This blog, looks at Dr. Robert Goldman’s future predictions regarding TRANSPORT.
SELF-DRIVING TRUCKS AND CARS
The push for self-driving cars is not just because motorists would rather let the machine do the work. It’s because taking humans out of the equation could mean safer travel and smarter traffic flow. To look forward to how we will drive in 2020 you just have to look back to 1957. How many of you remember how futuristic we thought back to the future was, yet look how far we’ve come since 1987!
The US electricity industry ran a newspaper ad promising a life of leisure in the future with a now iconic image showing a near-empty highway and a family in a self-driving car with a glass bubble roof. Instead of worrying about the road ahead, the family are doing what all families do in their downtime apparently — they play dominoes and clearly don’t have a care for skin cancer. When it comes to self-driving cars, the year 2020 doesn’t just mark a vision of the future but a deadline. Nissan and Mercedes-Benz have set 2020 down as when they plan to introduce cars that can navigate city streets without the need for a driver. Volvo, which will soon begin trialing self-driving cars in Australia, has taken that one step further. Back in 2008, Volvo’s lead safety expert Anders Eugensson predicted that “by 2020, nobody shall be seriously injured or killed in a new Volvo”. Since then, Volvo has added some fine print to that bold prediction. Volvo safety expert Trevor Rourke admitted earlier this year that “not even the Pope is infallible” but said the trend was towards zero fatalities by 2020.
No matter how attentive a human driver can be, a self-automated car with lasers, radar, sonar and video sensors gives the car the edge in keeping an eye on the road. In many ways, Google is leading the charge towards self-driving cars with its autonomous vehicles now having driving nearly 3 million self-autonomous kilometres with only a handful of minor accidents and most of them caused by drivers running into the self-driving car because they are distracted by the Google logo and sensors on the top. But other new players working on autonomous cars include Uber, Tesla and, if the rumours are true, Apple. As Telstra Chief Technology Officer Vish Nandlall says, we’re already down.
No matter how attentive a human driver can be, a self-automated car with lasers, radar, sonar and video sensors gives the car the edge in keeping an eye on the road. In many ways Google is leading the charge towards self-driving cars with its autonomous vehicles now having driving nearly 3 million self-autonomous kilometres with only a handful of minor accidents and most of them caused by drivers running into the self-driving car because they are distracted by the Google logo and sensors on the top. But other new players working on autonomous cars include Uber, Tesla and, if the rumours are true, Apple. As Telstra Chief Technology Officer Vish Nandlall says, we’re already down.
Driverless trucks will be safer and cheaper than their human-controlled counterparts, but that doesn’t mean America’s 3.5 million professional truck drivers are giving up to the machines without a fight. Across the US, truckers collectively haul more than 10 Billion tons of freight each year, but it’s a tough job – the hours are long and lonely, the pay is low and the lifestyle is sedentary. In many ways it’s a job ripe for disruption; robots v truckers. “Picture the taxi drivers around the world acting in response to Uber,” says Andy Stern, the former president of the Service Employees International Union, referring to protests and violence that erupted in many cities as the $62.5 Billion Silicon Valley on-demand ride-hailing firm challenged conventional, regulated taxis. “Truck drivers will follow a similar pattern,” says Stern. “There will be a disruption in different places. You can imagine people ringing state capitals with their trucks.”
Much has been written about the advent of the driverless car, with rival versions being developed by Google, Uber and Tesla, yet driverless trucks are likely to roll out at scale much sooner. “Individuals can make their own choices about whether they want to get into a driverless car or taxi, but labour-saving technology will be deployed by businesses much quicker,” explains Stern, whose book Raising the Floor explores the need for a universal basic income as technology replaces jobs. Mining giant Rio Tinto already uses 45 240-ton driverless trucks to move iron ore in two Australian mines, saying it is cheaper and safer than using human drivers. Now the race is on to put driverless trucks on public roads. In May 2015, the first self-driving truck hit the American road in the state of Nevada, and there have been several tests around the world since then including a convoy that drove across Europe to the port of Rotterdam. That convoy used a new automated driving technology called platooning, which connects trucks using Wi-Fi, sensors, GPS and cameras. The leading vehicle dictates speed and direction, while the rest automatically steer, speed up and slow down in close convoy. In San Francisco, former Googlers have launched a startup called Otto, which promises to retrofit vehicles with driverless capabilities for just $30,000. The average trucker’s wage is around $40,000 per year.
The potential saving to the freight transportation industry is estimated to be $168 Billion annually. The savings are expected to come from labor ($70 Billion), fuel efficiency ($35 Billion), productivity ($27 Billion) and accidents ($36 Billion), before including any estimates from non-truck freight modes like air and rail. It’s regulation and not technology that stands in the way of eliminating people from behind the wheel. Although trucking companies are likely to lobby hard for the legal reform so they can save on labor, which represents an estimated 34% of operational costs per mile, Morgan Stanley conservatively estimates that the freight industry could save as $168 Billion annually by harnessing autonomous technology – $70 Billion of which would come from reducing staff. In addition to cost savings, fleets of automated trucks could save lives. Crashes involving large trucks killed 3,903 people in the US in 2014, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and a further 110,000 people were injured. More than 90% of the accidents were caused at least in part by driver error. What next for drivers? Where does this leave the 3.5 million truckers whose livelihoods depend on the need for a human behind the wheel? Truck Driver is not a profession for the future.
As I write this article (a little ahead of publication) there is much controversy over the recent decision London has taken NOT to renew Uber to have a license to operate within the city centre! Whilst there are many claims that this is based on not running an ethical or sound business, about employment laws and flaunting rules, the fact is alot of this has also been owing to pressure groups from the London Cabbie being forced out of business by Uber and modern technology.
How much do you rely on transportation not only directly within your own business and life, but as a means of transport for your customers also. I rarely speak of the first business I had and lost!!! But this was not down to anything I did specifically, but rather what I did not do! You see, I ran an off-licence, newsagents and general store, on the corner of the street adjacent to the high street. More than 80% of our footfall was passers-by, and everything was going well until the Water Authority closed the road for 16 weeks to upgrade the sewage pipes running below the street! 80% of our footfall was passers-by, and with an 80% reduction in footfall, we had overheads that were not met by the dwindling trade. 16 weeks is alot in a small business, and when compensation for the inconvenience is worked out as a percentage of takings over the past 3 years against current takings, you have to lose the money, show the loss before you can even begin the process of reclaim. The odds were stacked against me and it ultimately cost me the business!
But rather than gripe about it, it was all my fault. You see, I’d failed to acknowledge that at some stage this was bound to happen. I’d failed to plan for the future and make the necessary amendments in my own business to accommodate for change and THAT’s what cost me the business!
So what are you doing to future-proof your business?