An autonomous truck doesn’t need a break and can drive 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Meaning the technology would double the maximum output of the U.S transportation network while also reducing the cost by 75%. This does not even take into account the fuel efficiency gains. The most fuel efficient cruising speed is around 45miles per hour, truck drivers who are paid by miles travelled tend to drive a lot faster. Further fuel efficiencies will be gained by the autonomous fleets platooning technologies, where the trucks will draft behind each other benefiting from slip streams.
The cost of goods we purchased are inflated by the trucking industry, therefore autonomous trucks will benefit consumers globally by bringing down costs and increasing standards of living. Not only will we see a financial uplift once the technology is rolled out across the country, we will also see a massive decrease in road accidents. This year alone more people will be killed in road accidents involving trucks than all domestic airline accidents in the last 45 years. It’s also worth noting that more truck drivers were killed while driving than any other profession in the U.S
The average age of a truck driver is around 55 years and is rising every year, it is a gruelling job that most young people don’t want to do. Projected shortages in drivers will incentivise manufacturers to promote autonomous technologies.
We must also note the adverse affects that removing drivers will have on the economy. There are over 1.6 million truck drivers in the U.S making it the most common profession in 29 states. This means 1% of the U.S workforce stand to lose their jobs. This will have a devastating effect on the economy and the effects will trickle down. Gas stations, motels, rest stops and other businesses catering to these drivers will struggle to survive without them.
However the benefits from adopting this technology will be so huge the the rest of the population that we simply will not be able to hold it back. Such a massive boost to transportation performance will have huge social and economic benefits to human well-being. How far would mankind have gotten had we banned mechanized agriculture out of fear that Americans would lose jobs?
We often talk about how artificial intelligence might displace jobs in some distant future, but that future is upon us right now, and we can no longer afford to put off the conversation on how we’re going to adapt to this new reality.