Shaping the Skills Needed for the Future of Automated Mobility
Oct 6, 2023
In the fast-moving realm of mobility, one fact stands out: the road to success requires new skills. To meet evolving customer needs, embrace cutting-edge technologies, and fulfil environmental commit-ments, the transport sector is turning to automation for sustainable, cost-effective, and inclusive mobility solutions. However, the interplay between automation, reskilling, and sustainability is more complex than meets the eye.
WE-TRANSFORM is on a mission. The project leverages existing data and the collective expertise of individuals to craft a cross-national Living Hub. It serves as both a knowledge repository of research actions related to transport automation, as well as a catalyst for smarter decisions paving the way for innovative, evidence-based policymaking in the mobility landscape.
For Cristina Pronello, Professor at the Politecnico di Torino, Italy, and Coordinator of the project, automation is changing the way in which we work and live our daily lives. In particular, automation will have a significant impact on mobility’s future development, implying big changes for both the organisation of companies and the way that employees work. There are also operational issues and impacts thanks to automation and digitalisation, as well as financial and regulatory aspects.
Pronello makes the example of the automation of the metro in her city in Torino, Italy. Automated transport vehicles have an effect on the workforce, according to her: “You do not need drivers anymore because the metro is driverless, but it implies a shift of tasks, jobs, and competences to be acquired as well as a different way to care about customers and travellers. Another example is the airport, the check-in is less in person and more and more online. This has an effect on the workforce because it means less people work there. So, a lot of the tasks are shifted to the end consumer, but the workers are doing a different job.”
WE-TRANSFORM leverages the effective collaboration of stakeholders in the mobility industry for in-depth dialogues to understand and respond to the challenges posed by automation on the transport labour force.
“We exchange with the stakeholders to understand what the problem is: if and how automation has impacted their daily jobs. This means we have a clear vision about what are the effects and impacts of digitalisation and automation in the transport sector.” says Pronello.
Using the outcomes of previously done research, such as main trends in the transportation sector, impacts on workers, and legal consequences, WE-TRANSFORM called stakeholders to share their views on the future of the workforce in mobility, with a focus on identification of encountered difficulties and required sources to overcome them. The stakeholders identified several drivers, namely: disaffection and dissatisfaction with their jobs; management skills not being up to date with the evolution of mobility; workers at lower levels often being more up to date with technological trends than their managers.
Another important trend is the relocation of companies and offshoring, which has increased with automation. The last influencing factor is a lack of attention towards worker training, which is linked with the lack of finances that a company can provide for it.
Who is most impacted are the workers and the end users, as automation will change the way that people work, and customer care will see a shift in how services are delivered and experienced. “There is also the risk that automation will leave the end user alone in a desert of machines, so this is the reason why in automation, customer care is so important.” Pronello cautions.
When asked to consider what the future of mobility is, Pronello has a clear vision: “I expect a mix between hard and soft skills, where technology takes a secondary role to humanistic knowledge rather than being the primary focus of expertise. The ability of human beings to observe, listen and empathise with others will be a must-have. I also want to see a mobility trainer, a person who can teach other people how to travel in a sustainable way and educate people about the values related to sustainable mobility. In this case, the money that is devoted to the advancement of technology should be more used for training and educating people, because this is the only way to change people’s behaviour.”
In the mobility setting, the driver of a now driverless vehicle could redirect their skills to support and facilitate the customer travel experience. “Those people can shift their focus on exchanging with other human beings, thus balancing the entrance of automated technologies with greater social interactions.” Pronello says.
When asked about the implications for sustainability, Pronello adds these last thoughts: “The green transition cannot be achieved only through technology but through behaviours that utilise the full potential of these technologies. To truly drive the green transition, we must articulate why individuals and communities should embrace these technologies in a way that aligns with sustainability goals, rather than simply relying on technological advancements alone."
Laura Galante & Hywel Jones