Self-Driving Cars: Closer Than You Think

Here’s a Tech Crunch article on Toyota using the same technology that powers Bitcoin to make smarter cars. What does that mean?

“Hundreds of billions of miles of human driving data may be needed to develop safe and reliable autonomous vehicles,” said Chris Ballinger, director of mobility services and chief financial officer at Toyota’s research institute, in a statement. “Blockchains and distributed ledgers may enable pooling data from vehicle owners, fleet managers, and manufacturers to shorten the time for reaching this goal, thereby bringing forward the safety, efficiency and convenience benefits of autonomous driving technology.”

Oh, so we’re making self-driving cars, and Toyota is helping to get us there. That’s great! As should always be pointed out, human driven automobiles are a disaster. Remember the disaster of the Vietnam War? Over 58,000 Americans died! What a disaster! Baby-boomers still won’t stop talking about it. How many Americans died in automobile accidents last year? 40,000! That’s in one year! And that’s just the deaths, over four and a half million people were injured and some $432 billion (yes, billion, with a B) in property damage and injuries. From driving! Automated cars would have to be programmed to be evil to do a worse job of driving than humans.

Of course, there’s a problem with self-driving cars: we employ a lot of people to drive vehicles. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 3% of American workers are employed in transportation and warehousing. And that’s just counting that as an industry. Millions more work in other industries but whose jobs depend on driving a vehicle. Plus those who drive for ridesharing apps to supplement their income. Plus jobs that are dependent on people driving poorly. Think about how many body shops, auto insurance agents, and personal injury attorneys self-driving vehicles would put out of business. Okay, maybe less personal injury lawyers is an argument for self-driving vehicles.

The labor market impact of self-driving cars is going to be titanic, and we’re not even talking about it. Now, this isn’t an argument against them. Saving 40,000 lives a year is a good thing. But we still haven’t recovered from throwing manufacturing jobs onto the ash heap of history. Now we’re going to add transportation jobs on top of those, and we’re still no closer to having an answer. Maybe it’s time we start on that.

 

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