The first decade of the 21st century saw an explosion of Internet access through the proliferation of the personal computer. The second decade we’re currently halfway through has seen this Web access expand into mobile environments via smartphones, tablets, and exponential availability of wireless connectivity.
What will be the defining technological leap of the next decade? The answer is transportation, and to be quite honest the revolution is already happening. Sure, Tesla and Google get the headlines, but the biggest changes are happening on an industrial scale and appearing in easy-to-miss places.
Safety protocol and procedures have, for example, been increasingly outsourced to artificial intelligence starting in the late-70s with the installation of computers on board commercial airliners. These systems have taken over virtually every aspect of aviation, with human pilots serving less active roles in the cockpit with every new generation of aircraft unveiled.
The dependence on fine-tuned computer controls and monitoring to increase safety has made its way into the auto industry. Companies such as Kontron pride themselves on providing the computing systems used to help visually monitor tire tread patterns in real-time. Such safety measures are leaps and bounds from what were possible even just a few years ago. Indeed the level of influence high tech is having on the transportation industry is only getting greater as time goes on and transcends safety.
Time operating a moving vehicle is time lost to the driver in most cases, in the sense they are not able to be productive during this period. Google and other companies are fast at work to make self-driving automobiles a reality. Coupled with the increase in mobile Web access, the ability to focus on other tasks while in a car can literally add years to our lives which would otherwise be spent eyes locked on the road.
Shipping and trucking are situations where time on the road, in the air, or at sea is in fact the essence of productivity. With that said most delivery companies are desperate to cut costs and see the reduction of workforce and increased efficiency as the means to achieve it. Improved logistics thanks to advances in software development have helped to locate areas where shipping can tighten up. The comedic observation of seeing two log-carrying trucks passing each other going opposite directions on the highway highlights where logistics technology is helping to find places to improve efficiency in shipping.
However it will be the decimation if not complete elimination of vehicle operator-related professions which will be the most apparent effect of these tech revolutions influencing transportation industries. Merchant mariners, paramedics, pilots, pizza guys, postal workers, and teamsters are all going to see positions behind the wheel disappear. Revolution in transportation is likely to lead to recession-grade unemployment.
Times change. Employment opportunities are shifting away from machine operation and moving toward machine design. What this means for those caught in the middle is up in the air – along with the A.I. replacement doing most of the flying already.