Portugal plans to trial answering emergency calls using an AI chatbot based off ChatGPT, and it could be rolled out by 2025, government official says

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  • Portugal is trialing a ChatGPT-based AI that can respond to emergency calls in busy periods. 
  • Callers to Portugal’s 112 emergency line sometimes wait five to six minutes to get a response. 
  • If the trial periods goes well, the AI will come into wider use by 2025, a senior politician said.

Portugal is planning to test a new artificial intelligence system based on OpenAI’s chatbot ChatGPT to see whether it could be used to take emergency calls in the country during busy times. 

António Pombeiro, deputy secretary general of the Internal Administration, told reporters at a technology conference in Porto that the AI will be the first point of contact for callers of the 112 emergency line, Portugal’s biggest news agency Lusa reported Tuesday. The news was also reported by a number of English-language outlets in Portugal.

Pombeiro explained that during busy periods, callers have to wait five to six minutes to receive a response for example, during urban fires, lots of people will be calling the line to report the same situation which can be time-consuming for police dispatchers. 

“In certain situations, we have waiting periods due to the great amount of calls. This happens when there are incidents that involve a lot of publicity, a lot of people watching what is happening and everyone has the initiative to call 112,” he said, per The Portugal News.

Instead, the AI system will respond to the calls first in “natural language response” to “assess what kind of problem” the caller is reporting, Portugal News’ report added.

“People will not even realise that they are talking to a system, a machine, a robot,” he added, but clarified that it won’t be replacing human dispatchers. 

The system won’t be used to take calls through to the end of the process, but instead, callers will likely be directed to a human dispatcher. 

Pombeiro said that “if the pilot goes well,” the system will be ready to be used by 2025, but added that because it is a new technology, it will require significant testing, Lusa reported.

ChatGPT was released in November 2022 and its ability to hold casual written conversations with humans as well as scraping a wide variety of data from the internet has made it valuable in a number of professions.

One judge in Colombia even used ChatGPT to determine a ruling on a medical case about a child born with autism and whether he should be exempt from paying for his medical treatment. 

The judge asked the chatbot a series of questions about the case which helped him conclude that the child doesn’t have to pay for his medical fees.

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