Robots could replace 1.7 million American truckers in the next decade

Robots could replace 1.7 million American truckers in the next decade

Carmaking giants and ride-sharing upstarts racing to put autonomous vehicles on the road are dead set on replacing drivers, and that includes truckers. Trucks without human hands at the wheel could be on American roads within a decade, say analysts and industry executives. At risk is one of the most common jobs in many states, and one of the last remaining careers that offer middle-class pay to those without a college degree.

Key findings

Trucking will likely be the first type of driving to be fully automated – meaning there’s no one at the wheel. One reason is that long-haul big rigs spend most of their time on highways, which are the easiest roads to navigate without human intervention.

Several states (Michigan,California, Florida and Utah) are already laying the groundwork for a future with fewer truckers, allowing trucks to drive autonomously in “platoons,” where two or more big rigs drive together and synchronize their movements. Platooning reduces drag on vehicles, reducing fuel expenses by up to 7%.

Automation comes with equity issues: "Automation tends to replace low-wage jobs with high-wage jobs...The people whose skills become obsolete are low-wage workers, and to the extent that it’s difficult for them to acquire new skills, it affects inequality.

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