company dispatched a repairman to the customer’s house.

  5. slump / slʌmp / (n) – a decline in activity

    The economy is recovering from a slump.


Read the text below.

NTT Docomo has conducted trials of a taxi system using artificial intelligence (AI), which can predict the number of passengers.

The mobile communications company set up an AI system to detect potential passengers in 30 minutes within a 500-square meter zone. The predictions are based on data gathered from 4,425 taxis, in addition to information such as weather, previous data on customers’ taxi bookings, and customer locations. Test drivers used tablets that generated new passenger data every 10 minutes. This allowed drivers to move their vehicles depending on the predicted demand.

According to Docomo, the AI system’s forecasts were more than 80% precise most of the time. One taxi driver, who participated in the trial, affirmed that his business improved by 20%. If the technology is successfully commercialized and becomes widespread, taxi companies could dispatch cars more efficiently, give their drivers more business opportunities, and provide faster service to customers.

Docomo’s technological advancements are expected to help the taxi industry in Japan overcome its slump. The industry suffered a 45% drop in the number of passengers during the last two decades in addition to a one-third drop in its revenue from its success in the early 1990s.

Another company in Japan has incorporated an AI system into its organization this year. In January, Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance Company in Tokyo started using an IBM Watson AI system, an innovation that processes and interprets data, to increase efficiency. However, implementing the system would mean that over 30 employees in the company would face layoffs as the system takes over organizing hospital records, medical histories of patients, and injury data.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• Do you think NTT Docomo’s AI system will encourage more people to use taxis? Why or why not?
• What are other improvements that can be made to NTT Docomo’s AI system?

Discussion B

• How can AI make transportation convenient for drivers?
• How can AI make transportation convenient for users of public transportation?