"Some corporations have invested huge dollars in this developing technology. It is coming, and coming faster than most realize."
Yesterday, I penned an article about the unbelievable traffic on I-40 between Little Rock and Memphis. One reader of that article responded by reminding me of all the goods that Americans use and need every day, that come via truck traffic. To that I respond, you are so very right sir! Back in business school I took an elective on transportation. It was fascinating as well as educational. I did not expect to learn as much about trucking as I did. Trucking really is the backbone of the country.
The reader did point out one more thing - forget the driver-less trucks. Sorry - this juggernaut is ready to roll. The technology is just about there, and cost of truck transportation need to be reduced. What does that mean? Currently, we are short tens of thousands of licensed OTR truckers. By 2020, that number is expected to grow to 100,000. And the current force is "graying". The average age is 49.
Will drivers freak out the first time they see a driver-less truck on the highway? I know I will - until I get use to them. But we are getting ready to cross the Rubicon. There were three concept "people movers" at the super bowl yesterday. All driver-less. Fifty year from now, it will be rare to see people driving anything. We will have driver-less cars, buses and trucks. We will have ships at sea which are automated. Our planes will be pilot-less. That includes jet fights in combat. Yes, the world fifty years from now will look NOTHING like what we have now.
By the way, most OTR truckers are very good. But the job does take its toll. A friend of mine who is a trucker said the current cadre of truckers are not as good as truckers from yesterday. I think we are trying to do too much with too few drivers. Fatigue often times wins the day. When we were down in Nebraska to see the eclipse last summer, there was a terrible accident on I-80. A trucker did not see a car stopped ahead due to congestion. That huge rig hit the back of a small car and killed three college girls.
And trains. Amtrak, the train we all love to hate, has had three accidents in the past 50 days. The fatal train wreck from this past weekend was due to the train being on the wrong track. Maybe automation can saved this failed government program.
Get ready folks. A few driver-less vehicles are now being fielded in the SF Bay area. Some corporations have invested huge dollars in this developing technology. It is coming, and coming faster than most realize. What do I think about it? It would sure be better coming down to Florida, going 80 mph, sitting back and playing computer games. And the driving? Let HAL do it.