When driving for a living comes to an end
While at a Quantified Self meeting earlier this week I got into a conversation with a guy who runs a health improvement project for long-haul truck drivers. They’re in terrible shape: obesity, heart disease, diabetes and other problems. This comes form spending 12 or more hours per day sitting behind the wheel of an 18-wheeler year after year. The hours spent are largely sedentary. It’s compounded by large helpings of truckstop food (“I’ll take the chicken-fried steak with extra gravy.”)
I asked the guy if the truckers were aware of the development of self-driving vehicle technology. He said the truckers he knew were about the last people who would be reading about artificial intelligence and how it’s coming into driving. In other words, if the technology starts to replace driving as job they’re not going to see it coming.
And it is coming. In an article today titled ”Futuristic cars are coming faster than you think,” there’s a rundown of companies actively developing self-driving cars and equipment. Google, of course, Mercedes, Cadillac, Audi, BMW and others are in the game, licking their lips over the profits. Nevada was lobbied to pass laws permitting the testing of autonomous vehicles in the state. The National Highway Traffic Safety Commission is testing networking equipment for cars so they can communicate with each other.
The first and most compelling force behind this is to get rid of paid drivers in business. Truck drivers, cab drivers, delivery van drivers are an expensive pain in the neck, like all employees, and companies want to get rid of them. Ravi Pandit, CEO of KPIT Cummins, puts it pretty directly: “There is a strong business case for an autonomous car that can drop you off or a cab without the expense of a driver.”
And the jobs lost? Tish-tosh, the guys making the money don’t spent a minute worrying about that. They’re not the ones who are going to lose their jobs. They wave a hand and say, “Technology has been displacing jobs for 200 years and people always find something else to do.”
So the truck drives I mentioned at the start won’t have to worry about getting fat and sick sitting behind the wheel for much longer. GM estimates it will start selling semi-autonomous vehicles in 2015 — three years from now — and fully autonomous cars by 2020.