Self-Driving Cars Are Coming For Your Jobs
Here's why that's a good thing.
“We polled Americans about self-driving cars,” the Vox headline went. My first thought was back to that old David Letterman joke, “. . . and you know how painful that can be.” But there were no jokes in the Vox article. There are never jokes in any Vox articles. The site might as well be called “digital version of local midday NPR talk show.” As expected, the Americans they polled were whingey about self-driving cars. “Mehhhhh,” they said. “I don’t knowwwww. Human drivers might be safer…”
Listen up, liberal wimpies. Your robot overlords are coming. Despite the fact that they’re largely being delivered to you by untrustworthy human douchecanoe Travis Kalanick, they will make your life better. Fewer cars will crash, and you can nap on the way to your co-working space in the morning. At night, you’ll be able to rub one out while going out for artisanal kimchi stew or to see the inspiring Mike Bribiglia comedy at the arthouse. Embrace the future.
But the most predictable part of poll came when a majority of respondents worried that automation will “take away jobs from truck and taxi drivers.” This is a standard lefty concern troll: The neoliberals have an agenda to take over the world with self-driving cars, preventing some sort of glorious automotive workers’ revolution. On the one hand, it’s true. Uber and Google and Apple don’t care. Their automated future will delete most cabbie and trucker jobs, and those jobs will need to be replaced. But that’s good, because eliminating them will save lives.
There’s a standard perception of truckers as gloriously omniscient, CB-swilling Lords Of The Interstate, and of cabbies as avuncular immigrants who preside over our drunken confessions and dispense timeless political wisdom to newspaper columnists. By clinging to these stereotypes, we’re actually putting their lives—not to mention Tracy Morgan’s life—in danger. Allow me to present some counter-evidence. Here’s an ABC News story that I’ve been saving for weeks in my email, under the subject line “most deadly profession,” awaiting just such an occasion. The lede goes:
“Driving a truck was the most hazardous occupation in the United States last year, according to the government's latest workplace fatality census, which also said highway accidents were the leading cause of deaths of workers in all lines of work.” To repeat, Eight hundred and fifty two people died while driving trucks last year. That’s 852 families without a parent, and several-hundred truck-stop prostitutes who lost a valued client.
Truck accidents per million miles driven have declined in the last few years, for sure, but that’s also because trucks are driving more miles. The second-riskiest occupation was, surprisingly, farmers, of whom 476 died last year, many at the hands of equipment that will also soon become automated. Meanwhile, according to the Labor Department, taxi drivers and chauffeurs are the people most likely to get murdered on the job. Welcome to America. Would you like to die in one of our hansoms? It can happen here!
Automating vehicles is only thing, literally the only one, which will reduce these death statistics by any significant number. Don’t ask me what will replace these jobs. I’m not an economist, or anything, really; I haven’t had a full-time job since Bill Clinton was President. No one should take advice from a shmuck typing in his underwear at the cheapest available standing desk.
That said, there are other jobs that will also be eliminated once our automated car-masters arrive. We won’t miss any of them. Let’s run down the list.
• Used-Car Dealers. One of the glorious side effects of the autonomous revolution is that we won’t have to be burdened with owning a car anymore if we don’t want one. We’ll subscribe to cars like we subscribe to Netflix, or the Dollar Shave Club, or Pornhub. I have one friend who’s a used-car dealer, and I feel kind of bad for him. But to his cohort, I say good riddance. Used-car dealers are chain-smoking jerks who exploit the poor and suck our souls. No one who’s getting polled on Vox.com will shed a tear for them.
• Personal-Injury Lawyers. Every day when I’m watching Jeopardy, the screeching commercials of a vampiric ambulance chaser shatter my trivia calm. “Did you or someone you know get T-Boned?” the commercials go, making a life-altering trauma sound almost appealing. “I can get you $144,000.” Self-driving cars mean fewer accidents and less melodrama. Go sponge off someone else, Lorenz and Lorenz!
• Drive-Through Lube Shops. There will always be work for people who know how to fix cars. The guys who work at drive-through lube shops are not those people. The automated fleets will have their own mechanics. Say goodbye to upcharges, overpriced fluid top-offs, problems that aren’t actually problems. Ciao, Quik-E-Lube. You’re now a drive-through burger joint.
• Automotive Journalists. There will be no more consumer guides when there are no more consumers. If you’re not driving, it won’t matter how a car “handles” on the “twisties.” “This sure was a nice car to sit in while it drove me around,” will be every car review. Goodbye to us, the bottom-feeders, the grifters, the remoras of the industry. I, for one, celebrate my coming obsolescence. You won’t miss me when I’m gone, that’s for sure. I’ll still be here, typing in my pajamas, without a job.