Our society is one that always seems to be innovating, coming up with new, better, faster ideas without spending too much time thinking about whether or not those better faster innovations are really good for the majority of people who live in our society.
We’re thinking about productivity, or a bottom line, or just whether or not it can be done – and in the case of driverless semi-trucks, they’re definitely not thinking about little things like jobs.
If you’re not from the Midwest, maybe truckers are just characters in movies. Maybe you don’t think about the men moving goods across the country, one strip of highway at a time.
According to data collected by NPR back in 2014, though, “trucker” is the most common job in nearly every state in Middle America.
I mean, I get it. A truck doesn’t need to stop and eat, stop and sleep, stop and pee. A truck isn’t going to join a union to make sure they can spend time with their family, or take days off when they’re sick. A truck goes and goes until it falls down dead, which is what most employers would like to get out of their human employees (and sometimes do).
But it’s not just the truckers themselves that will likely be affected by driverless semis – which this UC Berkeley study suggests will be common by 2024.
That same study suggested that the jobs truckers will be offered instead are likely to have “lower wages and poor working conditions,” and probably none of the freedom offered by the open road.
It’s not only the loss of jobs, though. Think back on what happened when Dwight Eisenhower signed the 1956 Interstate Highway Act. The ensuing highways connected our biggest cities, making it safe and easy to move from state to state, all the way across the country.
It also killed many a small town, who saw accidental tourism disappear overnight. Remember what happened to Radiator Springs in Cars?
The same thing will happen to the highway towns still surviving on the visits of truckers – they feed them, give them gas, rent them a hotel room, et al. There’s an entire ecosystem out there that supports the road trip, and guess what?
Those driverless semis aren’t going to buy a bag of Funyons and an orange soda for the road, either.
Technology and advancements are all fun and games until we push most of America back into the Dust Bowl of Grapes of Wrath.
I know we all just pretended to read that book in high school, but from what I remember in the Cliff’s Notes, it’s not a world we want to see again.