Use of Autonomous Vehicles Accelerates
A couple of articles in the news this week caught my attention. One was about Domino’s Pizza and their use of automated vehicles to deliver pizza in Houston and the other was about Starsky Robotics launching fully-autonomous long haul trucks in Florida. In an effort to reduce shipping costs, Walmart has announced that they are testing self-driving delivery trucks for transporting goods between warehouses.
These stories highlight the continuing effort to replace human drivers and eliminate a significant expense in the form of labor costs. Rideshare companies Uber and Lyft are also testing self-driving cars. In Las Vegas, there is a driverless shuttle that travels along a set route. Read a review of the shuttle, which has already given over 10,000 rides, on Business Insider. Not only are companies actively testing self-driving cars, but Amazon and others are also testing delivery by drone. What will the jobs of the future be for those who drive for a living?
Major Labor Force Disruption Possible
Experts predict that we are still years away from the widespread use of fully autonomous vehicles, but the time to plan for this massive disruption in the labor market is now.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 1,871,700 Heavy and Tractor-Trailer Truck Drivers and 1,421,400 Delivery Truck Drivers. In total, more than 3 Million people make there living driving trucks of various sizes. In addition, there are 305,100 Taxi Drivers, Ride-Hailing Drivers, and Chauffeurs and 687,200 bus drivers. All told, 4,285,400 people earn a living driving vehicles for transporting people and goods.
Read more about the increasing use of automation and artificial intelligence in our earlier blog post – Robotics and Artificial Intelligence.
Google Housing Initiative
Google announced this week that it would be investing 1 billion dollars in projects to provide affordable housing options near it’s California headquarters. As reported by the New York Times, Google plans to repurpose $750 Million dollars worth of its land for housing. This is a welcome initiative as rents have skyrocketed in communities near large tech companies.
“A small one-bedroom apartment near the company’s current headquarters costs about $3,500 a month.” New York Times
This is in stark contrast to Amazon’s response to the affordable housing crisis in Seattle. When the city proposed a tax on wealthy companies to pay for housing initiatives, Amazon announced a stop to stop a building project and indicated it would reevaluate the project. Read more about Amazon’s response in this article on Gizmodo.
Let’s hope that more companies follow Google’s lead and take action to improve access to affordable housing in their communities.
Caring for Others While Struggling to Survive
We live in a society where those that provide care to children and the elderly are often among the lowest paid workers. At the same time, the cost of elder and child care continues to rise. Where is all of the money going?
People who work caring for others are dedicated to the job and know that what they do contributes greatly to maintain a good quality of life. It is this dedication to the people that they care for that can make it difficult for them to take action such as a strike to demand better pay and working conditions. Yet it is this very thing that gives them the power to negotiate a better deal. What could a nursing home do if all of the CNA’s decided to stay home? What would parents do if childcare workers went on strike?
Statistics show that the number of elderly as a percentage of our population continues to grow and that there is much need for workers in the health care industry. Japan, the country with the oldest population in the world, is looking to robotics to provide care for the elderly.
This video from the Financial Times explores the use of robots for elder care.
It is Time for Action
Workers who are not earning enough to meet basic needs such as food, clothing, housing, and childcare, experience higher levels of stress and anxiety. Conditions like these make it hard to provide the care needed for their patients or children. It is time for these workers to exercise the power of unity and numbers to force employers back to the negotiating table.
Read more about the work CNA’s do in our earlier blog post – CNA’s Make a Difference!
Read more about childcare in our earlier blog post – Childcare Challenges.