A new federal committee will look at the potential for self-driving cars and other automated vehicle technologies to displace American workers in the future, among other issues.
The Department of Transportation is slated to host the first meeting for a newly formed federal advisory committee on automation Jan. 16. The committee is expected to help the department develop best practices for the safe deployment of automated technologies for a variety of modes like cars, buses, trains, planes and drones.
One union group said it also will press the committee to examine the possibility that the technologies could force a lot of people out of their jobs. This is a concern for working people in transportation, according to the AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Department (TTD), which has a seat on the committee.
“I won’t be silent on the potential dangers of autonomous technologies, nor will I let our nation’s business and government leaders ignore the massive job losses faced by so many Americans as this technology evolves and is implemented,” TTD President Ed Wytkind said. “My job will be to ensure everyone understands what’s at stake for the economy, jobs and safety if transportation automation is propelled forward by wrongheaded or inadequate policies.”
The commercial trucking industry could be among those to feel the biggest impact from the transition to automation. The U.S. has been dealing with a chronic shortage of truckers to haul freight across the country and autonomous vehicle technology could help address the issue, American Trucking Associations President and CEO Chris Spear has said. Although he thinks the technology will be used to assist drivers, not replace them.
ATA is also on the advisory committee.
“While large-scale use of autonomous trucks is years away, the policy framework that will govern this future is being debated and ultimately written today, and I look forward to vigorously participating in those discussions on behalf of the trucking industry,” Spear said.
The DOT has been pressured by industry group to move more quickly to issue regulations that would allow broad use of transportation technologies. For example, automakers have been waiting for the DOT to establish a national regulatory framework for the testing and operation of automated and self-driving cars.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an agency within the department, released guidelines for the safe deployment of autonomous vehicles along with a model state policy, but neither are legally binding.
Self-driving car manufacturers have said they worry that states will try to fill the vacuum with their own laws, creating a patchwork of varying policies.
Similarly, the drone industry has pushed for the Federal Aviation Administration to expedite its rulemaking process.
The FAA issued a long-delayed final rule permitting drones weighing 55 pounds or less to be used commercially. But companies looking to launch drone delivery services, such as Amazon and Google, have complained about continued restrictions that ban commercial drone flights at night or beyond the operator’s line of vision, among others.
General Motors, FedEx, Apple, Amazon, Delphi Automotive, Lyft and Uber are among the companies participating in the 25 member advisory committee. State Farm Insurance, the National Safety Council and mayors from Los Angeles and Oklahoma City will also participate.
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