Robotic Drivers

Many articles have come out this month discussing the robotic vehicles that will be competing in DARPA's Grand Challenge race in March:

According to the Wired article:These vehicles competing in the Grand Challenge are true robots. They are totally autonomous. They do all their own thinking and make their own decisions. According to this article:The article continues:Most importantly, robot drivers mean that truck drivers will no longer be needed and they can all be laid off.

In the United States, there are over 1.5 million truck drivers operating tractor trailer rigs and heavy trucks (like dump trucks). There are nearly 3 million truck drivers total [ref]. Once the technology exists, all of these drivers will be out of a job very quickly for two reasons: 1) truck drivers are expensive, and 2) human error leads to a lot of accidents. In addition, a robotic truck can run 24 hours a day -- a robot never sleeps.

The same thing will happen to taxi drivers, and another 176,000 people will be out of work [ref].

If it takes the economy approximately 5 years to absorb 4,800 factory layoffs in North Carolina, how long will it take the economy to absorb two or three million unemployed truck drivers and taxi drivers? Unfortunately, at exactly the same time, millions of other workers will be getting replaced by robots as well. See Robotic Nation for details.

This list contains most of the teams that are competing:It's fascinating to look at some of the technology they are using.

As with everything else robotic, the key feature is incremental improvement. Even if none of these teams reach the goal this year, they will have a year to improve and then they will be back at it next year. And then the next year. And so on. Just as chess computers eventually beat the best human chess players, robots will eventually beat the best human truck drivers. One day in the not-too-distant future we will have robotic drivers that are much safer than human drivers, much more reliable than human drivers, much less expensive than human drivers, and 24x7.

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