Autonomous cars are going to revolutionize a lot of things, mainly the way we get around. No more having to sit in traffic for hours without anything to do. Self-driving cars will take a lot of the hassle out of commuting, long trips, and mundane stretches of road.
But driverless vehicles are also expected to change jobs that involve a human driver. Truckers, ride-sharing drivers, and delivery drivers could all see their jobs get cut as companies move to self-driving cars to cut costs. The autonomous semi-truck takeover , though, is still a way down the road.
Still 20 Years Away
In a lengthy article, Digital Trends outlined why self-driving vehicles won’t be taking jobs away from human drivers anytime soon.
“I don’t think in general the public and our lawmakers are in tune with the ramifications of technology and what the industry is necessarily trying to do,” Wally Steagall, Vice Chair of the American Trucking Association’s Technology and Maintenance Council, said in an interview with the outlet. “You can drive point A to point B autonomously. Don’t get me wrong. That technology? We can do that. It’s all the things that make it safe and viable that are tough.”
Truckers cover the most miles out of any drivers on the road. They’re also part of an $800 billion industry, according to Business Insider. There’s also the issue of just how many open trucking jobs available at the moment, as American Trucking Associations claims that roughly 60,000 positions are available.
With that much up for grabs and that many open positions, the trucking industry could be the first to see the mass adoption of autonomous vehicles.
Big companies are already looking to implement self-driving technology in 18-wheelers. Waymo, startup TuSimple, and Tesla are exploring autonomous semis, while companies like Starsky Robotics have actually completed short trims with semi-autonomous semis. Uber was developing semi-truck technology, before shutting the program down last year.
What Jobs Will Change
Despite those things, Steagall doesn’t see autonomous trucks coming anytime soon. “Given the rate of driver turnover and the shortage of drivers, I’m not worried about long haul drivers losing jobs, and I’m not worried about mechanics losing jobs either,” said Steagall. “I’m very bullish on the role of technology as increasing the value of the people and hopefully bringing more stability to those work environments – not the opposite.”
What will happen, at least what Digital Trends believes will happen, before the rollout of autonomous trucks is a spike in teleoperations controllers that can autonomously control the semi-trucks for the last part of their journey – those last few yards that aren’t on public roads.
As Steagall stated, getting autonomous vehicles from one point to another isn’t the issue, it’s the whole safety and regulatory aspect. Teleoperators are also capable of handling multiple trucks at a time.
The whole idea of teleoperators could expand beyond semi-trucks into the world of ride-sharing companies before they go fully autonomous, too. And with the adoption of teleoperators, it’s unlikely that anyone will lose their jobs. If anything, there will be a spike in the number of open teleoperations jobs before positions are cut.
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