Union Pacific's AI Chat Gives Employees Tool to Save Time and Drive Efficiency

By Rick Holmes, assistant vice president and Chief Security Officer-Technology

Insights UP Chat Main Graphic | MR

One of the most significant breakthroughs in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) over the past year has been the emergence of ChatGPT. This cutting-edge technology is revolutionizing the way we work and has a tangible impact on various industries and companies, including one that’s been around for more than 160 years.

Since developing our own, secured version of ChatGPT, Union Pacific Railroad employees have embraced the technology to generate blog posts and create executive summaries of white papers as well as generate code snippets and analyze and organize large, unstructured data sets.

So, what exactly is ChatGPT?

ChatGPT is an AI-powered computer system that engages in conversational interactions. Unlike other chatbots, it goes beyond generating simple phrases and can compose full essays that resemble human writing. It achieves this by drawing from its own data within its neural network, rather than relying on internet searches. Public ChatGPT has been utilized to generate a wide range of content, including news articles and movie scripts.

However, the utilization of ChatGPT and other similar public systems by employees raises several security concerns for companies. These concerns include data and privacy risks, the protection of intellectual property, and the accuracy of the information provided by ChatGPT technology.

Considering these risks, Union Pacific has implemented a policy that prohibits its employees from using the public ChatGPT for business purposes. However, recognizing the immense potential benefits of such a tool, Union Pacific's Tech team has developed its own version, called UP Chat, which provides a secure way to leverage the technology. UP Chat harnesses the power of Large Language Models (LLMs) and enables employees to interact with the tool as they would the public ChatGPT experience but within the confines of the company's secured data network.

Available from company computers, UP Chat assists with functions such as analyzing data trends, generating ideas and creating project summaries. It can even assist in putting together presentations and writing articles.

Despite the technology residing behind the company's firewall, Union Pacific has implemented various policies for using UP Chat. These include restricting its use to legitimate business purposes, requiring proofing and accuracy checks before sharing the output with others (although never outside the company), and prohibiting the automation of decision-making or the provision of legal, medical or financial advice.

UP Chat is just one example of how Union Pacific is leveraging AI technology to enhance safety, service and operational efficiency. The company's Tech teams are utilizing AI and Machine Learning to optimize their supply chain and network operations. This includes anticipating service demand, optimizing routes and predicting system maintenance needs. The application of AI aligns with the Tech group's mission to support and build the world's premier transportation solutions through operational excellence and innovative technologies.

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