Driverless cars and their impact on productivity and efficiency: An experiment carried out with food inspectors at the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration

Morten Emsholm Kjær

Student thesis: Master thesis


Driverless cars will enter the marketplace within the next 10-20 years. Numerous studies and articles have predicted the effects of autonomous cars to be profound. In addition to fewer accidents and better utilization of the carpool, many researchers and authors project that driverless cars will lead to productivity increase and an increase in quality of life. Instead of steering a car, people can use the transportation time productively, e.g. executing work tasks that can be performed in a car. While the macroeconomic effects sound very promising, very little research has been made on the micro-level and a number of questions are unanswered: Will people be working or relaxing? Will people be able to work or will they experience motion sickness? How productive will they be while transported? The Danish Veterinary and Food Administration (DVFA) (Fødevarestyrelsen) has approx. 300 food inspectors across the country visiting companies producing or selling food. Normally the food inspectors drive in cars to visit these companies and thereby spend many hours behind the steering wheel. In addition to the visits, the food inspector write reports, read up on new regulations, communicate with colleagues etc. Therefore, the food inspectors at the DVFA are optimal candidates for exploring the potential of increasing the productivity when introducing driverless cars. Method: To explore the potential of a higher productivity, 5 food inspectors from the DVFA are participating in an experiment. The experiment includes being transported in a simulated autonomous car during a full workday with an experimenter acting as an invisible driver. The food inspectors are given full provision over the car, and can be taken anywhere, including their homes, during a working day. The inspectors will be observed during all transportation rides and will fill out a questionnaire after each trip. At the end of each experiment day, the participating food inspector is interviewed. The observations, questionnaires and interviews are used to determine what activities is being conducted in the car. Results: Five experiments were conducted and the results showed that the food inspectors spent the majority (approx. 87 %) of the transportation time for work-related activities, including preparing for upcoming visits, processing a completed visit and other work-related activities. As 2 out of 5 food inspectors already make and answer phone calls when driving themselves, a more conservative 50% conversion is also proposed. Conclusion: Most of the activities performed in the autonomous car would have to be done by the food inspectors at a different time. As such, the efficiency increased up to 5,3% allowing for a potential reduction of up to 16 food inspectors. The driverless car also provided the opportunity for the food inspectors to prepare and process an inspection immediately before and after a visit potentially increasing the quality of the visit and the following inspection report. Furthermore, the autonomous car allowed for immediate response and full concentration during phone conversations with colleagues. This led to a potential increase in productivity as a result of inspections of higher quality. Converting 50% - 87% of the hours used for transportation in 2015 into work-related activities is equivalent to having an additional 10-17 FTE food inspectors (3,2% – 5,6%). From the research, the following hypothesis is proposed: A large amount of transportation time in a driverless car can be used for work-related activities, potentially leading to an increase in productivity, efficiency or a mix of both.

EducationsMSc in Business Administration and Information Systems, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2016
Number of pages102