The Dilemma of Self-Driving Cars in Construction

Excavator at a construction site against the setting sun-cm

The construction industry is well-suited for automated tasks because it helps with the labor gap – as well as creating a safer culture. Self-driving vehicles or other automatic operating machinery takes the boring repetitive work from craftsmen, allowing craftsmen to supervise or utilize other specialized skills that are potentially less risky. And with the recent coronavirus regulations, automation can help make up for a lack of workers available in an already tight labor market. However, not everyone agrees that self-driving vehicles are the best answer. Here’s some of the drawbacks and areas of caution to be aware of if you’re working with automated equipment on your job sites:


Removes Free Will & Artistry

The funny thing is that most humans actually enjoy driving! There is a loss of agency and freedom in self-driving vehicles, that comes with moving around in the world on our own. And while, in theory, automated vehicles are supposed to be safer, there’s not much proof yet that they are. In many ways, the idea of self-driving vehicles is being pushed onto us from the corporations who are making the cars and offering rides – and not really something that we drivers are really asking for yet.


Encourages Task Aversion

There was a study with pilots, centered around the automated flying controls that were created to help relieve them from tedious tasks. The results showed, however, that automation made pilots less aware of the environment around them because they were focusing on other tasks. They tend to rely on the machinery to signal them when something goes wrong, instead of looking for opportunity or even thinking ahead about what is next in their flight.


Humans and Robots Don’t Always Mesh

Uber and Tesla, among others, have been doing ongoing testing of self-driving cars, including a situation in a 4-way intersection with both self-driving and human-driving cars stopping and giving the right of way, with left-turns involved too. Some experts said that the human driving vehicles weren’t performing as well because they didn’t follow the rules of the road. However, this sort of thinking doesn’t take into account the social aspect or subtle intelligence of driving. Often, one driver will make eye contact or hand gesture to another driver, and this sort of improvisational interaction isn’t as replicable in self-driving vehicles. This makes it difficult for any kind of transition with a road where there’s both self-driving and human-driving cars. This is important because computers are nowhere near the intelligence of humans.


People Don’t Trust Automation Yet

Almost 90% of people don’t even trust self-driving cars yet. That number will likely go down as more and more self-driving cars get on the road. However, another more recent poll showed that only 34% of drivers thought that the benefits of automatic vehicles will outweigh the disadvantages. Many people are worried that their car will get hacked! And while the majority of people thought that a vehicle that allowed the driver ‘always in full control’ this is contrary to the purpose of self-driving cars – and with the task aversion and reliance on automation that will occur, it’s likely not safe to allow them to choose when they can be driving!


If you’re on a jobsite, working with self-driving vehicles or other automated equipment, we encourage you to pay attention to these drawbacks and make sure you have a backup or solution that accounts for potential problems for your project or jobsite. Check out the latest job opportunities in your area now at Madden Industrial Craftsmen if you need employers that are looking for craftsmen with your skills and talents!