PFM 21 1 - Page 21

cover story
established technologies to the
challenge of taking on bad winter
While you're unlikely to see the
automation of gritting any time soon,
you can see that a surprising amount of
progress has already been made.
However, technology is only part of the
puzzle that needs to be solved.
Famously, the author Isaac Asimov
invented the “Three Laws of Robotics”
- a set of principles by which an
imagined future society decided how
robots could safely function alongside
people. We can say right now with
100% certainly that it’s premature to
worry about a robot gritter uprising, but
even so it’s still important to think
ahead. Look at the challenges being
presented by autonomous vehicles,
where the human dilemmas and
potential legal pitfalls are being
cautiously explored. To see this in
action, consider The Moral Machine, a
brilliant online resource from the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
( where
you can roleplay scenarios relating to
the “moral decisions made by machine
intelligence, such as self-driving cars”.
For example, in the face of an inevitable
crash, how can and should an
autonomous machine choose the lesser
of two evils between killing its two
passengers or five pedestrians? This
grisly illustration, shows the sort of
heavy lifting that human operators can’t
easily delegate. It’s a key reason why
today’s Telsas, BMWs and Volvos that
can technically drive themselves on
motorways but still require you to keep
a hand on the wheel.
In the facilities management context,
robots such as automated gritters exist
in a lawless frontier where the
challenges are still being understood
and the rules are as yet unwritten. The
same transition can be seen in other
areas of modern life being changed by
technology: The phrase “unexpected
item in bagging area” haunts every visit
to a supermarket and shows the friction
that exists where messy human life
meets dumb, inflexible machine logic.
While we can put up with a certain
amount of chaos from an automated
retail experience, in safety critical
manufacturing, and (soon), snow and ice
removal, AI will still need a human hand
on the wheel.
For this reason, it is also premature to
see the introduction of robotics into
sectors like facilities management as a
threat to jobs. Instead, data and
robotics will for the foreseeable future
be much like previous industrial
revolutions - with technology serving as
force multipliers that make human
workers more productive and efficient.
For example, it's most likely that your
first sighting of an automatic gritter will
be as it clears larger areas like car
parks while a supervising human
worker tackles trickier areas like stairs
and paths while monitoring the robot’s
performance and carrying out any
necessary maintenance. Just like many
technology, gritting will continue to be
a human industry but workers will
increasingly swap manual labour for a
more sophisticated set of skills. And it
will be worth it: Teams using technology
will be able to clear more locations each
night to an even better, safer standard.
The result will be lower risk to those
working and visiting a site, with a
reduction in costs and liability exposure
for owners and managers.
technology is already helping our
people deliver an award winning
service that’s been tested under the
toughest conditions. But there’s always
room for improvement: We’re looking
forward to welcoming you to the team,
For further information contact GRITIT
on 0800 0432 911or
Reader Reply: 211009


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