By every measure, our country is on the road to becoming an AUTOMATION NATION. Our Money Issue Cover Story comes from David Pogue of Yahoo Finance (An earlier version of this report originally aired on April 9, 2017):
Tony Hughes has been a long-haul truck driver for more than 20 years. But today, all he has to do is sit back and relax.
“‘Rosebud’ is on,” he said, flipping a switch.
Today, he’s hauling 20,000 pounds of freight down the Florida turnpike in a self-driving, robotic truck. It’s been retrofitted with a self-driving kit made by Starsky Robotics.
Stefan Seltz-Axmacher, who founded the company in 2016 with Kartik Tiwari, said, “We think that sometime towards the end of the year, we could be doing this run without a person behind the wheel.”
And if it’s not his company, it might be Otto, whose truck made headlines last October by driving itself across Colorado to deliver a shipment of beer. Otto is owned by Uber, which also has been testing self-driving taxis in Pennsylvania and Arizona.
But here’s the thing! Once our trucks and taxis drive themselves, what will happen to the people who used to do those jobs? In the U.S., that’s 180,000 taxi drivers, 600,000 Uber drivers, and 3.5 million truck drivers.
“We really need to start to think very seriously about this,” said Martin Ford, author of the book “Rise of the Robots” (Basic Books).
Ford says driverless cars and trucks are just the beginning of a wave of automation that will threaten millions of jobs, in every industry at once, like America’s nearly five million store workers.
In Seattle, Amazon is testing the Amazon Go grocery. The company says shoppers there will soon be able to walk into the store, take what they want, and walk out again, without ever encountering an employee.
Sensors will detect what you take and bill you automatically.
“The cashiers are totally gone,” Ford said. “You’re going to end up with the equivalent of a Walmart with a handful of employees. You scale that out, and that’s just extraordinarily disruptive.”
Name an occupation, and there’s somebody considering a robot to take it over.
At Zume Pizza in Silicon Valley, four specialized robots help make the pizza. Eventually, the company plans to replace the remaining humans on the line, too.