By Victor Luckerson
Our political systems are deeply fractured, and tech innovations threaten to shatter them completely
In October, a self-driving truck traveled 120 miles to transport 2,000 cases of Budweiser from Fort Collins, Colorado, to Colorado Springs. The delivery was executed by Otto, an autonomous-vehicle startup launched less than a year ago and acquired by Uber in August. For now, Otto’s technology is implemented only on highways, where driving patterns are highly predictable, and not on more chaotic city streets. A human driver was on board the vehicle, in case anything went wrong, but the self-driving software managed the trip without a hitch. “We view self-driving trucks as the future, and we want to be a part of that,” James Sembrot, senior director of logistics strategy for Anheuser-Busch, told The New York Times.
Like many tech innovations, the self-driving truck will be great for corporations, which stand to save millions in expenses by firing truck drivers (or paying them less if they’re manning a truck on autopilot, and thus doing less work). It could be good for consumers, too, if savings in shipping costs lead to lower prices for goods. But it will almost certainly be bad for one of the few 20th-century middle-class occupations that hasn’t yet been disrupted into near-obsolescence. And that disruption could have far-reaching economic and political implications, whether you ever hop into a big rig or not.