Could self-drive HGVs result in job losses?

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We’ve already reported that trials of self-driving HGV on UK roads have been given the go ahead. In fact, the Government has committed to a huge £8.1 million investment in the scheme.

Road users can expect driverless lorries to be amongst the first autonomous vehicles on the road. Semi-autonomous platooning lorries will be the first type of autonomous lorry. The platooning vehicles work by driving closely behind one another. The vehicles are linked thanks to electronic connections which communicate with each other via wi-fi and radar. Whilst the trials have been welcomed in some quarters, what does it actually mean for lorry drivers?

Major job losses?

In its simplest form, autonomous technology seems to remove the need for humans when it comes to driving. So it stands to reason that those who drive for a living are worried about their career. A quick look at the US, where Goldman Sachs have predicted that 25,000 jobs a month could be lost, has caused some alarm and in the UK, estimates have suggested 1.7 million truckers could end up being replaced by self-driving lorries. Manufacturers already have self-driving lorries in development, with Einride expected to have their first autonomous HGV ready for 2020. Mercedes look set to follow suit, aiming to release their autonomous vehicle in 2025 and Tesla have also shown an interest.

Job creation?

The other side of the argument is that autonomous lorries could end up creating jobs. The UK has already stated its aim to be at the forefront of developing autonomous alternatives, and if predictions into the sector’s growth prove correct, it could be worth £51 billion a year by 2030. It’s also predicted that success could result in the creation of 320,000 jobs. It’s also worth bearing in mind that drivers are required to form convoys of semi-autonomous platooning lorries. The Government has proposed that a lead driver will be essential to the process. The lead driver’s responsibility will be to navigate the first lorry, and with autonomous vehicles requiring new road infrastructure, there could be further job creation in the construction sector.

Overall it’s thought that autonomous technology could lead to job losses, but those losses will be temporary. Autonomous technology will also vastly increase road safety, potentially saving money on HGV insurance for companies, and cut down on harmful emissions.