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Trucker worries he won’t get to choose when to retire

Nov. 19, 2017

“The only humans left in a modern supply chain are truck drivers,” writes Finn Murphy, an American trucker and the author of The Long Haul: A Trucker’s Tales of Life on the Road. In a column in The Guardian, he fears he won’t get to decide when to hang up his keys. Companies like Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Daimler, Tesla, Uber, Ford, and Toyota—with their investments of billions of dollars in driverless vehicles—may make the choice for him.

He recognizes the benefits of autonomous vehicles, writing that he understands that human error is responsible for almost all of the vehicle accidents that kill 1.25 million people worldwide each year. “I’ve no doubt that when the technology is perfected and critical mass is achieved, those millions of deaths will be reduced to a trickle,” he explains.

But, he asks, what is the endgame? About 3 million truck drivers in the United States plus 600,000 in Britain who will become extraneous—“…roadkill, so to speak, except we won’t be dead,” he writes.

Perhaps you would contend that truckers are simply on the wrong side of history. His response: “Maybe so, but guess what? You’re next. When automation starts displacing lawyers, accountants, and bankers, then we might see some push-back about the social costs of technology.”

As for now, he writes, “The tail of technology is wagging the dog of the social contract, leaving millions of citizens in penury. Even the Economist, no foe of innovation, admits that the U.S., and the west, have fallen far short in addressing the problem of displaced workers. Something needs to change.”

If it’s any consolation, Warren Buffett has recently placed a bet against autonomous trucks. Murphy may still be trucking long after the lawyers, accountants, and bankers have been displaced.

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