Transport for NSW integrates with Alexa

New service provides access to real-time transport data

Transport for New South Wales has released a new ‘skill’ for Amazon’s voice-powered Alexa virtual assistant that gives users access real-time train, ferry and light rail arrival information.

The service does not currently provide bus information.

The new service is based on the department’s RITA service — Real-time Intelligent Transport Assistant. RITA is a chatbot launched by Transport for NSW in September. Initially the service supported Facebook Messenger and desktop web browsers, but it has since expanded to Google Assistant.

“We recognise that the information landscape is shifting towards voice services, which is why we have been so quick to adopt and innovate in this space,” said Transport for NSW deputy secretary, customer services, Tony Braxton-Smith.

“We see RITA’s transport service disruption information as a perfect match with Alexa.”

Transport for NSW said RITA allows Alexa to answer questions such as “What’s my morning commute like?”

“In NSW, we know transport is no longer just about building infrastructure and running services, but embracing new technology to provide the best services for our customers,” Braxton-Smith said.

“RITA began as an interactive chatbot on Facebook Messenger. Now RITA has evolved to become an essential component of digital assistant products like Alexa.”

Braxton-Smith said that the new offering was an example of Transport for NSW’s focus on digital products, which also includes the ongoing trial of contactless payments for the Manly ferry, OpalPay (the ability to use Opal cards on privately operated transport services), and its open data portal.

“As it stands, our open data website has served over 1 billion API hits,” Braxton-Smith said. “This type of innovation is now part and parcel of travelling in Sydney, it would be hard to imagine your daily bus or train ride to work without real-time transport apps.”

Amazon earlier this month announced that three Alexa-enabled, voice-controlled speakers — Echo, Echo Dot and Echo Plus — were available for pre-order in Australia.

Major Australian enterprises have launched skills for the virtual assistant service, including Qantas, NAB, Westpac, EnergyAustralia and AGL.

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