According to Play Store data, millions of Android users have downloaded and installed the Google Flights application. Available in 50 countries, Google Flights is the most popular app within the niche.
As stated on Upgrade Points, Google Flights is a meta search engine which allows users to search for, compare and purchase flights. It also tracks prices, shows different activities in various locations, as per user preferences, enables accommodation booking and more.
Via blog post written by Flights Product Managers, Anket Mathur and Grace Danciu, Google announced a new update. Flights has been updated with a few new features, but one stands out: the app’s AI can now predict flight delays.
The app is now using machine learning to predict delays. By combing through historical data of flight delays and searching for common patterns, the AI will, quite literally, be able to predict a flight delay – before an airline company.
“One of the most stressful parts of traveling happens between heading to the airport and waiting to board your flight, as you start checking to see if your flight is on time. Flights already shows delays, and now we’re sharing reasons for those delays and delay predictions too. Using historic flight status data, our machine learning algorithms can predict some delays even when this information isn’t available from airlines yet—and delays are only flagged when we’re at least 80 percent confident in the prediction,” Mathur and Danciu wrote.
Since the delays are only flagged when the app is at the very least 80 percent certain in the prediction, it’s safe to infer that this mechanism may prove to be effective.
Apart from this, the newest update is meant to improve travelling for those on a budget. Since fare types like “Basic Economy” can be quite confusing – as it is sometimes difficult to determine what different airlines offer in their basic packages – the AI will now comb through that data too, breaking down what exactly different airlines offer and providing the best deal to the user.
As The Verge‘s James Vincent puts it, “Over the past few years, companies have competed to offer the most basic possible service, stripping out things like baggage allowance and in-flight snacks to try to attract budget-conscious flyers. One upshot, though, has been that as airlines try to artfully disguise the spartan nature of their flights, it’s often not clear what exactly is on offer.”
Google’s product managers stress, these updates are meant to aid travelers and save time. With airline companies racing to the bottom, to offer the most basic possible service, these updates could turn out to be quite helpful.
Over the years, Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, and others have warned about the potential dangers of AI. Tesla’s CEO went as far as calling artificial intelligence an existential threat to humanity, The Guardian reported.
In the case of Google Flights, machine learning algorithms might actually help humanity and perhaps even force airline companies to reconsider their business practices. Only time will tell.