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Will self-driving vehicles result in job losses?

Thursday, 28 February 2019 at 12:32

Driverless couriers

Self-driving lorries have now been given the green light for trials to begin across UK roads – This comes as no surprise as there are already vehicles on the roads which operate with semi-autonomous driving systems, from cruise control and lane departure warning to active park assist.

Driverless trucks and lorries will be amongst the first autonomous vehicles to be rolled out across our roads. These are semi-autonomous platooning lorries, which will drive closely behind one another and linked via electronic connections which communicate with GPS, radar and wi-fi. By reducing the gaps between the vehicles, air drag will be reduced, fuel consumption and emissions will also be cut.

What does an autonomous fleet of lorries mean for UK truck and lorry drivers? Will self-driving vehicles signal a major loss of jobs, due to the driver essentially being taken away from the process.

Autonomous technology aims to take away the human need in driving. Those who drive for a living worry that it could be the end of the road for their career. With truck driving one of the most common occupations job losses could be huge. In the UK, 1.7 million truckers could be replaced by self-driving vehciles.

A company called Einride have already developed ta self-driving truck, that will be ready for 2020. It does not have space for the human driver, or even passengers. The all-electric T-Pod truck measures approximately seven metres, can carry up to 20 tonnes in weight of freight and is fully autonomous. The vehicle is capable of self-drive on motorways and highways, and can be controlled remotely at a driving station for urban areas. The first fleet is estimated to be active by 2020, in the cities of Gothenburg and Helsingborg in Sweden – and they aren’t the only manufacturer to show keen interest in developing electric and autonomous commercial vehicles, with Mercedes revealing a glimpse of their 2025 concept, and Tesla.

However, autonomous cars, and trucks or lorries, could actually create jobs for people. Just as automobiles created millions of jobs for people, autonomous vehicles will do the same not in transport, but in the IT industry.

Additionally, drivers will need to form semi-autonomous platooning lorry convoys – a lead driver is likely to be essential to the process which the government proposes. For lorries to follow safely, a lead driver is likely to needed to navigate the first lorry – and 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, this could just be temporary, plus autonomous technology will also improve road safety and reduce harmful emissions too. In the UK, there were over 1,810 incidents in 2018 where someone was killed or fatally injured in a road traffic accident. Autonomous vehicles eliminate human error on the roads to make them a safer place.

Whilst driverless vehicles are a long way off being introduced to the Greg Paulson Same Day Couriers fleet, it'll be quite interesting to see how thus unfolds in the next few years.

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