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The Mirror ran an interesting story on 29 December (2015) talking about the possibility of ‘robo buses’ taking over city streets and putting human drivers out of work. The article was in response to comments made by Culture Minister Ed Vaizey. According to Vaizey, automated buses will be on British streets within five years. He predicts that the robotic buses will put significant numbers of bus drivers out of work. Not everyone agrees. For the record, we are not convinced that robots will kill the PCV licence or the wonderful career that goes along with it anytime soon.

We understand Vaizey’s excitement about the prospect of automated vehicles. We are now in the midst of a frenzy within the auto industry to see who can be the first to make a commercially viable automated vehicle. But it’s not just a frenzy among car makers. Bus and lorry manufacturers are also competing just as feverishly. Yet everyone forgets one important thing: we do not have the infrastructure necessary to make the widespread use of automated vehicles either safe or viable.

Computers Cannot Replace Humans

Computers are certainly capable of doing some fantastic things. But they can never entirely replace humans – especially a human bus driver with a valid PCV licence. The fact remains that no computer possesses the artificial intelligence necessary to make computations and arrive at conclusions as fast and accurately as the human brain. In order for an automated vehicle platform to work safely, we need more than just vehicles outfitted with the latest GPS and motion-sensing technologies.

We also need a network infrastructure that allows all of those vehicles to communicate with one another. We need a road infrastructure that will keep automated vehicles safe regardless of prevailing weather conditions, lighting, and unforeseen hazards including animals, other drivers, and pedestrians. We cannot put an army of automated vehicles on the roads without overhauling our entire transport infrastructure. And that brings us to the main reason robots will not put human bus drivers or the PCV licence out of business as quickly as Vaizey is predicting: money.

No Money, No Infrastructure

For years, the logistics industry has been calling on the government to spend more money to upgrade roads. We need wider carriageways, and certainly more motorways, to handle increasing traffic volumes. If the government does not have the money to improve the roads that already exist, where will they get the money to completely overhaul the system to a degree that would make automated vehicles practical?

Automated cars, trucks, and buses may be in our future, but they are not in the immediate future. The reality is that the infrastructure is just not there yet. Despite Mr Vaizey’s prediction, there will still be plenty of need for both the human bus driver and the PCV licence for many years to come. If you have been planning to get your licence to become a professional bus driver, you have nothing to worry about.

Sources:

Mirror – https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/technology-science/technology/bus-drivers-replaced-robots-under-7086010

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