The impact of technology, digitization and automation on mobility and the workforce


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The growth and deployment of new transport services through automation and ICT technologies is a process that is constantly accelerating. But this growth has an important quantitative and qualitative impact on the workforce, and it is therefore crucial that policy makers facilitate the adaptation of workers’ skills to this new era.

The impact of automation and digitization on the transport workforce is investigated by WE-TRANSFORM, a European project that started in December 2020 and coordinated by Professor Cristina Pronello, transport professor at Politecnico di Torino, Interuniversity Department of Regional and Urban Studies and Planning – DIST. The project involves 34 partners from all over the world and from different sectors – public institutions, universities, social partners, unions, companies, multinationals and the legal sector.

WE-TRANSFORM aims to apply a participatory approach, using Collective Intelligence (CI), supported by Artificial Intelligence (AI), to generate an evidence-based and action-oriented program to address the challenges that the digitization and automation will pose a challenge to the transport sector. The project has three main objectives which are discussed below.

A collaborative platform

Establish and foster a collaborative platform for discussing the effects of automation on transport work with relevant stakeholders. This will be done primarily through the creation of a transnational hub of life – designed as an intercontinental European platform comprising Japan, Canada, the United States and South Korea – which will include key stakeholders from all modes. transport, researchers, decision-makers, unions and associations of workers, according to professional profiles.


Shareable knowledge

Co-create user-friendly and shareable knowledge related to the impacts of automation on transport work. The objective is to assess the impacts on workers in all modes of transport and related sectors (indirect / induced effects), paying particular attention to specific topics, such as women and people with disabilities and gain a good understanding and insight into the factors that can lead to automation-driven transitions. This knowledge includes not only the actions and initiatives related to transportation automation and best practices from previous automation-focused transitions, but also the barriers, needs, skills and challenges that are needed to have a foundation. appropriate to contrast the negative aspects of automation.

With its shared and participatory approach derived from the transnational hub of life and the use of CI, WE-TRANSFORM envisions being a breakthrough in governance change, grounded in ‘wisdom of the crowd’. To do this, AI and machine learning methods will be tested to bring together and analyze all H2020 R&I literature, reports, study activities and projects, case studies and data across the globe. on the impacts of automation on the workforce, both in transport and in other sectors.

Effective dialogue

Allow and support a sustainable and effective dialogue on innovation and the reality of the requirements and conditions of the workforce. Identified stakeholders will use CI to co-design a comprehensive, evidence-based, action-oriented and appropriate program to minimize the potential negative effects of automation on the workforce. The solutions identified will not be simply based on predictions or simulated scenarios. Extreme events and discontinuities are increasingly the reality, and these are, by their nature, uncertain and unpredictable, so prediction on past knowledge seems far less useful than continuous adaptation and adjustment. to unforeseeable events.

In addition, an economic model including a multi-year financial plan to sustain the center of life beyond the duration of this project is planned.

The future of WE-TRANSFORM

WE-TRANSFORM will create a stakeholder forum, with several meetings planned during the projects and six workshops (two per year). Stakeholders from different regions of the European Union will be involved through the consortium partners. The Forum and the Advisory Board (technical and marketing advisor of the project) will contribute to the identification and involvement of stakeholders in the activities of the transnational center of life, allowing a collaborative learning process between the participants. Using a variety of techniques will help collect data and generate knowledge (eg, interviews, public consultations, serious gaming activities). Thus, the information will be analyzed to generate the action-oriented program available to policy makers to make their choices.

WE-TRANSFORM is coordinated by the Politecnico di Torino, which is extremely focused on research on transport, smart mobility and sustainability. In essence, transport research is interdisciplinary: its object of study is structurally influenced by geographic constraints, political agendas, social organization and cultural practices.

This is why Professor Pronello created the Transport Research for Innovation and Sustainability (TRIS) laboratory in 2015 by applying an interdisciplinary approach. Research broadens knowledge of human behavior in the spatio-temporal environment and develops concrete solutions to help individuals, businesses and decision-makers to forge a smarter sustainable mobility of goods and people, adapted to the specific geographic context.

TRIS’s research activity revolves around two main themes:

  • The environmental impacts of transport systems.
  • Analysis of travel behavior to define the right policies for sustainable mobility.

The objective is to develop and adapt any concrete solution which will improve the mobility and quality of the movement of people as well as the efficiency and safety of freight deliveries.

In addition, Professor Pronello recently created, inside the Politecnico di Torino, MobyForAll SrL, a technology and consulting company that provides services and solutions to transport operators (passengers / freight), decision makers and individual citizens, through massive data collection, processing and visualization of mobility behaviors , as well as information provided by users, aimed at modifying both mobility behavior and the overall performance of transport systems.

The company helps stakeholders (private and public), including national, regional and local governments, to implement appropriate actions to support transport planning, raise awareness of the impacts of travel and increase sustainability, safety and safety of mobility.

Workforce Europe – Transformation Agenda for Transport Automation (WE-TRANSFORM) has received funding from the European Union’s HORIZON 2020 research program under grant agreement no. 101006900

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