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Autonomous Vehicles Blog - Driving the Future

When a transit authority considers automation, a duty to bargain with labor over the decision to automate and a duty to bargain over the effects of the decision may arise.  The source of the duty may be one of three types of labor laws that govern the transit employment relationship:  the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), the Railway Labor Act (RLA) or state-specific public sector collective bargaining statutes.  This post will discuss the duty to bargain generally.  Next week’s post will review subjects over which an employer may be required to bargain and steps an employer can take now to better position itself to automate.

Autonomous vehicle technology has reached a place where certain technologies are market-ready or readily adaptable to transit operations, and further automation technologies continue to be developed.  These developments are expected to result in future operational savings in part through the elimination of driver and maintenance staff positions and reduced overtime.  For the remaining workers, job responsibilities will change and new skills will be required.  Even partial automation may result in job losses or a “de-skilling” of the vehicle operator role.  These eventualities will trigger labor law obligations.

In the world of automation, companies must take care to not forget about worker safety.  Planning for worker safety while planning for automation helps the transition for both.  In planning for worker safety, there are a few key areas to keep in mind.

Tags: OSHA

Traditional automakers and large tech companies continue to acquire AV-tech startups as competition for key personnel, proprietary technology, and AV data increases. As the AV industry continues to consolidate, traditional auto makers and tech companies will need to continue to conduct thorough due diligence during the acquisition phase. Moreover, they will need to have policies and procedures in place to protect trade secrets and confidential information, while ensuring that any potential acquisition target has properly managed and protected its AV-related data.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) recently announced an opportunity to apply for up to $85 million in competitive grant funds through FTA’s Low or No Emission (Low-No) Bus Program. The program provides funding for the purchase or lease of Low-No buses that use advanced technologies. Eligible projects also include construction of facilities and related equipment to accommodate the buses.

According to a recent study, people with darker skin are more likely to be hit by autonomous vehicles than people with lighter skin. Researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology concluded that object detection systems of the type used in autonomous vehicles had uniformly poorer performance when detecting pedestrians with darker skin types. 

Tall as the highest grocery shelf, slender, slow-moving; a creature of few words but with large eyes—that’s “Marty,” the latest worker at hundreds of grocery stores across the country. Marty is a robot that can be found trolling grocery aisles, looking for spills, on alert of tripping hazards, and scanning shelves to check on product.

When President Trump signed an executive order on Monday to boost the role of artificial intelligence in the United States, the AV industry took yet another incremental—but not necessarily insignificant—step forward. While nowhere in the 10-page American AI Initiative are autonomous vehicles mentioned, nor even the word transportation included, those in the industry took notice. What does the executive order mean for the AV industry?

With traditional automakers and tech-companies continuing to develop AVs, venture capitalists are increasing their attention and investment activity in our industry. Likewise, traditional automakers and large tech companies have acquired AV-tech startups as competition for key personnel, technology, and first-mover advantage increases.

Before your Christmas leftovers were even close to being eaten up, Amazon had already released a press release touting record-breaking sales figures for the holiday season—and autonomous vehicles played a critical role in the retail giant smashing its own holiday record. The December 26 release doesn’t mention AVs or robotics in any way (except a brief mention about a record number of iRobot Roomba vacuums being sold to consumers), but rest assured, the company relied on its increasingly large complement of autonomous vehicles to reach its lofty numbers.

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