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September 24, 2018

The world's first autonomous tram launches in Potsdam

The world's first autonomous tram launches in Potsdam

German engineering company Siemens, launched the autonomous tram, the first of its kind in the world, on its first trip last Friday in west Berlin.

Without a driver present, the tram detects hazards by using multiple radar, lidar and camera sensors, whilst recording its surroundings on every journey. The new model runs on renewable energy and carries a maximum of 250 people.

Tram driver, Norman Gresing, welcomes the introduction of autonomous trams. Gresing explains that driving trams can be a very stressful job: “You’re responsible for 250 passengers at a time. And if technology is there to take away some of the decision-making load, I welcome that.”

“Technology sometimes complements employees by increasing their ability to perform certain tasks, and sometimes substitutes for employees by automating some or all of their tasks. [Technology] thus changes job design by refocusing the employee on tasks that are difficult to automate, and eliminating tasks that are easy to automate,” writes Michael Gibbs in his article, How is new technology changing job design?

Potsdam’s transport company ViP has stated that in the event of the autonomous trams being installed across the wider transport system, drivers would retain jobs by being deployed elsewhere, for example marshalling passengers on the platforms or assisting disabled passengers.

Richard B. Freeman, Professor of Economics at Harvard University, argues however that “as companies substitute machines and computers for human activity, workers need to own part of the capital stock that substitutes for them to benefit from these new “robot” technologies.”

Read more articles about impact of digitalization and big data on the labor force.