By David Peel
Self-driving vehicle technology is already available in cars. Google has a self-driving car driven over 100,000 miles without accident, for example. Tesla has only had one fatality in thousands of miles driven. But this automation is now also present in 40-ton 18-wheelers. It is only a matter of time until unmanned behemoths will surround you in traffic on I-40. We were already seeing semi trailer automation with things like automatic landing leg cranks, which were minimising driver injuries with great success, so all going well this complete automation could be a change for the better.
There are several good reasons why:
1. Robots don’t collect salaries. In the U.S. alone, there are 3.5 million professional truck drivers, many making the middle class income of around $36,000 – $46,000 per year.
2. Robots do not need health insurance, sick days, 401Ks or vacations.
3. Robots do not drink or use drugs while driving.
4. Robots have far fewer accidents and lives are saved.
5. There are shortages of qualified drivers to drive big trucks.
6. Robots do not get distracted by cell phones or other accidents.
7. Robots can work without mandated rest breaks, cutting cargo delivery time by 66%.
How long will this take to be our new “normal?” It will seem normal to us, in most estimations by 2026. One more generation after that, and manual cars will be like vinyl albums are now: for true collectors only.
Uber though, is making car ownership an unneeded luxury quickly. When I was out of town at a legal conference recently, it was cheaper and faster to “Uber” around the area than to get my truck out of the crowded parking garage. At $5.00, and no tip needed, I could go to a meeting in minutes and not have to find a spot to park. Then, UberEats, delivered a meal from a distant restaurant to my hotel for less than a simple room service meal. We are preparing to see automobile ownership decline and go mostly extinct, which will affect many millions of jobs like valets, auto loans, garages, mechanic and body shops, car rentals, auto loans, automobile insurance, tow trucks and aftermarket parts manufacturers. At the exact same time, 3 million truck drivers will be getting a pink slip. But some would keep a job if only to deliver goods in crowded cities or having one professional driver drive, with a chain of auto-trucks drafting behind.
Otto, an Uber company, just had an auto-18-wheeler drive from Fort Collins 100 miles to Colorado Springs. The delivery was Budweiser beer and the cans even bore a message that read: “First delivery by self-driving truck.”
Peel seeks justice for those injured in motorcycle, truck and car accidents, disability and medical malpractice. He often addresses churches, clubs and groups without charge. Peel may be reached through PeelLawFirm.com wherein other articles may be accessed.