“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”
That’s the unofficial motto of the Post Office, and something that seems even more possible when the couriers themselves are robotic trucks that don’t need to eat, sleep, or go to the bathroom. Sure, we’re a long way off from the T-1000 showing up at our door with a bag of mail, but self-driving mail trucks are already being tested.
Starting today, the San Diego-based company TuSimple is running a two-week test of mail truck deliveries between USPS locations in Phoenix and Dallas. The self-driving semis will make five round trips, each one 45 hours long. Even if you’re the most ferocious road warrior in the world, wearing a diaper and an IV, that’s probably outside your comfortable driving range.
To keep an eye on things, the self-driving trucks will have a human driver who could jump in. An engineer will ride shotgun.
Self-driving trucks could provide incredible cost savings and efficiency. That will also come at the cost of driving jobs, however. According to Reuters, the American Trucking Associations estimates a shortage of as many as 174,500 drivers by 2024, due to an aging workforce and the difficulty of attracting younger drivers. So self-driving trucks will be great to replace any human shortfalls. The problem, however, will be the drivers who don’t want to be replaced by Robo-Driver 2000.
If all vehicles became self-driving, that would wipe out three percent of all American jobs. Millions of careers that could come to a screeching halt. In many states, “truck driver” is the most popular occupation.
As technology accelerates, we’ll have to be mindful of helping those displaced by its effects. Sometimes making things cheaper comes at a higher cost than we realize.