Last night, Freightliner introduced the world to its Inspiration truck, a prototype for the first semi-truck capable of fully autonomous highway driving that’s been officially licensed to operate on public highways in Nevada.
Once the truck is on the highway, in daylight during good weather, it can operate without further control from the driver. This is a big deal for trucks, since they typically operate over long distances on the highway, so even this limited autonomous capability represents a good fraction of the total miles driven.
This might be a welcome break for drivers, for now. They’ll be able to do anything they want: watch TV, text, or play games on their phone while the vehicle is in control. On the other hand, how long until the driver isn’t needed at all?
According to this blog post, six million people are employed as professional drivers, including taxi, delivery, truck, and bus. Virtually all of those jobs will evaporate over the next ten to fifteen years.
“Virtually all of those jobs will evaporate over the next ten to fifteen years.”
One can only hope. In the interim they’ll have the time to study to become autonomous vehicle development ethicians.