Google has updated its Flights app with a pair of new features that should help weary (and wary) travelers get to grips with the next trip to the airport. The first uses machine learning to predict upcoming flight delays, and the second breaks down exactly what different airlines mean by "basic economy" -- explaining what amenities are and are not included in so-called last class.
Machine learning (ML) is the science of helping computers discover patterns and relationships in data instead of being manually programmed. It's a powerful tool for creating personalized and dynamic experiences, and it's already driving everything from Netflix recommendations to autonomous cars. But as more and more experiences are built with ML, it's clear that UXers still have a lot to learn about how to make users feel in control of the technology, and not the other way round. As was the case with the mobile revolution, and the web before that, ML will cause us to rethink, restructure, displace, and consider new possibilities for virtually every experience we build. In the Google UX community, we've started an effort called "human-centered machine learning" (HCML) to help focus and guide that conversation.
Uber wants to use machine learning to predict when a surge of people will be out looking for rides. The intention is to get more cabs on the road before surge pricing would normally kick in. That way, drivers will be ready and waiting for riders when the surge happens -- and riders won't be stuck waiting around. Here's how Jeff Schneider, the engineering leader of Uber's Advanced Technology Center, put it during a recent data technology conference: "This idea is if you can predict that demand, you get that information out there -- and you get that supply there ready for the demand so the surge pricing never even has to happen," he said, according to NPR. Uber already does this to some extent, but Schneider says that Uber wants "to find those Tuesday nights when it's not even raining and for some reason there's demand."
Uber is offering basic sign language lessons in its app, in an effort to support its deaf and hard of hearing drivers. Riders in North America will be able to see a card in the Uber app's messages section, offering to teach basic greetings such as "hello" and "thank you" in American Sign Language (ASL). SEE ALSO: 'See' sounds around you with these eyeglasses for the hard of hearing It'll also teach you how to sign your name in a sequence of videos, which is a pretty nifty addition. Uber, who has "thousands" of deaf drivers in the U.S. alone, says the new feature is in support of National Deaf Awareness Month, and it's certainly a step in the right direction. The company started including modifications to its UI for hard of hearing drivers back in 2015.