May 23, 2015

TechnoHorrors: This is a map of the most common job in each US state in 2014.


Self-Driving Trucks Are Going to Hit Us Like a Human-Driven Truck

"It should be clear at a glance just how dependent the American economy is on truck drivers. According to the American Trucker Association, there are 3.5 million professional truck drivers in the US, and an additional 5.2 million people employed within the truck-driving industry who don’t drive the trucks. That’s 8.7 million trucking-related jobs. We can’t stop there though, because the incomes received by these 8.2 million people create the jobs of others. 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. But we still can’t even stop there. Those working in these restaurants and motels along truck-driving routes are also consumers within their own local economies. Think about what a server spends her paycheck and tips on in her own community, and what a motel maid spends from her earnings into the same community. That spending creates other paychecks in turn. So now we’re not only talking about millions more who depend on those who depend on truck drivers, but we’re also talking about entire small town communities full of people who depend on all of the above in more rural areas. With any amount of reduced consumer spending, these local economies will shrink."

Posted by gerardvanderleun at May 23, 2015 11:31 AM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

I'll take the under on that one.

Posted by: Fat Man at May 23, 2015 1:41 PM

The displaced truck drivers can cross train to wrecker drivers, ambulance drivers, paramedics, highway cleanup crews, hearse drivers, grave diggers, funeral home attendants, hospital orderlies, auto rebuilders and a lot of other jobs that will be created by the carnage that ensues from all those driverless trucks wrecking everyone else.

Posted by: BillH at May 23, 2015 2:27 PM

The technology to replace airline pilots is already fairly mature and well proven. Pilots cause the majority of accidents, but people would rather get on an airplane with a possibly tired, drunk or suicidal pilot than without one. I hope that sentiment, expressed by BillH above, proves to be strong enough to keep me in a job for a while longer.

Posted by: Tim the truck driver at May 23, 2015 5:37 PM

Johnnie Cash has a few words for you:

Posted by: chasmatic at May 24, 2015 2:32 AM

There is no way that driver-less trucks will be stopped. It will happen and probably sooner than later.

I personally think it will be cataclysmic to our already teetering economy but I don't think that the people who have the money to make it happen actually give a shit.

Bill Henry

Posted by: Bill Henry at May 24, 2015 8:21 AM

Driverless vehicles will NOT happen on public roads in your lifetime if you are a boomer.

Posted by: ghostsniper at May 24, 2015 9:12 AM

Driverless trucks? Not as long as these guys have anything to say about it.
Hint: follow the money.

About The Teamsters
Founded in 1903, the Teamsters mission is to organize and educate workers towards a higher standard of living.

There are currently 1.4 million members under 21 Industrial Divisions that include virtually every occupation imaginable,
both professional and non professional, private sector and public sector.

Posted by: chasmatic at May 24, 2015 12:46 PM

I'm with chasmatic on this one.

The only variable changing that would be drug cartels wanting driverless trucks for secrecy. Then it'll be Mad Max time.

Posted by: Fausta at May 25, 2015 5:40 AM

My subdivision sits where a former tenement once did. The primary street here is a squared circle (think: the track at Indianapolis), and has two entry points, which bisect the "straightaways" on each side.

The entry points are 45th St., which runs North/South. How. Ev. Errrrr. 45th st. no longer runs continuously through our neighborhood. The developers thoughtfully made the "infield" of that circular street an esplanade, nicely landscaped, with park benches, the community mailboxes and olde fashioned street lights and brick pavers, etc.

So, we get semi trucks, 53' trailers loaded with bales of cotton on their way to the Moody Compress, and they follow their outdated GPS and maps, right into this subdivision.

And get trapped. The streets are too narrow, the corners to sharp.

To date, the cumulative damages exceed $150k. They've knocked over a fire hydrant, breaking it off some six feet underground, where it joined the 12" main.

Which excavated a car-sized cavern under the street. They just pumped several truckloads of grout in there, only this past Friday.

Not to mention torn up lawns, landscaping, demolished street signs, etc.

Now, you tell me how a self-driving truck could "see" into this subdivision, ignore it's own GPS and exercise the judgement necessary to take the proper alternate routes, all in defiance of what's in the electronic files and maps?

Yeah, "self driving" might work on the interstates. Down at the gritty and granular "street level", where a talented driver has to make his driving a work of art, just in order to back a trailer into a seemingly impossible place?

Then, not so much.

When the self-driving trucks can get creative and think out those seemingly impossible maneuvers, then maybe.

Till then? Drivers will still earn those checks, and rightfully so.

Sunk New Dawn
Galveston, TX

Posted by: Jim at May 25, 2015 7:16 AM

Jim: I agree totally. Expanding this "robots vs humans" dynamic we can think of many jobs and procedures and functions that require human participation. From maintenance and repair of sophisticated machine tools to emptying the garbage. The human might be a guy with a Master Electrician's training or a two digit IQ fella that empties waste bins.
Here we go with an example: dumpster bins full of trash, robot aligns dump machine, hoists and tips container, down and done. Deviation of the accepted protocol - a bin with trash on fire or containing rejects that can be reworked or with a drunken bum sleeping inside, same thing, dump, down and done. We can think of many scenarios where decision, discretion, exception to the rule are required and a guy with an eighth grade education is just the guy rather than a cold steel machine.

As my uncle Letsgo would say, "Somebody still have to change light bulbs and put new toilet paper in stall."

Posted by: chasmatic at May 25, 2015 8:41 AM

One imagines a driverless truck would be programmed to avoid accidents, to the point of stopping if needed.

Thus enabling a formerly employed person to simply block the roadway with a slowly traveling vehicle, and the fun begins.

What would be the programming alternative, absent drone strikes?

Posted by: itor at May 25, 2015 10:26 AM

"... programmed to avoid accidents ..." yes, but incapable of discretionary decisions.
Too many random factors, can't program them all.

Posted by: chasmatic at May 25, 2015 10:14 PM

Thank you for your post. Your point that robotic trucks will expand their economic impact well beyond the unemployed truckdrivers is one well made. Many small towns have grown up along the Interstate Highway system in the U.S. The truck driver is an important component of the economic health of these towns. Their removal could push these towns into a death spiral.

As we discuss, the driverless vehicle is just one of as set of emerging advanced robotic and artificial technologies. IBM's Watson that beat top Jeopardy players two years ago is now Dr. Watson and is beating the best human diagnosticians. Honda's ASIMO is learning to perform effectively as a maid, waiter and busboy. Several companies are just now introducing cost effective robochefs that can make better food, faster and cheaper. The largest manufacturer of electronics in the world, Foxconn has committed to purchase 1,000,000 robots that are scheduled to replace 500,000 assemblers of Apple products.

All of this is going to come thundering down on the global economy over the next fifteen years. This is one of 'four horsemen of the Industrial Age Apocalypse' that is going to create absolute chaos. We come out the other end fabulously affluent compared to today, but those who do not prepare for this transformation are going to get trampled in to dust.

Posted by: Michael Ferguson at May 26, 2015 8:03 AM

Michael: I don't know much about robotics or what impact on the economy will ensue.
I have a hunch that more robots will bring more, albeit different problems.
Quality standards, insurance, material handling logistics, all aspects.

Remember when the computer was touted to decrease paperwork, enhance productivity, raise technological levels?
It hasn't happened yet. Quite the contrary.
"Hands on" is still a viable method.

Posted by: chasmatic at May 26, 2015 4:20 PM