Given the economic benefits of self-driving vehicles, at least where manufacturers are concerned, there’s reason to be concerned. Unlike vehicles driven by people, self-driving trucks don’t have to stop for food, bathroom breaks, or sleep. As a result, $70 billion is expected to be saved in the transition from live drivers to autonomous vehicles. In addition, Otto’s creators projected that they could retrofit current commercial vehicles with driverless capabilities for the low cost of $30,000 — about $10,000 less than the average annual wages for a human driver.

In response, the commercial transportation sector has attempted to downplay the risk of driverless vehicles taking over the industry. Sam Elitzer, Founder of the professional truckers’ network TruckersReport, is skeptical of these claims: “Some people in the industry are very confident that the software and technology will not be able to replace them,” Elitzer says. “There’s a strong undercurrent of denial there.”

Even if Elitzer’s instinct is correct, drivers don’t have to panic just yet. There’s much progress to be made before self-driving cars can take to the highways in droves. Technologies like automatic breaking, for example, still haven’t advanced as expected.

That said, given the amount of money and manpower invested in automation, it’s only a matter of time before some roles traditionally filled by human workers are replaced by technology. Already, there are robots zipping across Amazon’s warehouse floors and an entirely mechanized auto assembly line at Tesla. Automation certainly makes for more efficient, productive supply chains — but at what cost?


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