Stanford’s entry into the Darpa Urban Challenge is a car named “Junior”. It is capable of reading road signs, reflective markers on the road, and avoiding other cars. This suggests to me that we are on-track for self-driving cars in 10 years.
Let me elaborate on a point I made in a previous post: A self-driving car is not just a cool gadget. The implications are far-reaching and scary. It doesn’t just mean that driving is safer, or that designated drivers become a thing of the past. It means that a whole new class of jobs can be replaced by automation: taxis, busses, and trucks.
In the past, loss of jobs to automation has always resulted in new classes of jobs that kept the work force humming. I believe that this worked out, in part, because only mundane and repetitive tasks could be eliminated by automation. With the self-driving car we may be entering into an era where nearly any job that does not require a fairly significant amount of creativity or intelligence will be subject to replacement. We are talking about the possible whole-scale elimination of the blue collar and service worker jobs. Even construction jobs could start disappearing soon. Here is another example: migrant fruit pickers will soon be replaced.
What is the answer? A new breed of socialism where the unemployable (the majority of the population) receive a free minimum wage and only the elite have paying jobs? Certainly a technologically advanced society such as this will be able to afford to have a non-working populace. Or will the change to society be something even more sinister?