WhatsApp meal orders on trains become a reality using AI chatbot

Fancy a meal on your next train? WhatsApp and AI-enabled chatbots could make this a future reality.

The Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) have announced that passengers on certain routes in New Delhi might soon be able to order food through a WhatsApp number, using an interactive Artificial Intelligence-enabled chatbot, capable of handling queries on e-catering and booking meals.

The IRCTC has confirmed it is already delivering meals on certain routes via WhatsApp in a statement released this week. The company has started e-catering services using a specially developed website www.catering.irctc.co.in as well its e-catering app ‘Food on Track’, it said.

The implementation of IRCTC’s e-catering services through WhatsApp is planned to be rolled out in two phases:

Phase 1

A business WhatsApp number sends a message to customers booking an e-ticket giving them the option to access the e-catering services by clicking on www.ecatering.irctc.co.in. Customers can then book meals of their choice from a selection of restaurants available at stations enroute directly through the website.

Phase 2

An interactive WhatsApp meal booking and delivery service is planned. As part of the plan, the WhatsApp number will be enabled to become an interactive two-way platform for customers whereby an AI-powered chatbot will manage all of the e-catering service requests and subsequently book meals for them.

Why does this matter?

The IRCTC has said that approximately 50,000 meals are currently being served in one day to customers through their e-catering services, enabled through its website and app. This is another huge leap for AI-powered technology and could become a game player in the continuing debate surrounding AI and its current capabilities and functionality.

The Global Railway Review have recently reported that AI technology is much more capable of raising the efficiency, flexibility and safety of railroad operations in general to an unprecedented level. Growing passenger numbers, complex route networks and tight timetables are challenges within railway operations that continue to increase. It is believed these could all be tackled with AI.

With the new possibilities offered by AI, the level of automation in all railroad operations is constantly increasing, which in turn boosts capacity, quality, and safety, which could increase the chance of a new era of unattended train operation on regular routes in the future.

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