Autonomous trucks are still numerous decades away from fully replacing the human driver, but that has not stopped labor unions representing truckers in California from petitioning the state Legislature to put in regulations that protect California’s truckers from becoming displaced by the technology.
California already has set rules in place regarding self-driving vehicles that weigh fewer than 10,001 pounds, but the California Department of Motor Vehicles is now planning to implement regulations that would allow autonomous trucks weighing up to 80,000 to travel its roads.
On January 30th, a crowd of drivers visited the state capitol as Assembly Member Cecilia Aguiar-Curry announced regulation, with the help of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, that would require all self-driving semi-trucks to have a human driver that can intervene at a moment’s notice. Considering how primitive the technology currently is, this is certainly a smart step, but will it protect drivers once autonomous vehicles become safe enough to operate fully on their own? Some truckers believe that day will never come.
“You cannot program instinct into a computer,” Mike Fry, a driver with over 25 years of experience told the crowd at California’s capitol. “There is no way they can think like that.”
With trucker employment in the Golden State coming in at well over 500,000, the prospect of many people needing to find new jobs when the time comes has many current drivers worried.
The Passage of Time
Fortunately for current drivers in the industry, the list of obstacles between cruise control and trucks driving themselves for hundreds of miles is massive, so we would be surprised if any driver currently working in 2023 does not retire by the time Level 5 Automated Driving Systems are implemented, the highest level where a truck’s end destination can be changed in mere seconds.
The most likely course of action for self-driving trucks in the decades to come, barring revolutionary scientific breakthroughs, is that the trucks will slowly become more capable of highway driving, then become able to drive through cities, then finally become able to navigate around unusual hazards such as road construction all on its own.
Fully self-driving trucks will take millions, if not billions, of lines of code. Any person hoping to start a career in the industry has nothing to fear.
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