As Many as 1.7 Million Jobs at Risk
Over one million truck drivers may be at risk as Uber Technologies, Inc. begins to aggressively push into the truck-driving business and develop its autonomous driving technology.
One of the first businesses at risk due to automation is the trucking industry, where experts believe that automation will be able to develop faster when dealing with trucks versus cars, due to the easier time the tech has navigating straight-shot highways compared to winding and twisting city roads.
Uber may be an accelerant towards the eventual replacement of human drivers in favor of robots as the company unveils “Uber Freight.” Similar in concept and execution to the regular Uber service, the new app will allow freelance truck drivers to sign up for jobs they want, with the price pre-negotiated on their behalf by Uber and paid for within seven days versus the usual 30-day waiting period.
While there may be a cost to the industry, as Uber has notoriously lowered some of its wages for employees under its taxi service, a more frightening prospect for the industry is the development of Uber Freight in tandem with its autonomous driving technology.
Uber is developing a self-driving car system alongside many other tech giants, like Google and Tesla Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA), but it also acquired an autonomous truck driving company, Otto, last summer.
Otto made its first delivery last year, a short 120-mile run carrying 2,000 cases of “Budweiser.”
For the over-one-million truck drivers, the concern is that Uber will make itself indispensable in the trucking industry through the growth of Uber Freight, then use that leverage to push the institutions it works with to adopt its autonomous trucking technology, eventually ditching human drivers. This move could lead to a swift elimination of hundreds of thousands of jobs.
The move would also push other companies to create competing autonomous technology in the trucking industry, again hurting the many middle-class workers that work in the field.
While the technology is still a few years away at the very least, the future is grim for the trucking industry and the many workers it employs.
Trucking has for many years been a middle-class solution for lower-educated people, but the entire industry may be facing extinction due to the introduction of autonomous vehicles.
“Uber Freight Is the First Step to Automating Away Truckers,” MIT Technology Review, May 19, 2017.