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The Economic Consequences of Self-Driving Trucks

An anonymous reader writes: Last week we learned that self-driving big-rig trucks were finally being deployed on public roads in Nevada for testing purposes. Experts consider trucking to be ripe for replacement with AI because of the sheer volume of trucks on the road, and the relative simplicity of their routes. But the eventual replacement of truck drivers with autonomous driving systems will have a huge impact on the U.S. economy: there are 3.5 million professional truck drivers, and millions more are employed to support and coordinate them. Yet more people rely on truckers to stay in business — gas stations, motels, and restaurants along trucking routes, to name a few.
Now, that’s not to say moving forward with autonomous driving is a bad idea — in 2012, roughly 4,000 people died in accidents with large trucks, and almost all of the accidents were caused by driver error. Saving most of those lives (and countless injuries) is important. But we need to start thinking about how to handle the 10 million people looking for work when the (human) trucking industry falls off a cliff. It’s likely we’ll see another wave of ghost towns spread across the poor parts of the country, as happened when the interstate highway system changed how long-range transportation worked in the U.S.


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