ManufacturingFebruary 21, 2018

The Future of Work

With automation poised to put millions out of work, economists debate if…
Avatar Charles Wallace

With automation poised to put millions out of work, economists debate if growth can create enough new ones.

Since the 1970s, automation has eliminated the jobs of millions of bank tellers, retail cashiers, travel agents, airline front-desk workers and manufacturing employees. With the jobs of truck drivers, airline pilots and even medical doctors now at risk as well, it sometimes feels as if every human job except those of computer coders is destined to disappear. Compass examines the jobs at risk and the forces at work.

Gantry cranes load containers onto automated guided vehicles (AGV) during the testing phase of the Long Beach Container Terminal in Middle Harbor at the Port of Long Beach in Long Beach, California, U.S., on Wednesday, May 13, 2015. Next year, deckhands on ships docked at Middle Harbor on Californias San Pedro Bay won’t see many people on the wharf. Remote-controlled cranes towering 165 feet overhead will pluck containers from vessels’ holds, and driverless trucks guided by magnets embedded in the asphalt will carry cargo to robotic hoists in a sorting yard. Photographer: Tim Rue/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A pair of unusual trucks plies the highways in the US state of Nevada and along the German autobahn near Stuttgart. Although they look similar to most 18-wheel rigs on the road today, these trucks have a unique driver in the cab: an autonomous, computer-guided system dubbed Highway Pilot that steers the trucks without help from the human in the front seat.

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So far, these ultramodern trucks made by Germany’s Daimler Trucks are only test vehicles; the humans are there in case anything goes wrong. Most highway regulations still only permit fully autonomous vehicles on the open road with humans near the controls. Once enabling legislation is passed, however, Daimler expects trucks based on these prototypes to be operational by the end of the decade, Stuttgart-based Daimler spokeswoman Uta Leitner said.

Repercussions for the future employment prospects of the approximately 7 million truck drivers now working in the US and Europe remains an open question: Will self-driving vehicles cause these jobs to disappear, following in the wake of elevator operators replaced by push buttons, bank tellers displaced by ATM machines and travel agents made redundant by online booking services? And what of other jobs that can be done by powerful computer algorithms, from medical diagnosis to automated coordination of rooftop power generating stations?

Read the rest of this story here, on COMPASS, the 3DEXPERIENCE Magazine

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