What Will Driverless Cars Mean For Health & Safety?

Posted on written by Sam Barton

Are driverless cars about to become the norm on our roads? Can they be used to create a safer environment? We explore these questions as well as how it might impact on people who work in driving occupations in the UK.

 

Driverless cars sound like something from the distant future however the reality is that we may be less than a decade away from seeing them as the norm on roads in the UK.

This raises a whole load of questions from a health and safety standpoint particularly in sectors that rely on human drivers to carry out their business.

94% of accidents on the road are estimated to be caused by human error – so does that mean that driverless cars will vastly improve safety standards?

Before we get into driverless cars and health and safety, how close are we to having them on our roads?

How far along is the technology?

A 3-year regulatory review was kick started back in March 2018 with the aim of driverless cars being used by 2021.

In the budget last year there was a significant amount of money allocated to exploring new technology for driverless vehicles and it is estimated that it will eventually become a £28 billion industry. Companies can also apply for a share of a £25 million funding pot to trial driverless technologies.

2021 might seem slightly optimistic (it’s less than 3 years away!) but the technology is moving at a rapid rate and the government is committing itself to funding trial schemes. While the technology might be advancing, is this be shared by the views of ordinary people?

What do people think about driverless cars?

A recent survey that was carried out in Australia found that 37% of people had a positive view of driverless cars being on the road (compared to 23% negative and 40% neutral) while men were more optimistic about it than women. 

Only 21% of respondents thought that there would be fewer accidents on the roads.

It seems like there is still some way to go to convince people that driverless cars are worth it but how does it look from a health and safety perspective?

Driverless cars and the future of health and safety

In sectors that rely on drivers then driverless technology will have interesting impacts.

A study in America found that just under 3% of workers were employed in driving occupations. While driverless cars may very well make the roads safer and be a positive from a health and safety standpoint – it may come at the expense of jobs. In the short-term, at least many workers might be displaced due to this new technology and this may disproportionally affect certain groups.

We might be a few years away from seeing driverless cars as the norm on our roads in the UK. That being said, there have been big strides by the government and private companies to trial this technology.

While the potential for safer roads and safer work is there, a lot still has to be done to convince the general population and also combat the effects on employment that driverless cars will inevitably cause.

Driverless cars and health and safety. Health and safety training.

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