Taxi company hails 'robot' bookings

An Australian taxi company has employed a voice recognition technology system to take bookings, but officials say no human staff will be made redundant as a result

Later this month, Regent Taxis plans to have implemented a natural language speech recognition (NLSR) system provided by Sydney-based voice recognition developer VeCommerce, enabling the taxi company to process bookings without a human operator.

The NLSR system understands caller requests by recognising familiar patterns in a caller's voice, according to VeCommerce.

Regent said it would pay the technology company a fixed (undisclosed) fee for every booking placed via its NLSR technology.

The per-booking cost of using the VeCommerce technology was lower than the equivalent cost of employing a "human operator", VeCommerce managing director Paul Magee said. He said call centres that processed "routine transactions" typically had high staff turnover. His company's technology could be used to replace "natural attrition", he said.

However, Regent general manager John Foley said no staffing cutbacks would occur as a result of the new technology. He said the demand for taxi bookings on the Gold Coast was erratic because it was a prime tourist location. Regent would use the VeCommerce technology only to assist staff during unexpected peaks in demand, he said.

Magee said the technology company planned to "eventually" process around 90 per cent of Regent's 220,000 monthly bookings. VeCommerce would soon launch a campaign to sign up as many Australian taxi companies as possible to forge similar arrangements.

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