Despite Silicon Valley’s enthusiasm for self-driving cars, it could be years before there are many of them on the road. But autonomous 18-wheelers? One start-up is betting that is a different matter.
Otto, led by 15 former Google engineers, including major figures from the search company’s self-driving car and maps projects, is aiming at the long-haul freeway driving that is the bread and butter of the commercial trucking industry.
Once the technology behind self-driving vehicles is fully realized it is going to do two things. One it will cause massive employment displacement. Second it redefine the nature of cities due to changes in people's transportation needs.The engineers think that automating trucks rather than passenger vehicles could be more palatable financially and to regulators. Nationally, trucks drive 5.6 percent of all vehicle miles and are responsible for 9.5 percent of highway fatalities, according to Department of Transportation data.
Hopefully our politicians will act in a timely manner to deal with the job displacement issue, because large shocks to employment combined with changing in a the nature of cities is recipe for the areas becoming new pockets of entrenched poverty.
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