We are quickly heading toward a future where cars drive themselves. How soon will that future come? What affect will it have on our society? Experts can’t seem to agree, but that won’t stop the future from coming.
Google is promising they will be selling fully functional self-driving cars before 2020. If your counting, that is in less than 4 years away. Some experts believe the self-driving car revolution will be similar to the introduction of Smartphones to the market. They will hit quickly and take over the market in a short period of time.
Uber, in hopes of quickly advancing self-driving cars, has recently said they will begin rolling out driverless Uber cars in Pittsburgh starting in a only a few weeks. The cars will require a back-up “driver” in case something goes wrong, at least for now. Uber Recently acquired Otto, a company who has been working on autonomous big-rig trucks.
In a statement Otto confirms their hope to “fast forward to the future” by joining up with Uber:
By joining forces with Uber we can fast forward to the future. Together, Otto and Uber can build the backbone of the rapidly-approaching self-driving freight system.
For some people, especially those whom make their living by driving, the thought of this is unsettling. In an article for the guardian, Julia Carrie Wong interviewed Uber drivers worried about their futures:
But for Ingram, autonomous Ubers are an unwelcome threat to her livelihood.
“I kind of figured it would be a couple more years down the line before it was really implemented and I’ll be retired by then,” she said.
A paralegal with 30 years experience, Ingram began driving for Uber and Lyft in June 2015 when she lost her job. She said that she loves driving for Uber, though she has struggled to make ends meet.
Rob Judge, 41, was also concerned with the announcement.
“It feels like we’re just rentals. We’re kind of like placeholders until the technology comes out.”
A longtime customer service representative, Judge began driving for Uber three months ago to make money while he looks for other work.
“For me personally, this isn’t a long term stop,” he added. “But for a lot of other people that I’ve connected with, this is their only means.”
Judge also questioned whether passengers would miss the opportunity to meet and talk with their drivers.
“It has the potential for that human interaction to go away, and that’s the best part of the whole experience,” he said.
While the boom in the smartphone industry has created many new markets and new industries, including Uber, it is still too early to really know the full impact self-driving cars will have on future markets. Will they create more jobs opportunities than they take away?
With the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimating that nearly 4,000,000 people make their living by driving motor vehicles, including taxi drivers, bus drivers, and truckers, the industry would have a lot of jobs to make up. The impact of autonomous cars could have on our society over the next decade could be devastating.
It looks like the robots are coming to destroy us and they aren’t cyborgs or human looking kills. They’re job stealing self-driving taxi’s, and trucks. They are here to take us quickly into the unknown future whether we like it or not.
For now, all we can do is embrace the change. If history is taught us anything It’s that you can’t stop progress.
For more information, read the full Guardian article here.
You a can also read this great Huffington Post piece on the impact self-driving cars might have on our economy here.
Photo by Steve Jurvetson