• DATVF.ATLPHL
    1.977
    0.052
    2.7%
  • DATVF.CHIATL
    1.901
    0.003
    0.2%
  • DATVF.DALLAX
    1.446
    0.003
    0.2%
  • DATVF.LAXDAL
    1.318
    -0.092
    -6.5%
  • DATVF.SEALAX
    1.017
    -0.041
    -3.9%
  • DATVF.PHLCHI
    1.094
    0.004
    0.4%
  • DATVF.LAXSEA
    2.162
    -0.084
    -3.7%
  • DATVF.VEU
    1.657
    0.020
    1.2%
  • DATVF.VNU
    1.543
    -0.029
    -1.8%
  • DATVF.VSU
    1.382
    -0.045
    -3.2%
  • DATVF.VWU
    1.589
    -0.063
    -3.8%
  • ITVI.USA
    10,584.270
    -396.750
    -3.6%
  • OTRI.USA
    12.470
    -1.690
    -11.9%
  • OTVI.USA
    10,580.650
    -393.820
    -3.6%
  • TLT.USA
    2.710
    0.040
    1.5%
  • WAIT.USA
    151.000
    -8.000
    -5%
  • DATVF.ATLPHL
    1.977
    0.052
    2.7%
  • DATVF.CHIATL
    1.901
    0.003
    0.2%
  • DATVF.DALLAX
    1.446
    0.003
    0.2%
  • DATVF.LAXDAL
    1.318
    -0.092
    -6.5%
  • DATVF.SEALAX
    1.017
    -0.041
    -3.9%
  • DATVF.PHLCHI
    1.094
    0.004
    0.4%
  • DATVF.LAXSEA
    2.162
    -0.084
    -3.7%
  • DATVF.VEU
    1.657
    0.020
    1.2%
  • DATVF.VNU
    1.543
    -0.029
    -1.8%
  • DATVF.VSU
    1.382
    -0.045
    -3.2%
  • DATVF.VWU
    1.589
    -0.063
    -3.8%
  • ITVI.USA
    10,584.270
    -396.750
    -3.6%
  • OTRI.USA
    12.470
    -1.690
    -11.9%
  • OTVI.USA
    10,580.650
    -393.820
    -3.6%
  • TLT.USA
    2.710
    0.040
    1.5%
  • WAIT.USA
    151.000
    -8.000
    -5%
Autonomous VehiclesNewsTruckingWarehouse

Another autonomous trucking startup pushes back against Andrew Yang

“The belief that technological advancements of labor-saving equipment will lead to long-term unemployment is a fallacy that can lead to great harm,” Pronto CEO says.

Another autonomous trucking startup has weighed in on Andrew Yang’s proposals for the trucking industry, seeking to debunk the Democratic presidential candidate’s ideas about the negative impacts of self-driving technology on truck driver employment.

“The belief that technological advancements of labor-saving equipment will lead to long-term unemployment is a fallacy that can lead to great harm,”  Robbie Miller, CEO and chief safety officer of San Francisco-based Pronto, said in a lengthy email to FreightWaves.  

Miller became CEO in August after previous chief executive and founder Anthony Levandowski was charged with stealing trade secrets from Google subsidiary Waymo.   

His email to FreightWaves followed last week’s publication of an article describing Yang’s policies, which would compensate American workers for job losses stemming from automation, particularly in the trucking industry.

A certain strain of Luddite-ism is embedded in Yang’s proposals, Miller suggested.

“Would it be wise to think we could employ significantly more people if we carried goods on our backs instead of by truck?” he asked.

The history of innovation shows that labor-saving technology does not lead to drops in employment, he said, “but instead produces large benefits to society including higher-paying jobs.”

Trucking issue in 2020 presidential campaign

Potential job losses stemming from automation are a hot button political issue, and many self-driving vehicle companies are unwilling to enter the fray by commenting publicly on Yang’s proposals, which include a tax on self-driving trucking companies.  

At the same time, AV companies are taking great pains to defend themselves against the two primary criticisms leveled against self-driving trucks: that they are unsafe and will lead to widespread job losses.

In his email, Miller outlined a series of examples in which labor-saving technology led to “significantly more” people working in the affected industry. 

There are more retail jobs in America today than there were before the introduction of e-commerce, he said. The introduction of the ATM led to a comparable increase in bank teller jobs.

“Even though the number of bank workers per bank transaction has dramatically reduced,” Miller said, “the ATMs ushered in an era where the total number of banking transactions increased by so much that, in absolute numbers, more bank tellers were needed.”

Miller said similar increases in employment will likely occur in trucking.

The claim that retail and bank teller jobs have increased with the introduction of new technologies is a controversial topic among economists, with some reports disputing figures of increased employment.

AV profits invested in labor

Diving more deeply into trickle-down theories of autonomous trucking on freight demand and employment, Miller said the cost savings that come from carriers not having to hire drivers will ultimately increase the number of workers in trucking and other sectors of the economy.

That seeming paradox stems from the fact that carriers “may only use new profits from labor savings in one of three ways,” according to Miller.

The first is to expand its business and purchase more autonomous trucks. The second is to invest the profits in another industry, and the third is to sink profits into the carrier’s own consumption (of other goods and services) or distribute to shareholders so they can buy more consumer products and stimulate the economy and job growth with their purchases.

“No matter which option the trucking company chooses, employment will increase,” Miller said, “and it will likely increase in sectors that today’s truck drivers have the skills to do.”

Elastic demand another employment driver

Another labor booster will result as the cost savings generated by autonomous trucking brings down the cost of goods, leading to an increase in consumer purchasing, Miller believes, and “then more people may be employed to move goods than before autonomous trucks were intro­duced.” 

Finally, Miller said, even if consumers don’t respond to a fall in the price, autonomy will result in additional employment. 

He cited a hypothetical example in which the price to move a truckload from Los Angeles to Dallas post-autonomy is cut from $1,700 to $1,000 — and not a single additional shipment was made. 

The result is that each buyer now has an additional $700 to spend on something else “and so provide in­creased employment in other lines,” Miller said.

Populist politics

Yang is by any metric an outsider candidate. But in an era dominated by populist politics — and an increasingly fluid Democratic presidential playing field — his policies are gaining traction, giving industry players yet another reason to hone their talking points around the potential social benefits of autonomation.

Pronto is pursuing a more incremental path toward autonomous driving than many of its competitors. Its Copilot system is a Level 2 safety system that uses a camera-based software suite to control braking, throttling and steering. 

Tags
Show More

Linda Baker, Staff Writer

Linda Baker is a FreightWaves staff reporter based in Portland, Oregon. Her beat includes mobility, emissions regulations and autonomous trucking. Please send tips and story ideas to lbaker@freightwaves.com.

28 Comments

  1. I have an issue with this passage, the CEO states that the result of losing truck drivers would be:
    “The first is to expand its business and purchase more autonomous trucks. The second is to invest the profits in another industry, and the third is to sink profits into the carrier’s own consumption (of other goods and services) or distribute to shareholders so they can buy more consumer products and stimulate the economy and job growth with their purchases. ‘No matter which option the trucking company chooses, employment will increase,’ Miller said, ‘and it will likely increase in sectors that today’s truck drivers have the skills to do.'”
    All these 3 points do not concern the truck drivers themselves unless your trying imply that truck drivers will become supply chain officers, investors, or a board member of your company. You will hire people qualified and trained for these positions and not spend time to reinvest in the people whose blood and sweat helped you build the company in the first place. What you’re actually writing indicates that truck drivers will lose their jobs, but it’s okay because the extra money you make and spend will make new jobs for truck drivers. What jobs? Car factories and most consumer goods are manufactured on a fully or nearly fully automated assembly line. Foreign labor is cheaper and more competitive.

    If anything instead of dismissing this a fake news unemployment catastrophe, look into Yang’s real policy and vision. Technology may not replace humans for the time being, but in the transition, some industries will face abrupt disturbances. I worked in pharmacy, and mail-order pharmacy has taken over the traditional brick and mortar stores leading to their closing. Every few months news of hundreds of workers being been laid off appears. We are however fortunate because federal law requires a pharmacist to be the one checking the medication – there is legally a need for our skill set. Pharmacy personal often are scientifically inclined, and pharmacist holds a doctorate degree (high level). Finding a job for them in another healthcare field, while difficult is not impossible. A pharmacist making 120k, now making 80k will be okay. Whereas truckers originally making 40-50k will face challenges in their daily living while trying to find another job. People who drive trucks statistically may also lack a proper formal education or any other skill set. Yang specifically talks about the transition and about helping these people. His only true policy is to monitor the situation more closely as it evolves and to make sure these people get a severance package they deserve from their employer. Both things, I hope you guys wouldn’t disagree with.

    1. Terrence, well said. The globalization or attempted globalization of our economy through all out automation is the ruling class’ goal. A chosen few make all the money and we get a government stipend to try to survive.

    2. Self driving trucks have too many problems. My brother used to work for the New York stock exchange over 20 years ago. The exchange had over 25 software engineers in the U S plus another 10 plus in Russia just to keep out hackers. I know of people who can break into GPS steering systems on field sprayers. It will not be possible to stop people from remotely controlling trucks or self driving cars. I like many others have a college degree but am currently unemployed and living in a homeless shelter when I was hit from behind by a Ryder truck at 60 m p h. If they didn’t repair my truck or pay for my lost income good luck trying to get money to move to a different type of work. 5195239586

  2. This guy probably hasn’t been to a bank him self in a while.
    Over the years there have been less employees at bank not more!

    The cost savings from automation of trucks is not going to translate to consumers saving money.
    The savings will be converted to profits for the companies and nothing more.

  3. So they are admitting ATMs reduced the number of employed people per bank transaction. Sure created a few low paying teller jobs, a few ATM repairman jobs. But all in all employees overall were drastically reduced, otherwise it wouldn’t make sense to have ATMs in the first place if it didn’t save a lot of money. Every dollar a company saves from not paying an employee, is a dollar not going to a consumer/employee. The corporations keep the dollar saved in the form of profit.

  4. Never mind what the CEO is trying to sell the public into believing .

    Read this quote and realize what they are doing !

    Quote:

    “what Copilot does is take years of experience from drivers and build the decision-making into software ”

    DO YOU UNDERSTAND ?

    They are using YOU the driver to build their autonomous BS to replace YOU the driver ! LOL ! Without YOU they couldn’t have done so . Why are YOU drivers helping them to replace YOU is the question ?

    Now that being said , the last thing I need is to follow some supposed experienced driver’s ways . I see where most end up on highways in snow storms , LOL ! Most , not all , that end up in accidents or in the ditch are not new drivers . They are EXPERIENCED ones . So if that gives me a clue as to how these autonomous thingamajigs are going to perform , I’ll watch them closely once put into action and watch the news concerning them especially when these so called geniuses are listed on stock exchanges .

    Then when the inevitable atrocious accident is caused due to something going haywire in their so called “expert based driver autonomous technology” and they get sued for negligence , I’ll be sure to be and or go short the darn thing , LOL !

    Speaking of which , perhaps that’s what truck drivers should choose to replace their truck driving vocation . Go get educated in stock trading . Learn how to trade the markets , especially the transport sector and especially the trucking industry with which you are already familiar with . Then when sh*t hits the fan , short the bejesus out of them ! Then once these autonomous co’s go bankrupt , write the CEO’s a letter explaining how you’ll use your capital gains from your new vocation to create jobs through your lavish spending ………….

    In my humble opinion …………..

Close