July 6, 2018


The union warns that voluntary certification would not only fail to provide the regulation necessary to protect our citizens, it also fails to recognise the inability of a machine to predict human behaviour and make human ethical decisions.

“Sand-shoe wearing billionaire entrepreneurs who are driven by profits are in no position to make up ethical rules that permit a machine to decide who dies in a car crash. Technology, however advanced, will not be able to consider all the variables and make conscious ethical decisions in the same way a human would,” TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon said.


Driverless cars have already shown devastating consequences when a woman crossing the road with her bicycle in Arizona was struck down and killed by a driverless car operated by Uber, earlier this year.


“There’s no guarantee on fewer road deaths and injury whilst AI unsuccessfully contemplates every road incident scenario by applying artificial ethics. Are we not developing a form of artificial stupidity, where algorithmic ethics decides human fate?” Sheldon added.


Sheldon also warned of the security threats posed by these advanced technologies. “Every day we are made aware of how vulnerable technology can be. Uber had 57 million customer and 600,000 driver details hacked and kept it quiet for a year. If they can allow that to happen, what’s stopping their vehicles being hacked and causing mass devastation?” Sheldon said.


In the UK, experts warned that terrorists could use vulnerabilities in AI to crash or hijack fleets of driverless vehicles.


Germany has begun to develop ethical rules on how driverless vehicles are developed. Germany passed legislation last year requiring a driver to be behind the wheel of an autonomous vehicle at all times ready to take control if prompted to do so.


The TWU says public debate is needed in Australia to decipher the personal and negative consequences from unregulated science for profit.


“We have already seen food delivery companies that use digital platforms getting away with exploitation because regulation hasn’t caught up with technology. The moral challenge and policy considerations need to be taking place now,” Sheldon said.


The TWU also raised the issue of widespread job losses leading to wage polarisation without artificial intelligence regulation at the NSW Labor conference last weekend. The union told the conference that a failure to regulate AI would lead to catastrophic social and ethical problems. As a result, the conference adopted the first policy addressing the issue in Australia.



  • The National Transport Commission has outlined trials of automated driving systems are already taking place in Australia, with limited commercial vehicles expected from 2020.
  • Uber was hacked with data of 57 million customers and 600,000 drivers in 2016. They kept the breach quiet for a year and paid the hackers $100,000 to destroy the data with no way to verify that they did.
  • Christopher Hart, chairman of the US National Transportation Safety Board, says his agency’s experience in investigating accidents involving autopilot systems used in trains and planes suggests that humans can’t be fully removed from control.
  • The Committee for Economic Development of Australia showed almost 40% of Australian jobs – 5 million jobs – will be redundant in 10 to 15 years.

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