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Self-Driving Lorries: Could Public Fear Help Our Industry?

Automated, self-driving lorries have been a contentious topic which have grown from rumour to near-reality in recent years. We’ve voiced our concerns about the introduction of semi-autonomous vehicles when the planned ‘platooning’ technique was announced last year – from the decrease in road safety to the threats to employment.

But it seems that it is not just those in the road logistics and professional industries who are troubled by the looming threat of autonomous HGVs: Logistics Manager revealed the results of a survey which found that self-driving lorries were the second most frightening technological advancement, coming closely behind conscious machines.

The fact that self-driving HGVs are only slightly bested in the ‘fear factor’ by, essentially, the concept of robots which can think for themselves outside of human control, is telling.

When delving deeper into the 2,000 respondents’ worries, the reason ‘I don’t trust that they’ll be reliable and as quick to react as a human would’ was a top response, with an incredible 62% sharing this fear. This was a concern raised in our post last year, and the fact that it’s shared by the public only strengthens this.

Interestingly, when probed about their top concern, the respondents also cited that the possibility of machines replacing human workers was worrisome. Given that the study was asking the general public rather than a group of professional logistics workers, it’s understandable that autonomous lorries don’t evoke the same fears of job replacement for our nation’s professional drivers – but the fact that it is still a concern in general shows that we are not happy with the morality of people being replaced by machines.

The less trust the public has in the new technologies behind driverless HGVs, the more barriers the Government will face to implement them on our roads. As well as supporting our dedicated professional drivers, this public fear could also help to boost our industry’s image. The discrepancy between the public’s feelings towards the haulage sector and the reality of their reliance and the high standards of safety has been a topic which we’ve explored previously.

But when forced to think about the impacts of autonomous lorries on our roads, society must reflect on the fact that current drivers are, in fact, an incredibly safe and reliable workforce. Quick reaction times, practical human intelligence and expert training makes our professional drivers the dependable, reliable and indispensable part of the logistics chain.

Let’s hope that the future will bring even more awareness and recognition for our nation’s dedicated professional drivers!