AUTONOMY AHEAD: An autonomous Freightliner semi-trailer on trials in the USA.
AUTONOMY AHEAD: An autonomous Freightliner semi-trailer on trials in the USA. Daimler AG

Green light for auto in Aus

AUTOMATION has been given the green light by a Federal Parliamentary committee tasked to explore the social impact of the technology.

The report, complied over a 12month period, looked into many facets of the question, from the benefits automation will have for those with a disability to the impending job loss for many drivers.

According to the Parliamentary report, autonomous vehicles could be passing us on the highway as soon as 2020.

To help aid this change the committee, made up of federal politicians, recommended that the Commonwealth Government facilitate and encourage trials of automated vehicles in Australia, with a particular focus on trials that enable members of the public to experience automated vehicles on public roads - in a bid to assist public perception.

In conjunction with this, state and territory governments and local councils, are asked to consider funding of trials of automated vehicles with a public transport application, in both metropolitan areas and regional locations.

However a main feature of interest for drivers could be identified in the analysis on the impact this change will have on employment in the sector.

The report illustrated the belief that the impact of automation will be felt further afield, rather than just in the homes of professional drivers.

"While substantial impacts on the workforce are contingent on highly automated vehicles replacing human drivers - a prospect unlikely to eventuate in the short term - the Committee recognises that there will be negative impacts on the workforce as a whole and on the individual people who comprise it,” the report noted.

Figures quoted by the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering (ATSE) suggested automation's impact on employment was likely to occur in the medium term.

Modelling by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia suggests that nationally, almost five million jobs face a high probability of being replaced in the next decade or two while a further 18.4 per cent of the workforce has a medium probability of having their roles eliminated.

In an op-ed piece on the report, Shadow Minister for the Digital Economy and the Future of Work Ed Husic said he believes government needs to start preparing.

"This driverless vehicle report requires government consider what skills will be useful in future, which jobs may be lost and where the new opportunities for jobs will arise,” he wrote.

"And this will be the stuff that challenges politicians to think beyond the daily skirmishes and engage in long term planning about training not just future generations - but looking after people whose jobs will be progressively and fundamentally altered by tech.

"Individually we're going to need to be ready not just to change jobs between companies - but change the type of job we do.”

The Committee also recommended the National Cyber Security Strategy investigate potential vulnerabilities relating to automation.