Apparently, the future is here as driverless cars and trucks are making their way onto a road near you. Google’s driverless car is already sending shockwaves across several industries. The technology may be fascinating, but questions are being raised about how these advancements will impact people who drive cars and trucks for a living.
Moshe Vardi, a computer scientist at Houston’s Rice University suggests, “All those jobs are going to disappear in the next 25 years.” He goes on to pose the question: Are we prepared for an economy in which 50 percent of people aren’t working?
According to Forbes, countries like Australia are currently testing driverless technology in mines. Jobs that were previously reserved for humans have been temporarily outsourced to robots.
“Mining company Rio Tinto has turned to driverless trucks to operate mines in Western Australia. The multinational digger has just confirmed it has let the trucks roam free at the Nammuldi iron ore mine, a hole in the ground located in more or less the middle of nowhere, as the nearest town, Tom Price, is 60km away. Nammuldi and Tom Price’s climates are unrelentingly unpleasant. Workers are hard to come by and the cost of living is high. Even those hardy folk that do work on site often do so on a ‘fly-in, fly-out’ basis that sees them spend a fortnight or so on site before retreating to a more pleasant locale. Bots of any sort are therefore a very sensible idea. One of the world’s largest mining truck manufacturers, Komatsu, twigged to this a while ago and created an ‘Autonomous Haulage System’ dubbed ‘Frontrunner’ that sees its flagship 930E dump truck ‘driven’ by GPS.”
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 5,000 trucking jobs were added in January 2013. Promising news during a time where unemployment is teetering around 7.9 percent. But what’s the point of adding trucking jobs if drivers will soon be obsolete?
Over the last 200 years, whenever major technological inventions were brought to market, people lost jobs, however, positions requiring new, advanced skills were created. The article, Will Smart Machines Create a World Without Work, offers:
“Smarter machines and niftier software will continue to replace more and more midpay jobs, making businesses more productive and swelling their profits.”
Under this scenario, driverless technology could force a large number of transportation employees into lower-paying jobs. Bus drivers, deliverymen, long-haul truckers, cab drivers, waste management drivers and other jobs may soon face the threat of extinction. Another possibility? The industry will experience a shift where employees play a supporting role rather than lead. California recently passed legislation setting the stage for driverless vehicles—with backup drivers.
U-turn: What do you think about driverless trucks? How would it change the trucking industry? How could it help? Share your opinion in our comments section!