Google Assistant Now Estimates Flight Delays

Google Flights earlier this year began providing estimated flight delays in addition to official flight status notices from the airlines. The estimates are based on “historic flight status data combined with machine learning to make these predictions in advance of airlines confirming delays” and is only presented to users when the system is 85% confident of the result. That capability is currently rolling out in Google Assistant according to a company blog post today. According to the post:

“To help with the increase in delayed flights this time of year, the Google Assistant now shows you predicted flight delays, too. You can ask things like, ‘Hey Google, is my flight on time?’ or ‘Hey Google, what’s the status of the American Airlines flight from Philadelphia to Denver?’ … Over the next few weeks the Assistant will begin proactively notifying you on your phone if we predict a flight delay and tell you the reason if we know it.”

Making Assistants More Helpful

Many people are using voice assistants very narrowly today. We have reported often about the frequent use of timers, music listening, and weather updates. However, assistants have the potential to impact a broad set of use cases. Some technologies catch on because they do one thing extremely well. Text messaging is a good example. While text messaging can do more than just enable brief communications today, the growth was driven by a single use case and others are now building on that user base. Voice assistants appear to be valued by consumers today for a wide variety of different use cases. On smart speakers, they are valued for music listening whereas on smartphones the dominant use cases are initiating phone calls and messages or requesting directions.

Recently we have seen Amazon release new Alexa capabilities to read your email and connect calls to local businesses. Google has similarly been adding more utilitarian features such as an AI-curated news feed, deeper integration with Google Maps for navigation, call screening, and of course appointment booking using Google Duplex. The idea of using Google Assistant to proactively track flight status that even the airlines aren’t yet revealing is a good example of how many niche services voice assistants can offer over time.


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