Big businesses, especially those with fleets of trucks really want to eliminate pesky human drivers and replace them with autonomous vehicles that don’t take breaks, belong to unions, or ask for more money. Uber is very excited by this possibility too. Driverless trucks are already legal in Nevada and are being tested. Once the technology is ready, drivers on I-15 between Vegas and Salt Lake City may soon see the unsettling sight of Fedex triple trailers with no drivers passing them at the legal speed limit of 80 mph. I do confess to being a bit leery about how this will work out. Especially when it starts snowing and I-15 gets icy.
No matter though. Driverless cars are coming. Trash may soon be picked up by garbage trucks with no humans. And do municipal buses need drivers? Well of course they don’t. No drivers, no pension costs. How epic is that?
No one is saying what happens to the millions of workers whose jobs go away as we transition to driverless vehicles, except for airy assumptions that the poor useless dears will somehow find work in new, as yet undetermined industries. Maybe they could go work at a McDonalds that has not already replaced most of its workers with robots and wasn’t shut down because it was at a truck stop. Hmm.
Big data will be a huge part of this. Vehicles will be chipped and tracked. “Oh, I’m sorry Mr Morris, the tracking chip on your Ford detected you were doing 90 on I-15 and we are raising your insurance rates. Also, the local police have deducted the cost of the speeding ticket from your bank account.”
For those of you who expect to be sitting in your own personal car being whisked around in effortless comfort and privacy as you commute to distant suburban locations… Not quite. The true promise of autonomous vehicles isn’t about you. It’s about the larger institutions that are relentlessly squeezing costs out of the system and optimizing expensive existing infrastructure. Aging highways will be maintained by charging for their use on a mile-by-mile pay-per-view basis. Traffic congestion will be solved by having more people ride in fewer vehicles. The rich will have stylish robotic SUV chauffeurs. Everyone else will be climbing inside a fully loaded eight or twelve passenger minivan bound for the office park. And in the future you will choose this voluntarily based on price.