In Hong Kong’s subway, your boss is a computer

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Every night, the Hong Kong subway system undergoes maintenance and engineering repairs, just as does every other subway system in the world. Unlike the others, though, the HK subway’s engineering team has a unique supervisor. The world’s first artificially intelligent computer boss.

According to statistics, on a typical night after shutdown (around midnight local time), subway cars are serviced, track is inspected, updates are made, and repairs are conducted. A typical week sees about 10,000 workers carrying out 2,600 engineering tasks across the system. They communicate with a centralized hub which assigns tasks and prioritizes the work according to an assessment of need.

That hub is a computer AI and so far, it’s managed to make the Hong Kong subway the most respected in the world, with a 99.9 percent on-time record. That’s better than most Web hosts, boyfriends, and best pizza claims. It’s also far better than the record at London, New York, or any of a number of other subway systems globally.

The company that operates the AI, MTR, plans to roll it out in other markets soon, starting with Beijing.

The AI is credited with finding ways to consolidate work, combine efforts, and schedule things accordingly, making it more efficient and faster than when a human was in charge of the same overseer task. Humans can still intervene to add urgent repairs that come up unexpectedly, such as those that may happen when workers accidentally cause damage during a repair or find something unforeseen that needs attention.

Overall, the system has proven itself to be very effective. MTR plans to expand from Asia into Europe soon.

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