Trials for self-driving cars and HGVs have started in the UK, but they have not been without controversy. With multiple fatalities having occurred with self-driving cars in the U.S. it is clear that we are still some way off a complete overhaul. Looking forward, however, it is important to consider how self-driving HGVs could impact on the haulier and supply industries. Here we question whether self-driving HGVs will lead to job losses.
There is no doubt that autonomous technology aims to take the human need out of driving. For those who drive for a living this is a worrying development and estimates state that between 1.7 – 3 million drivers in the UK could be left without a job. There are, however, a lot of hurdles in the way preventing this from happening.
One interesting development coming out of the tests on self-driving cars in America is that of culpability. With one fatality that occurred there is a blurred line because the car was driving autonomously and the pedestrian who was hit was jay-walking. At this point it is unclear who is to blame for the accident. In these situations both the law and motor trade insurance need to be completely recalibrated to allow for this new situation. Where the culpability resides will be very significant because no company owner will take responsibility for the actions of a fleet of autonomous HGVs and nor will the manufacturer. Unless the questions surrounding culpability and HGV insurance can be resolved, no changes will be possible.
Government proposals are also suggesting that a fleet of vehicles will not be allowed to simply run autonomously but must instead be guided. The idea is that a semi-autonomous lorry convoy could follow a lead lorry driver, who would hold responsibility for the decision making and the directional decisions made. This offers an opportunity for a smaller number of highly skilled drivers who would be responsible for leading the fleet safely. Again the HGV insurance policies and culpability will need to be resolved before any such programmes could be introduced.
There is a monumental shift towards automation of driving that is taking place, but we are still a long way off the loss of 3 million UK jobs. As a driver it is important to keep an eye on the storm and consider retraining to control the autonomous lorries when they do arrive.