Automated out of a job: Truck drivers

The day of automated delivery to consumers may not be here yet, but automated intra-system transport is already here.

Self-driving delivery is coming to Walmart — but not directly to customers

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As the buzz about human-carting robo-taxis starts to short-circuit, an unheralded segment of the driverless future is taking shape and showing promise: goods-moving robo-vans. Rather than serving up hot pizza pies or deploying headless robots to carry groceries to the doorstep, robo-vans travel on fixed routes from warehouse to warehouse or to a smaller pickup point, transporting packages to get them closer, but not all the way, to consumers.

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Ford Motor Co., testing many forms of driverless delivery, calls these repeatable routes “milk runs,” a throwback term to the days of household dairy delivery.

“Anything on driverless delivery that is a milk run is a good application for autonomy,” said Sherif Marakby, chief executive officer of Ford’s autonomous vehicles unit.

Some things will probably not ever be susceptible of automation; crawling under my house and repairing a plumbing leak, for instance. But a lot of routine manual labor is going to go the way of the Dodo within a generation. And thanks to advances in AI, a lot of engineering work is going to disappear, too.

We need to be thinking about those things, and their social implications, right now.

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