Unions are poised to directly challenge driverless and automated transport trials and rollouts across Australia after the national head of the powerful Transport Workers Union (TWU) warned of “catastrophic” consequences unless regulation of artificial intelligence is quickly tightened. Secretary of the TWU, Tony Sheldon, has signalled the union will push for much tighter regulation and debate around automation and AI driven systems across the sector.

That position on the issue could act to slow the deployment of ‘driverless’ vehicles  as governments and industry currently undergo trials in states like South Australia. “Economics is driving the push for artificial intelligence, not voters and not the community.

There is no input into the introduction of this technology onto our roads and into our homes which is taking ethical or social issues into account,” Sheldon said on the sidelines of the NSW Labor Conference. Sheldon’s comments are significant because they signal that key powerbrokers want a handbrake quickly applied by state and federal Labor to automation rollouts in the run-up to the next election.

It also positions the topic of automation and technology job losses as a key campaign issue that points to a distinctly dystopian future where tech drives humans rather than humans controlling their own lives. “Widespread loss of jobs, wage polarisation and horrific road incidents, where machines are allowed to decide who dies in a crash, could unfold if the current unwillingness to consult and regulate continues,” the TWU told the weekend conference.

Sheldon’s selection at the top of the forthcoming NSW Senate ticket is also widely anticipated, although it is still to be officially confirmed. The strong position has wide implications for public transport across Australia where driverless trains are gradually expected to take over from manually driven rolling stock as ‘metro’ style systems are deployed similar to Europe. Read more from itnews.com.au…

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