I’ve written a number of articles over the past couple of years about the dangers of autonomous vehicles on humans – and the fact that the logistics companies love the idea of having deliveries done by robots so that they don’t need to pay for expensive humans.
I wrote about Uber buying Otto a few years ago who were trialing heavy goods vehicles without a human at the controls and it was clear that they wanted to compete head-to-head with FedEx, UPS and the whole trucking industry. Ford have now announced that Miami is the target for the next level of tests for street-wide deliveries with autonomous vehicles. They have partnered with Dominos and Postmates, a city delivery service that has outlets across the US. Ford have always said that they expect to start selling fully autonomous cars by 2021 and this announcement is a stepping stone to that target.
What they want to do is to figure out how humans will behave and react to very large 4 wheeled drones delivering their goods. Today, when you order pizza, a moped arrives with a rider and a heated box, the rider walks to your door and hands over the pizza. In Ford’s world, the pizza would get loaded into the drone/robot and when it arrives, you walk outside and collect the food. Presumably with Dominos and Postmates, there will be an app or reminder on your phone that tells you when the delivery is outside. The plan is to start in one suburb and expand outwards if all goes well.
I would think that the current drivers for Dominos and Postmates must be quite nervous about this as it is clear that their jobs will go as soon as Ford has fine tuned the technology. As I have commented in the earlier posts, this is the sharp end of a very serious social wedge. Once you have removed all the citywide delivery people and the taxi drivers, what is next – we know that truck drivers are at risk and we could then assume that other transportation jobs are likely to go. I wonder how much disruption unhappy drivers will cause during the final testing in an attempt to delay the sign-off.
If you take the 2021 target as being on track, by 2025 we should see a lot of the lower paid jobs start to disappear with quite significant social impact. Many of the drivers today do so to supplement their incomes or pay for living expenses whilst they get an education. Without these jobs, we will start to see a much bigger gap in social standards and that could well lead to economic and political instability and a break down in law and order.
That sounds quite alarming, however the slide into poverty is significantly faster than the gaining of wealth. I wonder if, after a few years of autonomous services, we will see “bespoke” deliveries from vendors who employ drivers to provide “that personal touch”!