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Statement on Uber Tragedy

The International Transport Workers’ Federation’s (ITF) thoughts and condolences go out to the family of Elaine Herzberg, killed by an autonomous vehicle in Arizona, USA, on Sunday 18 March 2018.

The tragic accident highlights the dangers of the lack of public oversight and control of new technology, and the risks of allowing the private sector to dictate the pace and direction of adoption.

Rob Johnston, assistant general secretary of the ITF, gave the following statement: 

“Technological advances have saved countless lives, including professional drivers. However, these advances have been made under a clear legal framework. Without clear rules on ethical standards, the owners and developers of technology are being left to programme machines to make difficult and in this case, life-threatening decisions. Rushing to introduce technology without a legal framework undermines the long-term viability of modernisation and compromises the safety of road users. 

“Already, algorithms control many working people’s lives and can pose threats to public safety. Stressed Uber drivers are being overworked, truck drivers rely on assisted driving technology, and exhausted Deliveroo workers drop off takeaways around our suburbs. Without transparency, accidents lack explanation, complicating fixes and damaging public trust.

“Automation is being used by some as a ‘Trojan horse’ for deregulation and the free market. Responsible governments around the world continue to demonstrate that good policy, regulation and leadership is needed to ensure that automation is safe and creates and sustains good jobs. 

“To avoid more tragedies like this and to dispel people’s fears, politicians need to make clear policy choices and enshrine public oversight and ownership in our digital economy. With automation, sustainability demands public trust, and safety demands regulation.”


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