JJ Eden, executive director of North Carolina Turnpike Authority, points the way to a future where AI will continue to grow as a useful tool for transportation professionals – without taking over the world
With the emergence of Chat GPT, new discussions on AI and ML (artificial intelligence and machine learning) have emerged. One of the best side effects of technology is that it makes us think outside the box and perpetuates innovation by evaluating new processes or approaches. This new era of ML and AI has encouraged many to reconsider the question, what is ML/AI?
Simply put, AI is a computer that can be programmed with logic to follow workflows that humans typically do in a procedure or process. ML is a little more complex as it will learn how to use the data better to be more efficient, accurate and precise. If you have a procedural role in the workforce, you should expect your job to be impacted by AI.
“We have the opportunity to embrace AI, its benefits and protect ourselves from the inevitable bad actors”
Automation in the US began in the workplace after World War II when the US workforce was pushed to the limit. The 1980s produced the computer revolution that later facilitated the internet revolution. The internet significantly sped up the replacement of worker tasks by machines. These revolutions have impacted sectors of the workforce to varying degrees. Do not fear, we all still have careers because humans will always need to assist technology with validation.
With this in mind, we have the opportunity to embrace AI, its benefits and protect ourselves from the inevitable bad actors. But to do so, we need to understand how AI works and apply it in our industry and day-to-day work. In simple terms, whether using chatbots, AI to assist customers with opening a toll account, or mapping technology to offer commuters a shorter distance, we are utilizing these innovative tools daily. Mapping tech can also offer travelers different modes that may be shorter and produce less emissions.
Why is there so much hype now over ChatGPT? There are many reasons, but a key reason is the adoption rate has been steep and quick. While systems continue to learn, human interactions are required to make them more efficient, accurate and relevant in our world. Human validation of processes must continue to ensure that the technology is assisting the customer. There is a lot of math with AI, but unless you develop software with AI, you don’t have to be a data scientist to utilize these tools. To best utilize them, you need to understand your business data in as mu ch detail possible. In simple terms, know the data your business uses and understand what stakeholders use and how it helps them perform their jobs. It would be best to create journeys for your processes with a beginning, end, and purpose. If you have a vision and plan, AI is likely to improve business outcomes, drive more customers to your business applications, and allow them to self-serve.
For the naysayers out there, yes, there are bad actors in this technology, but isn’t that true with anything? The bad actors will always exist, which is why we need to apply these technologies to drive the business outcomes we desire for a better customer experience and more efficient operations. This article was not written using ChatGPT or AI, though it certainly could have been. This article is a combined effort using automation, the computer, and human intelligence and past lessons learned.
This article first appeared in the September 2023 edition of TTi magazine