By: JD Heyes
Technology has always been a double-edged sword, and as the 21st century progresses, not much has changed in the realm.
Just over the horizon, for instance, await self-driving cars that are liable to take much of the guesswork, inattention, lack of experience and other factors that cause tens of thousands of crashes a day out of the equation. But in doing so, they will also destroy millions of jobs.
As reported by Wolf Street, in recent days the car company Tesla made headlines with – oddly enough – the first traffic fatality caused by its “autopilot” system, because it failed to detect a large tractor trailer rig that had pulled directly in front of it. But there are other car makers developing, or set to market, systems that are reportedly better, and one of them could be the Ford Motor Co.
Earlier this month Ford began touting its plans for self-driving taxis and other service vehicles that could be made to be autonomous of human guidance, taking reporters on a drive through a neighborhood in its self-driving vehicles. The company plans to roll them out in larger cities first, like Detroit and New York, and initially plans to limit service only to cities.
In addition, Uber is now beginning to test about two-dozen partially self-driving Ford Fusions in the Pittsburgh market. And while there are likely going to be accidents during all of this testing as well, because there always are when vehicles are in motion, the hope is that they will be minimized and that the technology will be improved.
Ford, like other car makers, is pursuing this technology because it is the future of driving. And there is a profit motive, as well; the company is anticipating something like 20 percent profit from these self-driving services as opposed to the thinner margins in its primary car sales business. Indeed, the company believes that sales of autonomous vehicles could account for one-fifth of all car sales by the end of this decade. That’s not long.
Other car companies – and tech giants like Apple and Google – are making similar plans to enter the self-driving car market, but not to make vehicles. They are in it to develop the software that will make cars autonomous, building the sensors, services (like mapping) and the “passenger” interface (because there won’t be any actual drivers).
But who stands to lose the most? Anyone who drives for a living, of course. That includes over-the-road truckers, taxi drivers, delivery drivers, chauffeurs and “rideshare” drivers – in all, about 4 million people.
Chalk it up to progress. Or something like that.