Self-driving Trucks

Those 3.5 million truck drivers driving all over the country stop regularly to eat, drink, rest, and sleep. Entire businesses have been built around serving their wants and needs. Think restaurants and motels as just two examples. So now we’re talking about millions more whose employment depends on the employment of truck drivers. […]

Robot trucks will kill far fewer people, if any, because machines don’t get tired. Machines don’t get distracted. Machines don’t look at phones instead of the road. Machines don’t drink alcohol or do any kind of drugs or involve any number of things that somehow contribute to the total number of accidents every year involving trucks.

Never heard of Scott Santens before, but I came across his article and I found it fascinating. It starts with an analysis of the truck industry and the impact it had on the drivers. And then it touches on the key question: we tend to think of technology as a job replacement mechanism, but the implications go much farther, it impacts how the overall economy is shaped.

From a purely rational and technical point of view, the argument is appealing: let the machines do the driving because we are so bad at it. But once we’ve passed that point, you start thinking of the small economies that work around the truck industry. The fact that this is the most common in the USA. The local ecosystems surrounding these incomes. This time around the alternatives might not create additional jobs.

So without you even noticing, the topic has shifted from the imminent unemployment of truck drivers to the extinction of car ownership, and the accumulation of capital toward corporations and away from the middle class.

First published on May 20, 2015