Everyone knows about Google’s driverless car. The traditional looking vehicle with a beanie bot on the roof will be available in 10 years, Google says. Aside from the taxi and limousine companies that may want to dump their human drivers, I think there’s a ready-made market for robotic cars among baby boomers who have had their licenses revoked because of age-related physical afflictions.
For anyone who has been homebound because they could no longer drive, an autonomous car is a godsend — it will drive them around town as if they had a personal chauffeur. Google isn’t the only company developing self-driving vehicles. Mercedes, Nissan, Volkswagen, BMW, Lexus, and Nissan Motor to name a few, are all in the game.
If you owned one, the car would detect your identity through a sensor and the car doors will automatically open either on command or as you approach (depending on how you program the car). Once comfortably seated in back, the “chauffeur” will ask where you want to go, the GPS system will enter the request, and you’re off.
Pretty cool, but autonomous cars are only the beginning. Let’s talk about trucks. Daimler has just demonstrated its autonomous Mercedes 40-ton tractor trailer. Like Google’s driverless car, Daimler is shooting for full production by 2025. (As of now, you can’t pre-order either vehicle on Amazon.)
Autonomous commercial trucks face certain challenges, even when they do get the bugs out—like the inability to change lanes. First, in a sop to truck drivers, Daimler claims that a human driver will be in the car to perform certain “administrative” duties while the truck is doing the heavy lifting.
Laws will have to be changed to allow drivers to take their eyes off the road and their hands off the wheel, but once that’s done we all know that human drivers’ main duty will be to grab a Big Mac and take a nap. That is, until they are replaced by humanoids.
Next, Congress still hasn’t funded the Highway Trust Fund, which means that the clear highway markings that must be read by the truck’s sensors are a long shot. Beyond that, our potholes haven’t been fixed, so who’s going to change the tires?
So what if America’s infrastructure is no better than Afghanistan’s -- we might still order a few Mercedes autonomous trucks…except for one thing. Jimmy Hoffa. Well, not just Hoffa, but some of 1.4 million members of the Teamsters Union.
Even if the Teamster drivers don’t mind napping while the robot does her thing, I can almost guarantee that if the truck survives the trip to the loading dock, it won’t get loaded.
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