Most of us will be able to reminisce in old age about the good ol’ days when humans still drove vehicles. Our grandchildren will gather round in the glow of the (simulated) fireplace at holiday time, mesmerized by tales of joy rides, road trips, and teenage tomfoolery behind the wheel. It’ll be like that Rush song. You know the one. Already, driverless cars are appearing on public roads and major automakers are already taking the steering wheels out of some vehicles. While self-driving cars will free up a whole lot of great smartphone time, the autonomous vehicle revolution will put millions of professional drivers out of work, particularly in long-haul trucking. To make the threat of widespread unemployment even more pressing Uber recently announced it has already unleashed fleets of self-driving trucks on public highways. What will this mean for the future of trucking?
Uber made the announcement in a video posted to Youtube this week. Uber says it has been operating self-driving trucks on Arizona highways, delivering commercial freight for the past few months without a single major incident. While that’s great news for the autonomous vehicle industry, the video also laid out Uber’s plans for a fully automated trucking industry.
Uber plans to construct autonomous trucking hubs with very few human workers, if any. Self-driving trucks will dock with and drop off trailers which are then unloaded or loaded by autonomous robots before heading off immediately on their next delivery. No need for showers, bathroom breaks, or whatever else truckers get into at truck stops.
Uber’s plans at the moment still rely on human drivers to make shorter, local deliveries which aren’t suited to larger trucks. Still, anyone who works in the trucking industry should take this announcement as a warning. Is it time to take to the roads with pitchforks and torches, or should we pre-emptively embrace the idea of universal basic income?