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The Final Word by Chuck Swann
Jim Thompson, our Supreme Leader and Resident Predictor of Future Stuff here at Paperitalo Publications, at some time back told us to be on the lookout for automated, driverless trucks. Right again, Jim. And again, the future is now.

Driverless cars, not trucks, have been the subject of research by Google, which announced in June 2015 that its vehicles had driven over 1 million miles and that in the process the cars had encountered 200,000 stop signs, 600,000 traffic lights and 180 million other vehicles. Google's car technology should be easily transferable to trucks.

A CNN report says the age of the driverless vehicle is upon us. The report continues, "The United Kingdom recently allowed driverless vehicles on the road, joining California, Florida and Michigan and Nevada in the USA in changing laws to accommodate the new technology." One of the first driverless semi-trucks is already rolling--legally--on highways in Nevada, according to Bloomberg News. A convoy of self-driving trucks recently rolled across Europe to the port of Rotterdam. Market research company Frost & Sullivan says that by 2030, more than 40% of all vehicles in Europe are likely to be equipped with driverless technology.

Business stands to benefit from automated trucking in a multitude of ways, according to CNN. Smoother traffic flow will make travel times more predictable and scheduling simpler. Maintenance of a steady speed will reduce fuel consumption and carbon emissions. Drivers, if there are any, may carry out other tasks while traveling and arrive less tired. The other tasks, another observer suggests, could involve swiveling the driver's seat 45 degrees to allow the driver to work at a console containing a computer keyboard.

According to Ryan Petersen, writer for the Crunch Network, "The demonstration in Europe shows that driverless trucking is right around the corner. The primary remaining barriers are regulatory." He goes on to say, "No technology will automate away more jobs--or drive more economic efficiency--than the driverless truck. Trucking represents a considerable portion of the cost of all the goods we buy, so consumers everywhere will experience this change as lower prices and higher standards of living. However, regulators will be understandably reluctant to allow technology with the potential to eliminate so many jobs (which some estimate will be one percent of the US workforce). Where would we be if we had banned mechanized agriculture on the grounds that most Americans worked in farming when tractors and harvesters were introduced in the early 20th century?"

Chuck Swann is the senior editor of Paperitalo Publications. He can be reached by email at chuck.swann@taii.com.

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