If we were to see only the downsides, the tech would likely eliminate some jobs.
Volvo Trucks has joined forces with Swedish waste management company Renova to test a semi-autonomous garbage truck. Here’s how it works: The first time the truck enters a new area, it’s driven manually while the cameras map the route with assistance from the onboard sensors and GPS. The next time it enters that area, it will know precisely which route to follow.
Once the semi-autonomous driving system is activated, the human driver gets out of the garbage truck and walks ahead of the truck’s path as it backs up to the next trash can. We should point out the garbage truck won’t reverse to the next trash can until the garbage man presses a button mounted on the truck’s side.
Doing so increases productivity as the driver does not have to jump in and out of the seat at each trash bin stop. Safety is also improved as there are fewer risks of an unfortunate accident while maneuvering such a large vehicle on a tight and crowded street. Volvo points out the technology can also reduce fuel consumption and emissions as the truck’s automated system is smart enough to optimize gear changes, speed, and steering.
The technology isn’t brand new as Volvo has been testing it on an autonomous truck in northern Sweden since last fall.
But we shouldn’t neglect the delicate matter of jobs. Most of the garbage trucks are operated nowadays by more than just one person and by implementing the technology on a large scale; many vehicles would likely end up being managed by a single person. Volvo Trucks chief technology officer Lars Stenqvist says the necessary workforce depends on the density of the area.
On the other hand, the developments being made in autonomous driving technologies are also creating new jobs as more and more companies are hiring people to perfect these systems that will likely take over sooner or later.
As with most things in life, there are both good and bad sides to semi-autonomous garbage trucks. With automakers investing heavily in driverless technologies, we’ll all eventually end up being passengers in our own cars. Whether that’s a good or a bad thing, it depends on whom you’re asking.