Let’s first start with the obvious tremendously large grain of salt in all of this… Uber is currently researching self-driving cars and trucks and it would be in their best interest for self-driving technology to take off and do well. With that out of the way, the Uber Advanced Technology Group has conducted a study, the result of which they say shows a definite increase in human jobs when self-driving trucks become more ubiquitous. They’ve made their research open and available for others to look at in hopes that others will see the same patterns that they have. Their points are pretty straightforward, at least in the way they foresee self-driving freight delivery evolving.
To start, Uber envisions a future where self-driving trucks handle long-distance hauling. Think of trucks you pass on the highway and that’s what Uber wants to automate. Long haul driving is fairly straightforward, with long stretches of open road and comparatively little in the way of traffic, stopping, or other obstacles that would be more inherent in city driving. These long-haul trucks would need to drop off their freight at some sort of distribution hub, where humans would take over to unload freight and take care of local hauling.
Uber’s arguments as to why this would constitute an improvement include efficiency. Long-haul truckers are not legally supposed to drive more than a set amount each day. Self-driving trucks could go significantly longer distances without needing to stop. A self-driving truck doesn’t need to stop to sleep, eat, or relieve itself so the uptime could be significantly higher. Another argument includes the current crop of long-haul truckers. Uber’s research points to an aging fleet of drivers, with a much slower trickle of new drivers entering the market. They point to several reasons why this could be the case, including long days, up to 200 days per year spent away from home, and even the fact that drivers need to be 21 before they can get their interstate CDL license, meaning many will have found other work prior to entering the trucking fray.
In Uber’s vision, most human trucking jobs would be shifted to local hauling, meaning drivers would stay closer to home. They predict that the number of local hauling jobs would increase as long-haul trucking became more efficient, and in each of their models, they saw human jobs increasing as self-driving trucks were added to the ecosystem. You can read more about their study at the source link below, or dig into their research yourself on their Github page.
Last Updated on February 4, 2018.