Any truck driver who breathed a sigh of relief when US Secretary of Commerce Steve Mnuchin recently stated that driverless cars "will not affect jobs in a meaningful way for roughly 50 to 100 years" can go back to being anxious about job security again.
Lior Ron, the cofounder of Otto, a driverless truck company purchased by Uber in 2016 for the small price of $680 million, recently shared quite a different estimate at MIT Technology Review's EmTech Digital conference in San Francisco on Monday.
His best guess? The US will start to see "broad deployment of driverless trucks on roads within the next 10 years."
Obviously, the change won't be from zero to 60, as Ron explains, "It's not going to happen overnight. It's going to happen in very discrete baby steps." But it should still be happening sooner rather than later.
According to Ron, it is more likely that instead of simply replacing drivers, driverless trucks will simply cause "nature of the jobs" to "shift," using drivers as a "co-pilot." This makes sense for both the humans and technology. Autonomous trucks have major difficulty navigating city streets and varying driving conditions, and truck drivers often have to work difficult hours that can be made easier and safer with driverless technology. Also, do you really think truck driver unions are going to back this move?
While the technology is certainly getting there, there are still major hurdles to getting actual autonomous vehicles out in the road en masse. While we're not saying Ron is wrong, right now, we'll believe an autonomous truck when we see it on the highway.