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In last week’s blog, I outlined the market forces driving the launch of autonomous trucks; this blog will focus on the emerging technologies and companies that are shaping this big change in trucking. They include:

• Retrofit Kits for Existing Fleets

• Autonomous Trucks

• Automated Last Mile Delivery Services

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There are approximately 3.5 million professional truck drivers in the United States, according to the American Trucking Association; there are an estimated 250,000 professional truck drivers in Canada (source: Toronto Globe & Mail). This places the position of truck driver among the most common professions, at least for men, in North America. The cost of these drivers represents one of the largest expense items for most trucking firms.

There are a host of initiatives taking place in North America and Europe to partially or fully replace truck drivers with a set of technologies that have come to be known as autonomous vehicles. In addition to cost, this new set of technologies offers a range of benefits.

“Automated vehicles have the potential to save thousands of lives, driving the single biggest leap in road safety that our country has ever taken,” stated former U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. Approximately 35,000 people died in roadway collisions in 2015 and 94 percent of the crashes “can be tied to a human choice or error,” according to the Department of Transportation.

The projected shortage of truck drivers, that is expected to reach hundreds of thousands of positions in 2025, provides further incentives to get robots in the driver’s seat. There’s a huge advantage in getting automated drivers, who can work 24 hours a day, involved in those deliveries, and improving logistics for companies.

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Many thousands of jobs have been lost throughout North America in recent years and the trend will likely accelerate in the years ahead. Some blue and white collar jobs are being lost to cheaper labour in China and/or Mexico. But something far more pervasive is happening in many parts of the world that is a much bigger threat to jobs, namely automation and robotics.

Online banking and self-serve kiosks are replacing bank tellers. Robots are replacing people in the preparation of pizzas. 3D printing or additive manufacturing, the process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital file, is a growing trend. Each year an increasing number of people are shopping online, reducing the need for brick and mortar operations and retail sales clerks. While some jobs are being replaced by others (i.e. retail sales clerks by customer service clerks), many are not.

Even in professions requiring higher education, many routine or specialized tasks are being automated. Computers can now assemble previous legal cases on particular issues and prepare draft contracts and briefs. Robo-accounting is in its infancy, but it is very effective at dealing with accounts payables and receivables, inventory control, auditing and several other accounting functions that humans used to be needed to do. Ultra-precise robo-surgeons are currently being used for everything from knee replacement surgery to vision correction. For more information on the impact of Robots on jobs, click on this link.

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