• Revision ID 40357 REVISION
  • 2018-01-18 22:23:01
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  • Note: tightened lede, removed details on uber and postmates
 
   
Title Title
Truckers will be first casualty of self-driving technology Truckers will be first casualty of self-driving technology
Summary Summary
There are 1.7 million truckers in the U.S, those who drive on highways are at risk of losing their job to a robot Long and boring highways are perfect for today's robo-drivers
Highlights Highlights
"Exit-to-exit" autonomous trucking is as close as three years away , Trucking industry recorded more workplace deaths in 2016 than any other industry "Exit-to-exit" autonomous trucking is as close as three years away , Trucking industry recorded more workplace deaths in 2016 than any other industry
Content Content
<strong><a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-volvocars-uber/volvo-cars-to-supply-uber-with-up-to-24000-self-driving-cars-idUSKBN1DK1NH">Uber agreed to purchase </a>24,000 self-driving cars from Volvo once the technology is ready for public roads. Several other car manufacturers have <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-tech-ces-delivery/ford-taps-postmates-for-edge-in-self-driving-delivery-race-idUSKBN1EY20X">forged similar agreements</a> with ride-hailing services. But the prospect of an Uber without a human behind the wheel is likely decades away. </strong> <strong><a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-volvocars-uber/volvo-cars-to-supply-uber-with-up-to-24000-self-driving-cars-idUSKBN1DK1NH">While ride-sharing apps</a> are investing in self-driving cars, your</strong><span style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 1.6rem;"><b> Uber will likely have a human behind the wheel for decades to come. Autonomous technology is simply not ready to handle the errant pedestrians and stop-and-go traffic that comes with urban settings.</b></span>
  <span style="font-weight: 400;">Rural highways, on the other hand, are predictable enough for self-driving vehicles to be implemented in the near future. So while taxi services will require a human driver for some time, long-haul trucking jobs could be automated relatively soon. </span>
  <span style="font-weight: 400;">Steve Viscelli, a sociologist from the University of Pennsylvania who studies automation of trucking, says that self-driving trucks can soon replicate what is known as "exit-to-exit" driving. </span>
  <span style="font-weight: 400;">“You'll see [automated trucks] on interstates first, and probably on routes that aren’t snowy ... any areas that are identified as less complicated... this is where the technology will be adopted first,” Viscelli told <em>WikiTribune </em>over the phone. </span>
<span style="font-weight: 400;">Chris Urman, head of the Google self-driving project, </span><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=5&amp;v=Uj-rK8V-rik"><span style="font-weight: 400;">estimated in 2016 that it may be another 30 years</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> before human drivers become unnecessary.<i> </i>Jeremy Gelbart, CEO of a tech company focused on transportation, said another 50 years is needed before all driverless vehicles can meet <a href="http://www.newsweek.com/you-may-not-live-long-enough-ride-driverless-car-575305">public safety requirements</a>. (<em>Newsweek</em>). </span> <span style="font-weight: 400;">Industry experts believe that exit-to-exit trucking can be automated and safe in three years, according to Viscelli. This prediction does seem too ambitious considering that self-driving trucks are already on open roads in the American Southwest. </span><a href="https://www.wired.com/story/embark-self-driving-truck-deliveries/"><span style="font-weight: 400;"><em>Wired</em> reported</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> on a fleet of autonomous trucks that haul refrigerators on the monotonous, and thus ideal, road conditions between Texas and California. </span>
These far out predictions, however, mainly apply to urban environments.  
<span style="font-weight: 400;">While city streets are too complex for autonomous technology, rural highways are predictable enough for full implementation of self-driving cars in the near future. So while taxi services will require a human driver for some time, long-haul trucking jobs are at far greater risk of being automated.</span>   
<span style="font-weight: 400;">Steve Viscelli, a sociologist from the University of Pennsylvania, studies how trucking will change under self-driving technology. He says that autonomous trucks are best suited for what's known as "exit-to-exit" driving. </span>   
<span style="font-weight: 400;">“On interstates, and probably on routes that aren’t snowy ... any areas that we can identify as less complicated, or modified to be less complicated, this is where the technology will be adopted first,” Viscelli told <em>WikiTribune</em>. </span>   
<span style="font-weight: 400;">Viscelli says exit-to-exit self-driving trucking is as close as three years away. In fact, it's already being tested on open roads in the American Southwest. </span><a href="https://www.wired.com/story/embark-self-driving-truck-deliveries/"><span style="font-weight: 400;"><em>Wired</em> reported</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> on a fleet of autonomous trucks that haul refrigerators between Texas and California. </span>  
Human drivers will still be needed once the autonomous truck reaches its highway exit. Similar to Uber drivers, self-driving cars are still likely<span style="font-weight: 400;"> decades away from being able to navigate. </span>  
  The self-driving truck becomes unsafe once the highway exit is reached. This is where the human driver steps in. In this future, truckers finish the delivery once the straight-line driving is over, and technical maneuvering is needed. The prospect of an autonomous truck being able to safely <span style="font-weight: 400;">navigate through American cities, or even towns, is in the distant future. </span>
<h2><b>Benefits of self-driving trucks</b></h2> <h2><b>Benefits of self-driving trucks</b></h2>
<span style="font-weight: 400;">Demand is high for all self-driving vehicles, but particularly for large trucks, and the base of supporters is diverse. </span> <span style="font-weight: 400;">Demand is high for all self-driving vehicles, but particularly for large trucks, and the base of supporters is diverse. </span>
<span style="font-weight: 400;">Economists point to how much the U.S. economy relies on trucks, and the economic losses accrued due to human error. </span><a href="https://www.cbsnews.com/news/america-faces-shortage-truck-drivers/"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Seventy percent of all goods</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> in the United States rely on human truckers for delivery (</span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">CBS News</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">). The long and inconvenient hours of the job have led to notoriously high turnover rates and a current labor shortage of </span><a href="http://www.trucking.org/article/New%20Report%20Says-National-Shortage-of-Truck-Drivers-to-Reach-50,000-This-Year"><span style="font-weight: 400;">50,000 long-haul truckers</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, according to the American Trucking Association. </span>  <span style="font-weight: 400;">Economists point to how much the U.S. economy relies on trucks, and the economic losses accrued due to human error. </span><a href="https://www.cbsnews.com/news/america-faces-shortage-truck-drivers/"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Seventy percent of all goods</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> in the United States rely on human truckers for delivery (</span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">CBS News</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">). The job's long and inconvenient hours have led to notoriously high turnover. The American Trucking Association recorded a labor shortage of </span><a href="http://www.trucking.org/article/New%20Report%20Says-National-Shortage-of-Truck-Drivers-to-Reach-50,000-This-Year"><span style="font-weight: 400;">50,000 long-haul truckers in October 2017.</span></a>
<span style="font-weight: 400;">Public safety advocates point to problems associated with truck driving. Large trucks are involved in </span><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2661438/"><span style="font-weight: 400;">5,000 road fatalities</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> each year in the United States, according to the American Public Health Association.</span>  <span style="font-weight: 400;">Public safety advocates point to the frequent accidents associated with truck driving. Large trucks are involved in </span><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2661438/"><span style="font-weight: 400;">5,000 road fatalities</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> each year in the United States, according to the American Public Health Association.</span>
In 2016, the <a href="https://www.bls.gov/iif/oshwc/cfoi/cfch0015.pdf">most workplace fatalities </a>in any industry were recorded in the trucking industry, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Of these, 88 percent were the result of human error.  Truckers had the <a href="https://www.bls.gov/iif/oshwc/cfoi/cfch0015.pdf">most workplace deaths in 2016 </a>compared to every other industry, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Of these, 88 percent were the result of human error.
<span style="font-weight: 400;">Many fatal accidents are associated with sleep-deprived drivers. The fe</span><span style="font-weight: 400;">deral government <a href="https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/newsroom/new-hours-service-safety-regulations-reduce-truck-driver-fatigue-begin-today">passed rules in 2013</a> t</span><span style="font-weight: 400;">hat mandate rest time for drivers. However, a 2016 fatal accident </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">blamed on a</span> <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-crash/driver-fatigue-meth-to-blame-in-deadly-2015-tennessee-crash-safety-panel-idUSKCN124271"><span style="font-weight: 400;">trucker who had taken methamphetamines</span></a> <span style="font-weight: 400;">to combat fatigue demonstrates that the problem still exists. </span>  <span style="font-weight: 400;">Sleep-deprivation is commonly plays a role in trucking accidents. The fe</span><span style="font-weight: 400;">deral government <a href="https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/newsroom/new-hours-service-safety-regulations-reduce-truck-driver-fatigue-begin-today">passed rules in 2013</a> t</span><span style="font-weight: 400;">hat mandate rest time for drivers. However, a 2016 fatal accident </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">blamed on a</span> <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-crash/driver-fatigue-meth-to-blame-in-deadly-2015-tennessee-crash-safety-panel-idUSKCN124271"><span style="font-weight: 400;">trucker who had taken methamphetamines</span></a> <span style="font-weight: 400;">to combat fatigue demonstrates that the problem still exists. </span>
<span style="font-weight: 400;">Reducing accidents will also reduce traffic slowdowns, say experts. </span> <span style="font-weight: 400;">Reducing accidents will also reduce traffic slowdowns, say experts. </span>
<h2><b>Threat to labor</b></h2> <h2><b>Threat to labor</b></h2>
<span style="font-weight: 400;">Labor unions typically lobby against self-driving vehicles. The Teamsters Union, which represents more than 600,000 professional drivers, many of whom are truckers, has led the charge. Its focus is on opposing </span><a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-selfdriving-vehicles/union-cheers-as-trucks-kept-out-of-u-s-self-driving-legislation-idUSKBN1AD2S3"><span style="font-weight: 400;">legislation</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> that fast-tracks driverless technology on public roads.</span>  <span style="font-weight: 400;">Big labor has begun to lobby against the automation of trucking jobs. The Teamsters Union, which represents roughly 600,000 professional drivers, has led the charge. Its focus is on opposing </span><a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-selfdriving-vehicles/union-cheers-as-trucks-kept-out-of-u-s-self-driving-legislation-idUSKBN1AD2S3"><span style="font-weight: 400;">legislation</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> that fast-tracks driverless technology on public roads.</span>
<span style="font-weight: 400;">“We’ve been very blunt about our position, we believe there is a role for drivers ... And we don’t want to see an overnight throwing away of rules on the road that have been made over years," Teamsters Union spokesperson Kara Deniz told </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">WikiTribune</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">.</span> <span style="font-weight: 400;">“We’ve been very blunt about our position, we believe there is a role for drivers ... And we don’t want to see an overnight throwing away of rules on the road that have been made over years," Teamsters Union spokesperson Kara Deniz told </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">WikiTribune</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">.</span>
<span style="font-weight: 400;">The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates </span><a href="https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes533032.htm"><span style="font-weight: 400;">1.7 million people in the United States drive a truck</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> for a living, earning an average annual income of <a href="http://money.cnn.com/2012/07/24/news/economy/trucking-jobs/index.htm">$37,930 </a>(<em>CNN</em>). That salary is $4,000 above the national median. </span> <span style="font-weight: 400;">The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates </span><a href="https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes533032.htm"><span style="font-weight: 400;">1.7 million people in the United States drive a truck</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> for a living, earning an average annual income of <a href="http://money.cnn.com/2012/07/24/news/economy/trucking-jobs/index.htm">$37,930 </a>(<em>CNN</em>). That salary is $4,000 above the national median. </span>
<a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-autos-selfdriving/trucking-group-disappointed-self-driving-bill-leaves-out-big-vehicles-idUSKCN1C338F"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Reuters reported</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> the Teamsters played a key role in getting large-rig trucks excluded from the </span><a href="https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/1885"><span style="font-weight: 400;">first proposed federal law</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> involving self-driving cars in 2017. The omission of vehicles weighing more than 10,000 pounds </span><a href="https://www.recode.net/2017/10/4/16420420/senate-self-driving-bill-av-start"><span style="font-weight: 400;">ultimately prevented the bill from being passed</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> (</span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">Recode</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">).</span>  So when congress began drafting legislation on the testing of self-driving technology, Teamster representatives campaigned for trucking jobs. The behemoth in American labor played a key role in getting large-rig trucks to be excluded from the House bill, <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-autos-selfdriving/trucking-group-disappointed-self-driving-bill-leaves-out-big-vehicles-idUSKCN1C338F">according to Reuters.</a> The omission of vehicles weighing over 10,000 pounds<span style="font-weight: 400;"> </span><a href="https://www.recode.net/2017/10/4/16420420/senate-self-driving-bill-av-start"><span style="font-weight: 400;">ultimately prevented the bill from a vote in the Senate</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> (</span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">Recode</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">).</span>
<span style="font-weight: 400;">Without federal rules, state governments have been left to regulate self-driving cars, including trucks. Five states have passed laws that regulate self-driving cars, according to </span><a href="https://cyberlaw.stanford.edu/wiki/index.php/Automated_Driving:_Legislative_and_Regulatory_Action#State_Bills"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Stanford University</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">. California has led the driverless movement, tripling the number of autonomous vehicles on public roads, </span><a href="https://www.ft.com/content/4377b4c0-0479-11e7-aa5b-6bb07f5c8e12"><span style="font-weight: 400;">from 33 to 103</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, between 2016 and 2017 (</span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">Financial Times</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">).</span>  Without federal legislation, there are uniform public safety standards for the nascent technology. <span style="font-weight: 400;">State governments, however, have filled the legislative void left by federal inaction. Five states have passed regulations on self-driving vehicles, including trucks, according to </span><a href="https://cyberlaw.stanford.edu/wiki/index.php/Automated_Driving:_Legislative_and_Regulatory_Action#State_Bills"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Stanford University</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">. California has led the driverless movement tripling the number of autonomous vehicles on public roads, </span><a href="https://www.ft.com/content/4377b4c0-0479-11e7-aa5b-6bb07f5c8e12"><span style="font-weight: 400;">from 33 to 103</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, between 2016 and 2017 (</span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">Financial Times</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">).</span>
<span style="font-weight: 400;">With more than <a href="https://www.brookings.edu/research/gauging-investment-in-self-driving-cars/">$80 billion</a> invested in self-driving technology, according to the Brookings Institute, the financial incentive to remove human drivers from vehicles is high.</span> <span style="font-weight: 400;">With more than <a href="https://www.brookings.edu/research/gauging-investment-in-self-driving-cars/">$80 billion</a> invested in self-driving technology, according to the Brookings Institute, the financial incentive to remove human drivers from vehicles is high.</span>
<span style="font-weight: 400;">“I just don’t see a scenario where this human-truck partnership makes economic sense,” says Viscelli. </span> <span style="font-weight: 400;">“I just don’t see a scenario where this human-truck partnership makes economic sense,” says Viscelli. </span>
<h2>How to deal with automation</h2> <h2>How to deal with automation</h2>
Self-driving cars' effects on labor raise a broader conversation around automation, and social issues connected to the possibility of massive worker displacement.  The labor effects of self-driving cars raises the broader conversation around automation in general, and the social issues connected to mass worker displacement.
Jason Hong, computer scientist from Carnegie Mellon University, says the long-term focus should be on investment in professions immune to automation, which he describes as anything involving creative problem solving. The key will be identifying human-only jobs that don't require a high level of education. Hong uses the example of a plumber.  Jason Hong, computer scientist from Carnegie Mellon University, says the long-term investment should be in jobs that are immune to automation. He describes these positions as anything involving creative problem solving. Professional fields such as social work and communications are obvious candidates. The key will be identifying which human-only jobs do not require a high level of education. Hong uses the example of a plumber.
"Every plumbing problem is slightly different and requires problem-solving skills to figure out the root cause, making it harder to fully automate," Hong told <em>WikiTribune</em>. "Every plumbing problem is slightly different and requires problem-solving skills to figure out the root cause, making it harder to fully automate," Hong told <em>WikiTribune</em>.
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