Sunday, May 22, 2016

"Otto Self-Driving Truck Company Wants to Replace Teamsters"

Something we've been trying to point out to the Teamsters Union for the last few years.
From the brainiacs at IEEE Spectrum:

Image: Otto
Ottomotto, a newly unveiled startup formed by veterans of the Google car project, is planning to provide self-driving technology to today’s long-haul trucks.

It’s a logical first application. Semitrailers spend most of their time on highways, and highway driving is by far the easiest sort of driving to automate. So close is the industry to that goal that companies like Tesla and Daimler already feel the need to use buzzers and other tricks to prod drivers away from their daydreams when their hands are off the steering wheel for more than a few seconds.

Anthony Levandowski left the Google car project to start the company back in January, the Wall Street Journal reports. Lior Ron, who had been in charge of Google Maps, also joined, along with 39 others, including some from Tesla and Apple—both of which are also working on robocar technology.

Levandowski told the Journal that his company, which he calls Otto for short, would seek a competitive advantage by retrofitting existing trucks rather than putting self-driving systems into new ones. Otto, so far mostly a self-funded operation, is working with three Volvo trucks.

One big incentive for roboticizing the truck fleet is to stretch out the thin supply of long-haul drivers, which is 50,000 short of the mark in the United States, according to the American Trucking Associations. Strict rules require that drivers rest at set intervals, a problem that could be eased if drivers could lounge in the back of the cabin while the truck cruises the highway unattended.

Other firms are taking a different tack. For instance, Peloton Technology, of Mountain View, Calif., specializes in platooning, in which a lead truck driven by a professional driver leads a string of autonomous trucks behind it....MORE
See also:
December 2013
Dear Teamsters, United Auto Workers: Google Is Trying To Crush Your Unions and Your Members (GOOG)
The Google self-driving car will actually roll out as self-driving trucks on dedicated routes.
And they will be built by robots, not the UAW.
Oh dear, have I said too much?... 
...Here's how the Teamsters reacted to stress in 1934, the management guy heading for terra firma  died almost instantly of a crushed occipital lobe:
Dec. 10, 2014
What Uber Hath Wrought: The Coming Digital Labor Movement
The very last thing the poobahs of Sand Hill Road want to see. They overwhelmingly prefer NO unions. 
During the 2008* Democratic nomination campaign we pointed out that although the self-anointed Silicon Valley aristocracy were solidly behind Senator Obama, rank-and-file Dems in Santa Clara county went for Hillary 54.8% to Obama's 39.3% in that year's primary. 
The reason this gets interesting is a possible split between various constituencies.
For example the Teamsters union can't be very enthusiastic about the prospect of autonomous trucks.
The bad-apple cops responsible for repeat police brutality claims are protected in their jobs by very strong unions. Who do you go with, the protestors or the police unions?
I don't know how this all plays out but it seems easier to understand if we dispense with party labels and go with a plutocrats/peasants framework....
March 2015
"Could Automation Be Labor Unions' Death Knell?"
April 2016
California Uber Drivers Partnering With Teamsters Union