The Transportation Trades Department for the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) is spending its Tuesday telling the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce subcommittee that autonomous vehicles. Though it’s not because they occasionally run amok when left to their own devices. This is a matter of jobs.
Labor leaders have become increasingly concerned by the massive layoffs that will likely accompany the proliferation of electric vehicles, which require fewer components to assemble. But AVs have played second fiddle until fairly recently, with truckers doing most of the heavy lifting themselves. Now, the ALF-CIO is getting in on the action and hoping to convince legislators to establish formal requirements for there to be a driver behind in the wheel of all commercial vehicles over 10,000 pounds.
However, considering the recent failure of the driverless Waymo van that was befuddled by traffic cones and ultimately tried to make a break for it when help arrived, it might be worth considering applying similar rules to all AVs. The Alphabet-owned (Google) firm has already started applying for permits to charge customers for rides in its self-driving vehicles, though the company ironically opted to stop using the term “self-driving” at the start of 2021.
Reuters has reported that this is also something that’s currently on the AFL-CIO’s radar. But it’s focusing on larger vehicles likely devoted to long-haul transportation and heavier loads.
“We do not allow passenger airplanes to operate without pilots or passenger rail to run without engineers, and we should use a similar approach with AVs that operate on our often-congested roadways and in complex transit networks,” reads prepared testimony of Greg Regan, president of the Transportation Trades Department for the AFL-CIO.
Concerns raised by major unions, including the Teamsters, are one reason that legislation to grant U.S. regulators the power to exempt tens of thousands of self-driving cars from U.S. safety regulations has not been approved despite five years of efforts.
“We have seen the impacts of automation on other sectors — manufacturing, health care, and retail, to name a few — and the consequences when public policy fails to protect the workers and users it impacts,” Regan will tell lawmakers, also raising concerns about “alternative design vehicles such as delivery bots. Any vehicle that is under the 10,000-pound threshold that will travel on public roads must be properly regulated.”