Senate Hearing Paves Way for Self-Driving Trucks

Anyone who cares about automation’s threat to jobs should know that industry is moving ahead rapidly to develop and market self-driving vehicles which endanger the employment of 3.5 million Americans. As noted here, the House passed a self-driving car bill earlier this month despite its busy schedule.

Some non-automotive companies are investing the big bucks, like Google putting over $1.1 billion into the technology. But that amount pales in comparison to Intel’s purchase of Mobileye, an Israeli-based company developing vision-based advanced driver-assistance technology, for $15 billion. Automotive and tech businesses have decided that the future is automated, and nobody wants to be left out.

Look closely to see there is no driver in the Otto truck shown below.

The Senate page for the hearing with video and text of testimonies is here: Transportation Innovation: Automated Trucks and Our Nation’s Highways, September 13, 2017

I watched the hearing on C-SPAN and would rate it as watchable, only moderately wonky.

The issues around self-driving trucks are somewhat different from cars, particularly because of the size and use. A self-driving car will always have a human in it — unless “Come and get me” is planned as a future function. A platooning strategy will probably be the norm for a while, where a driver will be present in the lead vehicle.

Of course, nobody in the hearing was so unPC as to mention that:

Automation makes immigration obsolete.

America won’t need to import foreign workers to drive its taxis or trucks — or do anything else in the roboticized future.

Experts in the field see automation as a job shrinker. Oxford researchers forecast in 2013 that nearly half of American jobs were vulnerable to machine or software replacement within 20 years. Rice University computer scientist Moshe Vardi believes that in 30 years humans will become largely obsolete, and world joblessness will reach 50 percent. The Gartner tech advising company believes that one-third of jobs will be done by machines by 2025. The consultancy firm PwC published a report earlier this year that forecast robots could take 38 percent of US jobs by 2030. Forrester Research Inc. has a more optimistic view, that there will be a net job loss of 7 percent by 2025 from automation.

Self-driving trucks could hurt drivers, Teamsters tell U.S. senators, USA Today, September 13, 2017

WASHINGTON —- A U.S. Senate committee is considering whether legislation dealing with the future of self-driving cars should also pave the way to self-driving trucks, considering the impact such technology could have on millions of workers.

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee held a hearing Wednesday on automated vehicles focusing on the future of self-driving commercial trucks and 3.5 million commercial truck drivers nationwide.

“Self-driving vehicles have the potential to change the transportation industry as we know it. That can be for the better or for the worse depending on the actions that this committee, workers and others take,” said Ken Hall, general secretary treasurer of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. “It is incumbent upon the members of this committee that workers are not left behind in this process.”

Even as Hall and others — including U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich. — suggested that it may be too early to allow for widespread testing of autonomous commercial trucks across the nation, others said that the future of autonomous trucks could greatly help reduce traffic fatalities and improve safety.

Legislation passed by the U.S. House last week paved the way toward more testing of autonomous cars across the nation — allowing for as many as 100,000 cars to be exempted from safety standards while  they are being tested — but did not address the future of autonomous trucks.

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