Driverless cars: on a road to nowhere?

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After announcing that it plans to roll out a network of driverless cars in London by 2021, Addison Lee has become the latest firm to embrace automation with open arms. Joining the ranks of Uber, Ford, General Motors and Mercedes Benz, who are all developing driverless technology. Whilst the benefits of cities running on driverless cars are indeed tantalizing; less congestion, cheaper fares and cleaner air to name a few. We should be wary of what this represents.

[pullquote]the Automation revolution has the prospect of bringing untold wealth and comfort to millions[/pullquote]

Automatisation is increasingly penetrating our lives more and more each year, and as technology advances, traditional jobs are left redundant on the garbage heap. Take supermarkets and their self-service check out tills. Incredibly convenient, but in reality, each stall represents someone’s, now redundant, job. And it doesn’t end at the supermarket either, even the professional service sector, where many of us will be hoping to head to after graduating, makes use of automation to screen job applications, analyse employee performance and handle customer support using chat bots. In fact, PwC has estimated that roughly 30% of jobs in the UK will be put at risk by automisation in the next 12 years. Other studies predict just as gloomy outcomes, with an Oxford study estimating that 47% of the US jobs are at high risk of automisation. Whilst the McKinsey Institute estimating that 800 million worldwide will be at risk by 2030.

The government must therefore take the initiative and commit themselves to not only preparing future generations with skills and knowledge that will still be relevant in 12-or 30 -years’ time. But it must also pledge to continuously re-train adults and equip them with new and relevant skills which will prepare them for a new and secure career, safe from the threat of automatisation.

Failure to do so could see us repeating the mistakes of history. Which saw the devastation of communities and livelihoods, following the Thatcher government’s failure to support and re-train the communities which were so unfairly ravaged and left behind by de-industrialisation. Former Prime Minister John Major recently expressed regret at his government’s failure to do more to rehabilitate these communities, citing it as a primary factor which has contributed to the rise of radical and populist politics that we see too much of today.

Like the Agricultural and Industrial ones before it, the Automation revolution has the prospect of bringing untold wealth and comfort to millions of people. But only if we remain vigilant and prepared for the new automated future.

Last modified: 10th December 2018

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