EDITORIAL – Driverless technology could take jobs away

HERE’S A sobering thought for people who make their living from driving — whether it be cabbies, delivery trucks or big haul trucks at mines and the oilsands. Your job might not exist within a few years.

We’ve all heard a lot about driverless cars, a technology that has a few wrinkles to work out but that will likely be perfected in the near future. Cab drivers might soon be out of work. Even driverless 18-wheelers are expected to be ready for the highways soon, potentially putting transport truck drivers in the unemployment lines.

It’s no small thing — more than 200,000 Canadians make their living driving the big rigs.

Then, of course, there are bus and delivery-service drivers. And those big haul trucks at mines and the oil patch.

According to CIBC, “autonomous” haul trucks could be the next thing at the oilsands. Suncor Energy has been testing the technology for a couple of years.

All of Suncor’s new trucks have the ability to go fully autonomous, and the shift could be complete by the end of the decade. Fully autonomous means the trucks could be operated with or without drivers.

The Globe and Mail quoted Suncor’s chief financial officer Alistair Cowan two years ago as saying, “It’s not fantasy. Autonomous trucks work in Australia, there’s a couple of mines down there, and you’ve obviously seen the developments from a car perspective.”

And Cameron Yost, a spokesman for Shell Canada Ltd. in Calgary, said in the same article, “Automated hauling at our mines is something we are exploring.”

It’s not only about saving on labour costs — drivers and heavy machinery operators make a good living. Other perceived benefits include improved safety, less downtime, less maintenance and fewer kilometres put on the machinery.

There’s still work to be done before driverless technology takes over from humans, of course. One issue is the need for security systems that would prohibit hackers from taking control of vehicles.

But it would be foolish to assume jobs that involve getting behind the wheel of a transport vehicle or industrial machine are necessarily going to be around forever. And it could happen sooner than we might have imagined.

About Mel Rothenburger (5878 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

3 Comments on EDITORIAL – Driverless technology could take jobs away

  1. I hope this is given consideration when the topic of Ajax approval comes up. Much of the support given to the project is due to the promise of so many jobs at the mine.
    If the haul trucks become automated (which could happen sooner than later in the expected 20 years of the mine operation), then what would be the real figure for the number of haul truck drivers?

  2. Yes, same concerns as when cars and trucks were comming in in the early 1920’s but, we have three times as many horces and farriers and vets and stables and harness makers and saddleries as we did then.

  3. The question to ask will be: Is technology really improving society?
    What are we going to do with 200,000 Canadians without a job?
    Is the divide between rich and poor going to increase and further destabilize society? Do we want to live, increasingly, in fear?
    Increasingly, is not about technology…

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