spoke to Marcelo H. Ang Jr., associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the National University of Singapore
(NUS) about how these new vehicles could change the corporate landscape with regards to productivity and labour.
Ang is currently part of the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) which developed the driverless cars now being trialled at the one-north technological park.
He began by saying that employee productivity can be boosted since the individual no longer needs to steer through traffic.
“If we don’t need to drive the car, we can check email, we can do anything we want,” Ang said. “It will change how the car looks like. The car can be a mobile office, for example.”
With regards to manpower, these autonomous vehicles have a great many benefits for employers especially when it comes to sourcing talent within a highly competitive marketplace.
“It’s so hard to find drivers now, for example, with shuttle bus and public bus services,” Ang said. “If these can be driverless, that would relieve manpower requirements in terms of the drivers.”
Existing drivers could then be retrained for other positions employers are finding increasingly difficult to fill.
The government is assisting NUS in testing out the new technology and bringing greater public awareness about its benefits.
“We also want to see how self-driving technology and transportation concepts can help address manpower constraints. For example, we have difficulty in finding enough bus drivers and truck drivers,” Permanent Secretary for Transport, Pang Kin Keong, said in a media conference on the deployment of self-driving vehicles held last Monday (12 October).
Additionally, autonomous vehicles would make workplaces a lot safer especially those which rely heavily on transportation.
“Autonomous cars should be safer than human-driven cars because they’re driven by computers. A computer doesn’t get emotional. It doesn’t get tired,” Ang said. “These cars can look everywhere. The sensors are always there and you have a computer that’s logging everything. It’s very secure.”
For the first half of 2015, the Workplace Safety & Health Institute said the number one cause of workplace fatalities was work-related traffic which attributed to 28% of deaths. Driverless vehicles would be an effective way to reduce this figure and make working environments safer, Ang said.
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With two new autonomous vehicle trials currently underway, Singapore is on the cusp of a brand new technological development which will have real benefits for employers across the island.