The media love a good AI story these days. And I don’t mean news stories generated by AI, but news stories about AI.

At the beginning of the year, First Bus trumpeted its use of AI to improve punctuality, with media stories explaining how teaming up with tech company Prospective had achieved “20% more punctuality during some peak periods”. Mainstream media lapped it up with headlines suggesting this would end the practice of “three buses turning up at once”, as BBC News mischievously headlined the story.

However, when you look behind the headlines, all is not what it seems. Far from giving passengers a regular service on which they can rely, AI’s processing powers analysing the actual progress of thousands of journeys on the road results in a complete mishmash of a timetable which is about as irregular as you can get. When you couple this with the promise AI enables the company to “alter timetables more often if needed ... making automatic adjustments on any given day if required by road congestion, which helps to prevent bus services bunching up”, its a recipe for confusing passengers who’ll be unaware when the bus is supposed to run, even if the company reckons it’s running punctually and on time. Well, that’s not surprising if the timetable has been “automatically adjusted” to be in line with the irregular running.

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