The workers who participated in a recent poll on behalf of Volvo Construction Equipment (Volvo CE) have some very complicated attitudes towards automation and artificial intelligence (AI) in the workplace. Some 31 percent said they fear that their jobs were at risk from automation, but far more – 46 percent – worry that their safety is at risk from their non-human co-workers. However, three in 10 workers believe that automation can actually make construction safer.

Some other key findings:

  • 54% think autonomous machines and AI will boost productivity
  • 48% believe advanced technology will increase the speed of every day construction tasks.
  • Respondents aged between 25 and 44 are more likely to think autonomous machinery could be a benefit in areas such as productivity, speed, safety, quality and fuel efficiency compared to those aged 44 and over.
  • When it comes to being afraid of being replaced by AI, the machine operator is perceived to be most at risk – according to almost half of respondents (48%). And those working in this job role agree, with three in five machine operators believing their job could become completely redundant following the rise in computer technology. Engineers are considered the second job role most at risk (21%), followed by bricklayers (17%) and construction managers (16%). Only one in five construction workers believe no jobs will be affected at all.

Would rather lose a job to a human

From those who responded as part of the wider survey across all industries, some 55% agree that they would rather lose their job to a human than a machine. AI could even impact workers’ career choices with nearly three quarters of US respondents (72%) agreeing in some capacity that they would consider choosing a job that will not be affected by autonomous machinery or AI, compared to over two in five UK respondents (45%). 

But just how much of an impact will automation have on construction jobs? With the majority of construction workers confident that AI would not do a better job than them (58%), can these technologies ever live up to tried and tested manpower?

The company behind the poll - Volvo CE – said “nurturing innovation is the key to surviving – and thriving – in the coming age of automation.” Volvo Group Automation Specialist Christian Grante highlighted Volvo CE’s Triple Zero vision of zero emissions, zero accidents and zero unplanned stops as the key to maximizing the potential for automation. He says: “We believe our focus on technologies such as automation is exactly what allows us to make the construction industry safer. Our research into this area has shown that autonomous systems really can improve safety and productivity for our customers. And with more machines working in collaboration with humans, rather than being controlled by them, this will only increase further.”

About the survey

1. The survey was carried out by Volvo Construction Equipment in conjunction with Censuswide in early 2019.
2. 2,219 members of the public across the USA and UK took part in the survey, of which 205 were construction workers.