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Could jobs be at risk with autonomous vehicles?

The government have officially committed to an £8.1 million investment to finance the trials of self-driving lorries on UK roads, according to Sky News. The green light means that the government’s investment could make self-driving vehicles a reality sooner than we think.

The UK are already exposed to semi-autonomous driving systems across the nation, and countries across Europe – from cruise control and active parking assist to lane departure warning, but fully autonomous trucks are forecast to be among the first to be rolled out in the near future. The government’s investment is said to be going directly into funding a semi-autonomous platooning lorry fleet – which will function by driving closely behind one another, linked via electronic connections with are communicated via GPS, radar and wi-fi. The platoon is designed to have environmental benefits too with reduced air drag, fuel consumption and emissions – by a potential 20%.

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But with many jobs revolving around lorry driving, could some jobs be at risk? Specialists in long term van hire, Northgate, investigate if self-driving vehicles signal a major loss of jobs, due to the driver essentially being taken away from the process.

Manual driving has provided many individuals with a job, but autonomous technology eliminates the need for humans. For many people who drive for a living, they could be facing a brick wall, or a big speed bump at the very least in their career. According to the UK’s low estimates, they expect to see up to 1.7 million truckers potentially replaced by self-driving counterparts. The autonomous developments could turn that number into around 3 million, meaning they will eliminate manual driving.

Self-driving trucks and lorries are not far off – Einride believe their autonomous truck will be ready for 2020 and has been designed with no space for a human driver, nor any passengers. Their all-electric trucks can carry up to 20 tonnes of weight, is fully autonomous and is an impressive seven metres. Designed to be driven on motorways and highways, it is controlled remotely at a driving station. The European cities of Gothenburg and Helsingborg, Sweden, are suggested to be the first cities that the trucks will be trialled in.

Mercedes is another automotive giant who are trying their hand at autonomous technologies. They have teased us with a glimpse of their 2025 concept, and Tesla have also hinted at their interest in self-driving tech. Many people are wary that it could lead to a significant job loss – however, unsurprisingly, many manufacturers are excited about the development of this technology, and believe this could actually be a new opportunity that could create jobs. Just as automotive vehicles once created millions of jobs for the population, could autonomous vehicles do the same?

The UK hopes to be the industry leader, at the forefront of the development of autonomous vehicles and they predict that it will be a significant boost to the UK’s economy. The SMMT valued autonomous cars and the systems that connect them to the internet as being worth £51 billion per year to the UK economy by 2030. Success in the field could also see around 320,000 jobs created, although they may be different to the jobs that could be lost. Also, we must remember that it is likely that a driver is still required for the semi-autonomous platooning lorries. Whilst the other will be able to follow the lead using the advanced technology, however, a lead driver will be essential to the process for other lorries to follow safely. Of course, there are likely to be jobs created to build new road infrastructure required for autonomous vehicles.

Whilst autonomous technology could cause a potential temporary job shortage/loss for those who drive for a living, we must remember that this could just be temporary, plus autonomous technology will also improve road safety and reduce harmful emissions too. In addition, with the UK, there were over 1,810 incidents in 2016 where someone was killed or fatally injured in a road traffic accident that was likely to be cause by human error. Autonomous vehicles eliminate human error on the roads to make them a safer place.

 

Sources

https://www.cnbc.com/2017/05/22/goldman-sachs-analysis-of-autonomous-vehicle-job-loss.html

http://news.sky.com/story/convoys-of-driverless-lorries-get-green-light-for-uk-trial-11004160

http://www.autoexpress.co.uk/vans/100058/einride-t-pod-concept-previews-self-driving-truck-for-2020

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2017/03/30/self-driving-cars-could-lend-8bn-boost-uk-economy/

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