Robot truckers could replace 500,000 US jobs

SAE Level 4 autonomous vehicle already demonstrated as the article states. Bit of a stretch at this point to claim a loss of 500K jobs.

Each jump in technology has resulted in a net increase in jobs. The loss in one area is more than made up in another new discipline.


Might have to come pretty soon. A lot of truckers are parking their trucks until fuel prices come down or vendors pay more.

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No truckers? Just great. Now the supply shortage is even worse,

Hope thathe railroads cahelp withat.
Nothing is more fuel efficient. (Not sure about ships.)

There have been news articles for several years about the nationwide shortage of truckers. The furthest back that I could find in print is from 2021, but articles on this topic were definitely published prior to 2021. Now, for a variety of reasons, the shortage seems to be getting more acute, so the sooner that safe robo-trucks can ply our highways, the better-off the general public will be.

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Personally I’m kind of tired of all of the future predictions. So ya gotta ask, who is writing the articles and based on what information. Drought, food shortage, freeze-thaw, alien invasions, shell fish dying, etc. I just ignore most of this stuff.

Thing is, ask a trucker. They do a whole lot more than just drive from point A to point B. Loads just don’t magically get hooked up and delivered. Yep couple mouse clicks and away we go, supply chain solved. “Where did this load come from, nothing I ordered?”


We’re heading toward a tipping point on that, though. While historically true, factors are changing such that it won’t be true forever. When buggies were replaced by cars, buggy factory employees could go build car bodies. As coal mining declines, workers can retrain to install solar.

But what do you do when a machine replaces your job, and a boatload of other jobs to boot? It’s not like the average semi driver is going to get fired and go be a doctor or a lawyer. The jobs they can retrain into (either abilitywise or affordabilitywise) are themselves targets of machine replacement.

That’s true, but you could replace 20+ OTR truckers with one guy in a freight yard driving a forklift if you didn’t need a human to actually drive the truck. And btw, Amazon already has robot forklifts working in its warehouses, so the yard guy’s on the chopping block too. He might be able to jump to flatbed loading since it’ll be harder to get a machine to strap loads down properly, but there will only be so many of those jobs available. Box trailers will at some point be loaded and unloaded without ever being touched by human hands.

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Machines have been replacing workers for nearly 200 years. The workforce keeps growing as has the population. That argument has been made for the entire 200 years. What makes it invalid now?

We use 1/4 of the autoworkers to build more cars than we did in 1980 and unemployment is at low levels. So where are all the autoworkers sons and daughters working?

Someone needs to design those machines to drive those trucks and move that material, program them, build them, install them and repair them.

In the 1960’s professors were saying future technology would give everyone so much free time soon they’d only have to work a day or two a week, and the main problem was Americans wouldn’t know how to best enjoy their new and overly abundant leisure time. … lol …

Well they already are and have been for years. They’re called shipping containers. Not necessarily ship but loaded on the truck or train transported to the next stop. In 1968 we had a seminar and the new fangled transport containers so nothing new. Point is not everything is practical to be transported in container lots. So it’s not a matter of “they could do it this way”, it is a matter of does it make sense, and for how much freight?

As computers become more capable, and robots become more mobile, whatever job you think of to replace the one lost to a machine can also be performed by a machine. As to designing the machines, it’s not terribly well known outside of nerd circles but machines are already commonly designed by machines. AIs are already doing a better job at designing everything from computer chips to antennas. As they improve further, there goes all the design jobs. Programming is going to take a different turn once AIs become even more popular, because you don’t program AIs, you teach them. If you want an AI to recognize a car, you show it 10,000 pictures of cars. Well, Google can already display a slideshow of photo categories on demand without human intervention. Building them - there’s where the robots come in. Same for installing them and repairing them.

This isn’t going to happen tomorrow, but it is going to happen, and it’d be wise of us to think about what that will look like before we get there.

They were right about technological capabilities. Where they got it wrong was that they didn’t factor for company expectations. If workers today were expected to output at the level of workers in the 1960’s, we could have a 2-day work week. Instead, things got more efficient and therefore the demands for our output got increased.

One common thread in a lot of predictions - especially in fields that involve economics - is the failure to account for human greed.

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Robots are writing newspaper articles too. Thing is in a factory, when the whistle blows, time to go home after 8 hours. You don’t think about the place again until the next morning. Now when the job switched to design or other white collar jobs, people end up working 50. 60 plus hours a week. There is no end of the day for a lot of folks, just work to get done and deadlines, and e mails etc.

I’ve heard these grand predictions for years. I remember everyone talking about when email came, paper would be eliminated. Nope, guess again, paper use increased printing out the emails. I always laughed when the sales people would start out asking what problems they could solve. If I knew what their products would do first, I’d know if adopting it made sense.

When there is a need and it makes sense, technology will be adopted. I’m still waiting for the jet pack I thought I would have 50 years ago.

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Great example, because even though they suck at it, they’re still being “employed” to do it because they don’t cost as much as getting a human writer to do it. Imagine what’s going to happen when AIs get sophisticated enough to ape a good writer.

That’s another good example of futurists only thinking about what the technology will do, rather than also thinking about what the humans will do. The reason we don’t yet have paperless offices is because of all the stubborn Boomers and Xers who grew up with paper and you’re gonna pry it out of their cold, dead hands. Younger offices often actually do have a paperless environment. I’m one of the older guys at my company now, and I haven’t touched a piece of paper since I got hired. I even virtually signed all the new-job paperwork. Personally, even though I’m an Xer myself, I find it better. If I need to find a document, I can just do a search for it rather than rifling through a file cabinet. And it enables me to work from home whenever I feel like it because that one important note I need isn’t sitting on my desk at the office.

Interestingly, not long ago the Nobel Prize in Economics was given out to a guy who came up with the radical idea that maybe we should consider human behavior when predicting economic results. That idea was originally spawned back in the 70’s, but no one paid attention to it until recently. Point being, there’s a tendency in future predictions to assume humans will always be rational when it’s much safer to assume that they will be as irrational as they possibly can be. Assuming rationality from humans just leads to inaccurate predictions.

So I think that paperless prediction will come true once we overcome human obstinance. My niece’s phone is practically surgically attached to her hand. Once those digital natives hit the workplace, they’re going to wonder why this forest of paper is flying around the office and start wondering if they need to learn how to use a rotary dial phone too. :wink:

As a software engineer who’s been working in the field for over 40 has seen the jobs that get displaced the growth in other sectors. This is totally different. Autonomous trucks lead to autonomous vehicles. If everything goes as planned then there will be a lot more then 500,000 jobs displaced. More like 30-100 MILLION from drivers to mechanics, to doctors/nurses to police. Things like auto insurance industry may not exist. Traffic police will be drastically reduced, no more need for traffic lights…and on and on and on.

Will we get there…I think so. Technical challenges still lie ahead, but the technology is rapidly changing/improving. It may take 50-100 years to achieve the final stage, but I’m pretty sure it’ll get there.


number of carjackings might even go down. well, not in minneapolis.

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I agree with that. It is difficult but possible.

It will displace a LOT of jobs, no doubt. I don’t think we can imagine the jobs that will be created from that change.

Could a gunsmith from 1810 have envisioned a CNC programmer creating firearms from a 3 axis mill in 2010 any more than a COBOL programmer could have imagined a Tik-Tok personality making $500K a year?

I also have worked in technology for 40 years. There are many career fields that did not exist when I entered college and many that are nearly extinct, or have changed so much as to be nearly unrecognizable!

Displacement does not mean disappear. Your field as well as mine have changed quite a bit since we graduated. It is up to us to update our skills to remain relevant.

Some fields will require a complete switch… the auto assembly line worker who is now an electrician or a carpenter. The travel agent who now works as a real estate agent. The journalist who is now a YouTuber. The buggy whip maker who now makes leather fetish products… :wink:

Change is inevitable.

If I didn’t keep my skillsets up to date - I’d be an out of work Fortran Programmer.

The problem is how fast things are going to change. Will our society be able to switch fast enough to keep up.

Back in the 80’s when the auto industry took a big hit and autoworkers were being laid off by the thousands many people lost everything. It’s extremely difficult for a person 55 and worked in on the assembly line since high-school to change careers and learn how to be a Computer Programmer. Not going to happen.

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I watched it happen in real time. I lived and worked in a GM town that contracted from 22,000 employees in 1979 to 1500 in 2005. Those 55 year olds that worked since high school had 30 years union pensions and retired mostly to the building trades. Some had earned college degrees, some started businesses.

The ones that got hurt the worst were the 35 to 45 year olds with young families with less than the magic 30 years. The workers found jobs eventually at a variety of businesses.

I was a HS counselor at a school that was roughly equidistant from a GM assembly plant and a Ford assembly plant. I lost count of how many parents wanted their sons to work in those factories, as their fathers currently were. I tried to point out that–by the late '90s–the car industry was shifting in favor of Japanese companies, and that they should allow their kids to go to a technical school, or perhaps to the local community college, in order to have a more secure future.

Not being content with just politely rejecting my advice, most of those parents sarcastically informed me that their kid…
will make a LOT more than you ever will, working for the public school
… or words to that effect.

The Ford factory shut down in 2004, the GM plant went bye-bye in 2005, and I have to wonder how easy it was for my former students to transition to new careers at that point. I also wonder how many of those verbally-abusive parents recalled my advice.

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